Friday, February 10, 2012

Braided Danish Coffee Cake

So, I was looking through one of my recipe books the other day, and I came across a recipe for braided danish coffee cake. It looked pretty darn good. I paused for a moment, and then continued flipping through the book, trying to focus on the recipe that I was looking for.
I couldn't shake the coffee cake. Totally, honest truth...are you ready for this...I dreamed about it. I know, its sad. But it happened.
If you are like me, you are probably, right now, thinking, blah blah blah, danish, what? Get to it, girl! I hate reading through super long blog posts that recap every random thing that wanders through the blogger's mind, completely irrelevant to the blog post, or any kind of food at all, finally winding back to the recipe, that doesn't actually look as good as it first I right? And here I am, doing that very thing right now. Except this is about food. And my journey into pastry-ville.
I have never yet made real pastry. It freaks me out. It intimidates me. I don't have one whole day to set aside to rolling and folding butter blocks into croissant dough. Don't get me wrong, I would love to, but its just not realistic. I have kids. Kids that I am certain take lessons from the minions of the underworld in ways to torment other human beings.
So, needless to say,
I can't usually spend a very large amount of time, uninhibited, in the kitchen. Lucky for me, and you, this recipe doesn't really require that.

Keep in mind, as you view my pictures, that this is the very first time I made this. And it looks pretty good. I would say it is a great pastry to get started on!
Braided Danish Coffee Cake
From The Art and Soul of Baking
For the dough:
NOTE: This will make enough dough for four recipes. I made all four. (Don't judge, I took them to other people) I would probably make one or two, and freeze the other two.
This is also called the dough block, or d├ętrempe, (deh tramp)
 1/2 cup warm milk
1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons, sugar
4 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 large cold eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 1/2 cups flour

For the butter block, or beurrage (Bew-RAJ)

3 sticks block unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup flour

Make the dough block: Pour the warm milk into a small bowl and whisk in 1 teaspoon of the sugar. Whisk in the yeast and set aside for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and the mixture is bubbling.
In the bowl of the stand mixer, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, the eggs, and the cold milk. Whisk the yeast mixture into the egg mixture. In a separate, medium bowl, whisk together the flour and salt until well blended. Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, attach the dough hook and mix on low speed for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and has formed a very rough mass. Dust a work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto it. Knead the the dough briefly to bring it together. Don't overwork the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes.

To make the butter block, toss the butter pieces with flour and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In the cleaned bowl of the stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the floured butter on medium speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice with a silicone spatula, for 1 to 2 minutes, until the butter and flour form a smooth mass. Scrape the butter onto a piece of parchment paper or plastic wrap, wrap it up, and refrigerate while you roll out the dough.

Incorporate the butter and turn the dough: Lightly dust the work surface with flour. Set the dough in the center and dust the top with flour. Roll the dough into a 15 by 12-inch rectangle with a short side parallel to the edge of your work surface. Gently pull or stretch the dough to form straight edges and sharp corners. Brush any flour from the surface. Visually divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Spread the cold butter evenly over the top two sections of dough, leaving the bottom third empty. Do it with your fingers, that will help it spread better.
Use a letter fold to encase the butter: Fold the empty bottom third up over the center third of the dough. Then fold the top third down over the center Pinch together the seams along the bottom and sides of the dough. Roll your rolling pin across the top of the dough briefly and gently 3 or 4 times.
Position the dough with the short side parallel to your work surface and the long fold on your left. Roll into a 20 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush any flour from the surface of the dough. Fold the dough using the book fold method: Fold the two short edges into the center of the dough, leaving a 1/4-inch crevice between them. Line up the edges and square the corner as you fold. Now fold one side over the other, as though you were closing a book. Roll your pin across the top of the dough briefly and gently 3 or 4 times to seal the seams. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for one hour.
Remove the dough, dust with flour, and roll into a 20 by 12-inch rectangle. Brush any flour from the surface of the dough. Fold using the letter-fold method again. Using 1/4 of the recipe, roll out into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle. Cut a piece of parchment large enough to fit the baking sheet, transfer the dough to the paper. Mark a 2-inch-wide strip down the center of the dough, from top to bottom. Place filling (see below). On either side of the filling, make diagonal cuts int eh dough, 3 inches long and 1 inch apart. Be sure there are the same number of cuts on each side of the dough. Braid the dough by crossing alternating strips of dough
over the filling from the right and left, working from the top down. At the bottom, press the dough to seal it and tuck it under. Transfer the coffee cake to the baking sheet (still on the parchment). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a cool room-temperature spot until nearly doubled.
Preheat the oven to 400. Brush with an egg wash and place in the fridge for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with sliced almonds if desired. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway in between. Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately brush with a thin layer of jelly glaze (see below). Top with powdered sugar or powdered sugar glaze. (see below)

Cream cheese filling:
(Makes enough for at least 2 danish-I made two cheese filled and one cheese and raspberry jam with this recipe)
8 ounces cream cheese
6 Tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
finely grated zest of half a lemon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Combine ingredients in a food processor.

Jelly glaze:
Melt 1/4 cup of your choice of jam or jelly and 3 Tablespoons water in a saucepan over medium heat.

Powdered Sugar glaze:
Combine 2 cups powdered sugar with a few Tablespoons of milk (about 2 or 3) , whisking, until desired consistency is reached.

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