Nothing Is Rotten In Denmark! It’s the June Daring Bakers Challenge : Danish Pastry

This month Ben of What’s Cooking? and Kellypea of Sass & Voracity proposed a fabulous challenge to the Daring Bakers, the “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking. I was honestly thrilled as I read through our défi for the month of June, because it was totally and completely new and 100% never – ever been tried before by the Shellyfish. That’s why I wanted to be a Daring Baker – to be pushed gently nudged into the deep end of the vegan baking pool. Veganism isn’t terribly new to me, but baking sure is!

There was a moment of confusion, I do admit, when I came upon the description of our technique, working with a “yeasted laminated dough”. To me, this just didn’t sound like something that would be very tasty. It sounded more like a shop-class meets home-economics in some freak accident sort of thing. Laminated dough? Again, being a novice baker, this was unknown jargon to me. I re-read the different steps involved in the recipe, and then it hit me : this is a pâte feuilletée! I totally know what this is! Rock on party people, rock on!

Without falling into the trap of an overly-verbose blog entry, I’ll just mention a few little details :

  • First off, I loved this challenge, but it was more time consuming than I’d thought it would be (despite my reading through the steps, I guess all the resting & rising times just didn’t sink in).
  • I must have generated some good Daring Bakers karma, because this challenge was a slam dunk- I mean everything went really well the *first* time around, and tasted amazing. My only bummer was my camera batteries were almost dead so my pictures were getting a little blurry (and I had to hurry because the braids were being eaten by guests just moments after).
  • I think my favorite part was the initial mixing of the dough because the cardamom just smelled so incredible and the mixture looked so beautiful with the orange zest and the flecks of flaxseed.
  • Speaking of flaxseed, I used one “flax egg” (1 tbsp ground flax seeds & 3 tbsp water) and one “soy egg” (about 1/4 cup of plain soy yogurt).
  • I made an apple filling, following the recipe below, and added 1 cup of chopped walnuts. I found it to be rather runny, but after adding more apples and some apple-cinnamon & orange marmalade it thickened up nicely & tasted great!

Some photos :

Here is the butter block as I smeared it on (can you see? I wrote “hi”!)

Here is one of the braids pre-oven- it looked so beautiful!


One of the braids just out of the oven…

And here’s the other! The complete recipe follows (again, just subbing to render it vegan…)

Now go visit all the fabulous Daring Bakers and see all the wonderful Danish Braids they’ve made!

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients
For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

DOUGH
Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

BUTTER BLOCK
1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.
2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

APPLE FILLING
Makes enough for two braids

Ingredients
4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

DANISH BRAID
Makes enough for 2 large braids

Ingredients
1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see below)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.
3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam…) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.
2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

Thoughtful Fridays

The ever-so-talented Cassie of Bella Dia started a bit of a lovely trend a bit back called “Thoughtful Fridays” a chance to just share a picture and a favourite quote, and to meditate on the quotes of others. I’ve been telling myself I wanted to participate for weeks now, but finally remembered to write it down in my agenda and so, didn’t forget!

Without further ado…

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

John Wooden

Tea With Jam & Bread

I’ve really been into making my own bread of late. Delicious bread isn’t terribly difficult to find here in France, and I admit having a real weakness for the famed baguette, but I find that there is something so satisfying about making my own bread.

Beginning with just the most basic of ingredients : flour, salt, water and yeast, and ending with the most fragrant, golden of loaves…it’s simply magical. And how wonderful my apartment smells!

Nothing goes with fresh baked bread better than homemade jam…at least that was what I began to think about as I went on my bread baking bender. I started watching which fruits were looking in their prime at the marché and bought 2 kilos of apricots and 2 of strawberries to attempt my first jams!

My initial “practice” jam was actually an apple-cinnamon & orange marmalade (because I had nearly 2 kilos of apples at my house and they were considerably less expensive than the other fruits…good to practice on). I really had no clue what I was doing, but got it in my head that this was a project I just had to try, so off I went to purchase some jam jars. It was much easier than I expected, and it was a fun project to do with the Guppy because there were lots of steps she could help with, though I think she most enjoyed the tasting!

After doing a little math (very little) I was able to justify my little caprice because after adding in the organic fruit & sugar and the jars, it was considerably less expensive than buying my jam at the store – yeah!

DIY Vegan Beauty Products & Skin Care : Lavender-Rose Toner

My dabblings in homemade vegan skin care continue with a lucky little experiment I tried. I’m one of those kids who really bought into the “you must use astringent” and later, in my mid-20s, “you must use toner” babble skincare manufacturers pushed to incite us to buy more-more-more! I’ve heard very conflicting opinions from people in the health and beauty industry as to the real necessity of using an astringent or toner as part of a 3 or 4-step cleansing/moisturizing ritual. Personally, I feel like something’s missing if I don’t do the toner thing before moisturizing, and I do sometimes see that the toner helped budge tenacious traces of make-up, so necessary or not, I’m a subscriber.

I tried this little “Flower Garden Toner” to see if I could create something decent at home, and at a fraction of the price I pay for my Dr. H toner (which I do love, but I am a member of the proletariat damn it!). I was thrilled at how this toner turned out! The positives are it is light and gentle, and really helps keep my skin feeling clean and fresh. The triple-flower-power helps right excess shine (sebum busters), and that’s a plus in the summer when I am very often make-up free. Oh, and did I mention that it’s purple (Katie!). The down side to this toner for me was two-fold : 1) It should be kept in the fridge since it is a water-based toner and hasn’t got much in the line of preservatives. Because it’s in the fridge, it’s a bit chilly, but that’s probably a good thing circulation-wise. It just weirds me out a smidge (which rimes with fridge). 2) I was expecting my flower medley to smell as sweet as the Springtime, but it has a bit of a hydrogen peroxide smell to it (which doesn’t linger on your face, rest assured). I thought with all that flower action it would have a more pleasant odor, but that’s not the case. I based this on two different recipes I found for toners, both of which calling for dried rose petals, rose water only, and essential oil of rose. I didn’t have those things on hand, and rose EO is really, really expensive (at least it is here), so I went with what I had. Chamomile and lavender are really great for the skin, too, and I don’t regret winging it at all! (Just remember, I’m not a chemist or professional, so please proceed at your own risk! Remember to sterilize your jar & lid carefully, and to sterilize the bottle you’ll store your toner in, etc.).

Lavender-Rose Toner

  • 25g dried lavender flowers
  • 100ml rose water
  • 150ml chamomile water
  • 60ml apple cider vinegar
  • 7 drops lavender essential oil

Everything goes in a sterile jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake well and put it in the fridge for about 7-10 days, shaking once or twice a day. It will be very purple and pretty. Filter out the flowers and pour into a sterile bottle with a tight-fitting lid. Keep refrigerated. This should keep well for about 2-4 weeks, but remember, if it suddenly changes in color or in smell, or if in doubt, discard. I’ve been using mine for two weeks now and it’s still ok.

Apron Love

This is an apron made by my great-grandmother Mary, my mum’s grandmother. She was undoubtedly one of the most important women in my mum’s life, and while I never was able to physically meet her (she died before my parents were married), I always felt her in our lives- not in some bizarre “Sixth Sense” meets X-Files way, rest assured. More in the way that many African societies divide people (here’s my Reader’s Digest version of a beautiful and complex theory) – the living, the sasha, and the zamani. The first category is obvious. The second, the sasha, are those who are indeed dead, but whose existence dovetailed with those still living, thus they are “alive” in the living memory of people. The zamani are our ancestors who are revered and remembered by the group, but there is no one left who was alive at the same time as the deceased.

My great-grandmother Mary was very much “alive” in the memories of my mother, my grandmother, and my great aunts and uncle. She is most definitely a member of the sasha. While my Grams often had rather humorous stories to tell, oft reflecting my great-grandmother’s sense of humor, duty and love, my mother often spoke of her in the present, and in flashes of detail rather than linear stories. The smell of parsley. Taboo. Pink flannel. Ice Box Cookies. Aprons. You see, my mother has but one memory of her grandmother sans apron, and this was when she was hospitalized. Great-Grandmother Mary wore an apron every day, as did many women at the time. Washing clothes being a royal chore, an apron served an obvious functional purpose, however, she made herself many aprons reflecting the seasons (lighter or darker colors), and special aprons for more momentous occasions such as holidays, family reunions, communions and baptisms.

Great-Grandmother Mary was a hard-working woman. She lived in a rural area, and at a time when all that needed to be done in the home – laundry, cooking, cleaning, clothes, canning, etc., was done at home. Her family made their own bread, their own maple syrup, wine (even when it wasn’t legal- rebel!) and my great-grandfather, a carpenter, carved their toys (one of our family’s prized possession is the chess board he made), even my gram’s crutches after injuring her foot when she was a little girl.

One of my prized possessions is my great-grandmother’s hand-written recipe book. Her bilingualism was often a handicap in the pre-depression era, leading to the family speaking English-only, but how I love to read her recipes which are often written in franglais. Until recently, the recipe book was all I had in the line of family heirlooms, but during her recent visit, my mother gave me this apron. It’s just beautiful, which I never thought I’d say about an apron, but it is. It must have been made for special occasions, the delicate rosebud fabric and the gold-threaded trim are rather fancy. It was perhaps only worn once or twice as it seems brand new, despite it’s being at least 50+ years old.

The acquisition of my great-grandmother’s apron inspired me to try my hand at my own. The above is my updated rendition, which I love. The pattern is from De Filles en Aiguilles by Céline Dupuy which I got in my Easter basket. It is also available in English as Simple Sewing With A French Twist. This was a super-easy project for the neophyte seamstress that I am. While I didn’t make the apron while my mum was here, she did come with me to purchase the materials, so in her own way was part of the process (not the mention that she gave me my sewing machine!).

There was a time during my youth when I felt rather envious of my friends whose mothers, grandmothers, even great-grandmothers were career women, often college educated. This was not the case of the women in my family, and I found myself sometimes feeling almost apologetic when talking about them. I’ve since seen the absolute ridiculousness in not recognizing all that they did. Silly Shellyfish. Any woman who dried her herbs, grew her own food in her garden, cooked and canned it, and on and on, without the things I take for granted from running water to kitchen gadgets, well, she kicked some serious buttercream.

Birthday! Anniversary! Meme!

It’s been a rather zippy few days here at the Fish residence! (That being said, it’s always speedy, just sometimes more than others…). Let’s see… to begin : Happy Birthday Mr. Fish!

Mr. Fish is one of those kids who really, I mean really has a difficult time with birthdays. I get rather excited because it means cake and presents and yummy food and people having to be extra nice to me :). He gets morose, melancholy and even down right cranky as the days tick away and his birthday approaches. I do understand. I had a much more difficult time watching the birthdays from 25 to 29 pass me by, but something sort of “clicked” when I hit 29, and I realized that dreading birthdays, or anything, really, just sort of spoiled the moments leading up to and after, but didn’t change anything, because, well, change is inevitable I guess.

To ease his birthday bitterness, I asked him what birthday treat he wanted, and he asked for the too-good-to -be-true Lemon Bars from VCon. This is the fourth time I’ve made them, and I still have no food p*rn to show you, because we just go through these things so fast it’s crazy & never have a chance to snap a pic. However, to satisfy your desire for eye-candy, here is a shot of the cupcakes I made for our 4th Wedding Anniversary, which is, or was, the day before Mr. Fish’s birthday :

This was the first time I’d made the marble cupcakes from VCTOTW, and they were really, really delicious. They were also very fun to make with the Guppy because they get a little messy at the end, and that means a lot of finger licking (we also observe the 5-second rule in our house. We’re dirty birdies.)

Next is a little Meme-love. Yoga Mum tagged anyone who’d had green tea a few mornings back. I ‘ve been swapping my morning espress for green tea in solidarity with Ricky who has been doing a cleanse. Maybe I’ll be able to knock it for good? Anyway…

Here’s the low down:

1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

I’d just finished my Masters Degree in French Literature, was teaching French for a US University Summer Programme in Paris, and was preparing to begin working as an English language assistant for two years at a University in Paris. I was also about to meet the future Mr. Fish.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

1) Try to find some time to read “Millénium, Tomb 1: Les hommes qui n’aimaient pas les femmes” by Stieg Larsson. Great read.
2) The dishes (that’s just perpetual…)
3) Yoga & lifting w/free weights
4) Work a little on this bag which I am making as a messenger bag, not a diaper bag! (Thought I should clarify).
5) Write lesson plans for Wednesday’s & Thursday’s classes (last day of classes is the 23rd! Yippie!)

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1) Fresh fruit (not original, but true!)
2) Smoothies without too many seedy fruits
3) rice cakes with almond butter & molasses (an idea given me by our coolicious Ricky)
4) fresh baked cookies hot from the cooling rack
5) a homemade raw bar from the freezer all coldish, burrrr!

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

Okay, this says billionaire so I could come up will way more than 5, but here’s a few…

1) Pay off my student loans & my sib’s student loans/debt & my parent’s debts
2) Buy a home with extra bedrooms & bathrooms so my family could visit and stay as long as they liked (oh, the tickets would be my treat, too!)
3) Put money aside for the Guppy & my nieces’ & nephew’s education & set up a scholarship fund for young women at my high school in the U.S.
4) Invest enough that I could live off my fundage and devote my time to creating a non-profit organization for women- not sure how I’d organize it, but it would provide grants for education, training opportunities, quality, affordable child-care, small-business loans, as well as creative and moral support for women with goals, but who need help with the logistics of their path.
5) Create a quality health-care programme for all the school-aged children in the two U.S. cities I lived in (hey, I’m a billionaire…I have enough!)

What are five of your bad habits?

1) I’m too sensitive.
2) I take everything seriously.
3) I’m terribly hard on myself.
4) I stress about things I cannot change.
5) I try to do too much at the same time.

What are five places where you have lived?

In the U.S., two:

1) Michigan
2) Arizona

In France,

3) Paris
4) Versailles
5) near Tours

What are five jobs you’ve had?

1) Paper girl (when I was 9. Did I mention I lived on the Canadian boarder? Sub-zero temps, snow…oh, it was up hill, too! lol! )
2) Entertainment Listings Editor for an artsy weekly
3) Dance teacher
4) Waitress
5) Research assistant

Five people I tag:

Because I share her disdain for tagging, I am shamelessly stealing this idea from Yoga Mum over at Yoga Gumbo I tag you if:

1) You had a smoothie today.
2) You’ve never made your own seitan.
3) You have more than one tattoo.
4) You wish you were taller.
5) You’d like to take a nap.

Please let me know if you do this! I know some of you kids dread these puppies, but I like learning more about you! :)

Jen’s Veggie Nori Rolls For Caterpillars & People, Too!

We love bugs. Spiders. Flies. Caterpillars. Ants. (We love them more when they’re outside, of course!)

Kittee, aka Cake Maker to the Stars, has some lovely caterpillar stories & photos and I was sharing them with the Guppy recently since we are apartment dwellers and even at the park it’s hard to find any really cool caterpillars this Spring (global warming…). She already loves butterflies, and when I told her that caterpillars are “baby” butterflies (everything she finds cute is a baby. Elephants are babies. Cows. Bumble bees, etc.) she really got excited.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m having a few issues getting my dear little Guppy to eat anything other than cookies or bread or raw fruit (before she was 2 she ate EVERYTHING). I involve her as much as I can involve a just-turned-three-year-old, and bring her with me to the market square to help chose the veggies, etc.

We were at the marché and I bought some baby spinach leaves and she said, “Hey, Mumma, I want some leaves, just like a caterpillar!”. Remaining guardedly optimistic I rinsed off a leaf with some water and she ate it, all of it, and said “more, please”!

When we got home it was time to prepare dinner, and I wanted to ride this “leaf” thing as long as possible. Most of you crazy kids know Jen of Veg*Triathlete (who will return to kicking athletic ass after recovering from bobos…:( damn IR list anyway). She has such an excellent “Fuel” section on her blog, and I love letting her plan my meals :). She had some lovely Peanut Veggie Nori Rolls posted and I just had to try them, especially giving that we are all about “leaves” and caterpillars right now. They have the added bonus of being a “hands-on” project-type meal, and we’re all about that!

The Guppy is showing us how caterpillars eat.

First we made the marinade, then we washed & dried the lettuce & veggies we’d be using. For veggies we used thin carrot sticks, green onions, thin-sliced red pepper, pineapple, and zucchini. We put them in a large bowl with the marinade & made sure that everything was well covered.

Next came the rolling part. This was the first time that the Guppy was to participate in the rolling of the Nori. She was pretty excited about it, and she kept calling them sushis. Silly kiddo.

Not sure how many of you have done any Nori rolling with a Guppy-aged kiddo. If you’re ok with everything being sort of all over the place (the floor, your shirt, your pants, the table…) then it’s ok. Heck, I’m messy, so I guess it’s normal for a child to get sloppy- and that’s the fun of the project. Nori rolls are like the finger painting of the culinary world. I just thought to myself, be like the lettuce, just receptive and waiting for all the goodness to be bestowed upon you… (so yoga of meself!)

We saved what as left of the marinated and used it as a dipping sauce. Everything went into the fridge until Mr. Fish came home, then we went to town! It was so good! I wish I could say the Guppy ate three rolls and loved them. She had a few bites then asked for apricots. Oh well. I’ll definitely make these again! Go check out the link to get the low-down on these babies!