Sunday, 29 June 2008

Daring Bakers June Challenge – Danish Braid

This months challenge was chosen by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? I was excited to see they chose “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking, as Danish pastry is something I have always wanted to try making but never got round to. The unusual thing about Danish pastry compared to other types of pastry is that it involves yeast, which gives the pastries their lovely taste and texture.

The pastry recipe we were given makes quite a large amount and we were instructed to use half of it to make a large Danish Braid and the other half we were allowed to use as we wished. I decided to make lots of little individual pastries.

The pastry was slightly sticky but quite easy to work with. It involves rolling out and layering with lots of slivers of butter before folding up, rolling together and repeating a number of times to produce lots of thin buttery layers similar to those of puff pastry. The original recipe used orange zest and cardamom as flavourings but I substituted these for lemon and mixed spice which I feel go with a wider assortment of fillings. The dough smelt amazing while I was working with it, similar to hot cross buns.
For the braid I chose to use a stewed apple filling with a generous dusting of ground cinnamon underneath which in my opinion are a match made in heaven! I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to produce the braided effect, the yeast in the pastry made it quite elastic which prevented it from tearing which was a great help.

Once baked it was golden brown in colour with a crisp, slightly flakey pastry and a sweet apple filling. I had a big slice with custard for dessert that evening and it was delicious. The following day the pastry had softened slightly, but I found warming it in the oven helped crisp it up again.

Danish Pastry
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough
For the pastry (Detrempe)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
110ml whole milk
70g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon mixed spice
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs
55ml fresh lemon juice
375g plain flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
200g cold unsalted butter
30g plain flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, lemon zest, mixed spice, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and lemon 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, lemon zest, mixed sppice, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and lemon 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
2 cooking apples, peeled and chopped
Juice of ½ lemon
4 tbsp caster sugar
2 tbsp water
1. Peel and finely dice the apples. Squeeze the juice form ½ lemon and add to a pan along with the water and sugar.
2. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and allow to cook until the apple has gone completely soft and all liquid has evaporated.

Danish Braid
Makes enough for 2 large braids or 1 braid and lots of individual pastries.
1 recipe Danish Dough
Apple filling, jam, or preserves
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 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/200C. 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/180C, 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.

With the remaining pastry I decided to experiment with lots of different individually shaped pastries.
The Claw
This is a very simply pastry to make. You have to roll out a small square or circle of pastry and then spread you filling of choice (I used jam) over one half. Then fold the over half over the top, sealing the filling inside. Then make cuts about an inch apart, half way up the height of the pastry. Gently push the pastry in an arc, as if you are trying to make it into a smiley face, to separate the cuts. Brush with egg wash and bake as normal.
The Kite
Cut out a square of pastry and then cut a thin line, 1cm in from the edge, to make a right angle shape, making sure to leave to opposite points still joined. (see photo). Brush the edges with egg wash. Pick up the top left ‘A’ strip and fold it down onto the bottom right hand corner. Then fold the bottom ‘B’ strip up to the top left hand corner. You should now have a box shape with a border with a little twist as opposite ends. Fill the ‘box’ with your filling of choice and bake as normal. I used custard and fresh cherries.

The Crescent
Cut a circle from the pastry and cut in half to produce 4 triangles. Take 1 triangle, spread the surface with jam and arrange a line of filling along the wider. Take the rim of the wider edge, pull it up and over the filling and then roll up towards the point. Bend the pastry slightly to form a crescent, brush with egg wash and bake. I used raspberry jam on the base and then a mix of ground almonds and desiccated coconut as the filling. This was a wonderful combination and made them taste like a Bakewell tart.

The Pinweel
Cut out a circle of pastry and then place your filling in the very centre of the dough. Make 4 cuts in the dough, from the edge right up to the filling to produce 4 triangle-ish shapes. Take the edge point of each triangle and fold it into the centre, over the filling to form a sort of windmill shape. Brush with egg wash and bake. I used a dollop of nutella as my filling.

Roll out a large square of pastry. Cut the square in half to produce 2 rectangles. Brush one rectangle with a little syrup or jam and then scatter over some chopped fruits or nuts. Lay the remaining pastry rectangle over the top like a sandwich and gently press down. Cut the ‘sandwich’ in half to produce two thinner strips. Take each end of the strips and gently twist. Bake as normal. I used maple syrup for the base and scattered over finely chopped pecans which went very well together.

You could use almost any filling you like for Danish Pastries as long as you think about how it will react over baking. For example, there’s no point trying to use custard in the twists as it will just ooze out but using it with the kite shape where there are edges to keep it in place is fine. The best thing to do is experiment and you can always eat the evidence of any less successful ones!

Friday, 27 June 2008

Tagged for a Meme

Elle of Feeding My Enthusiasms has tagged me for a meme. It consists of a series of questions, some of which are a little different to the usual meme questions which makes it all the more fun.

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull. I love the 1st and 3rd films and this one was pretty good too.

Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden – It’s a fascinating read about the life of a young girl growing up to be a Geisha in Japan. Its based on a true story and is a real eye opener.

I used to love Cluedo as you actually had to try and solve the mystery each time rather than just leaving it to chance.

Fresh! (UK Food Magazine)

Lemon drizzle cake, Ground cinnamon & mixed spice, Amaretto, Nuts lightly toasting in the oven, Just baked bread, Melted dark chocolate, When my mums making marmalade, Nutella, Chestnuts, Stewed apple, Marzipan, Fresh rosemary & thyme…too many.

Rain pattering against the window – I find it very relaxing.
The wind rustling through the trees and bird song.
Good music.
The oven buzzer – something’s ready to eat.

Guilt - Realising or knowing you have done something wrong or upset someone else.

Either ‘what shall I have for breakfast?’ or ‘Nuts is that the time!!?’ when I have woken up too early in the morning. (I hardly ever manage to go back to sleep)

Don’t really eat fast food. But chips from a fish and chip shop are far better than I can make at home.

Ohhh a hard one! It changes quite a lot. At the moment Harvey or Oscar for a boy and Hermione for a girl.

How much is a lot? I’m taking it to mean enough to be very comfortable. In which case I would buy a lovely house in the countryside with a huge kitchen complete with a walk in pantry and lots of gadgets. I would also give some to my family and go sightseeing round America and visit its many bakeries and cupcake shops.

No. That’s not to say I drive slowly, I just like to stick to the speed limits.


I think storms are amazing things and actually quite nice to listen to when you are safe and warm in bed.

I still have my first car. It’s a greeny/blue Ford KA.

Water. Boring but true and I drink more of it than anything else. Peppermint tea is nice too and I like Cider for a treat.

Write a book (novel) or daydream about what I’m going to do in the future.

Yes! And raw too!

I have never dyed my hair but I have been contemplating trying out a chestnut coppery colour.

Bedford – families home
Sheffield – for university
Leeds – on my uni placement year

None. Not a sports fan at all.

Elle at Feeding My Enthusiams has a wonderful blog full of tempting recipes and amusing stories. She has a great writing style that makes you smile and feel as though she is talking to you face to face.

Carpet and boxes filled with baking tins that won’t fit in the kitchen


Mornings, I’m always up early.

Sunny side up, although preference would be poached.

On my bed with a good book (recipe or novel) or in a squishy armchair watching a good film.

Apple with plenty of cinnamon

Hazelnut – it’s fantastic!

I couldn’t say. It depends on who reads it first and who has time to write first. I am tagging:

Gigi of Gigi Cakes
Anna of Cookie Madness
Deborah of Taste and Tell
Beth of Jam and Clotted Cream
Anne of Anne’s Food

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Tales and Tastes of Marrakech

I’m back from my visit to Marrakech with my sister and wow what an experience. It was a bit of a culture shock at first as even though I had been told what to expect, it didn’t really prepare me for actually being there. I had been told we would get hassled walking down the streets, with people wanting us to look at their shops. I assumed this meant they would call out to us, not actually grab you by the arm and drag you over to their stall or follow you thrusting leaflets in your face.
We got off to a bit of a shaky start on our first day there. We were walking near the main square, which is where the locals have all their food stalls in the evenings, when we were surrounded by swarms of people all offering us menus and trying to get us to go to their stand. We didn’t actually want anything to eat and so were trying to escape when a man suddenly appeared with a long (unwelcome) snake which he wrapped around my sisters neck and then started demanding money for a photo. A woman then appeared by my elbow asking if I wanted a henna (dye) tattoo. I kept saying ‘no’ and she insisted it would only be a ‘small flower’ but I still said no and turned back to my sister. The woman then grabbed my wrist anyway and drew out what looked horribly like a syringe and aimed it at my hand. I pulled my hand away in alarm but not before she had made a long streak across my hand. I grabbed my sister who had somehow managed to free herself from the snake and we made a hasty retreat back to the safety and tranquility of our Riad feeling very overwhelmed.

Thankfully we soon became used to what to expect and found that by walking on by with your eyes averted or simply raising your hand to the side of your face with a sharp ‘non’ (they mostly spoke French) was the most effective.

The people hassling aside, the sites and sounds of Marrakech were amazing. They have Moroccan music playing in the streets wherever you go from early morning until late at night. The air is hot and humid and mingled with spices and the landscape a dusty terracotta colour that’s dotted with palm trees. Right in the centre of the Medina they have a mosque with a large tower which can be seen (and heard) wherever you are. At set times throughout the day loud chanting would suddenly start from the main tower, which could be heard over the whole city thanks to its 6 large megaphones, calling people to prayer. 4 – 5 smaller towers dotted around the outskirts of the city would then repeat the chanting of the main tower. This happened about 7 times a day, starting at 5am and ending around 10:10pm. We soon learnt to recognise the times of the calls “Ah the first chant after lunch, it must be quarter to two!” I loved hearing the chanting and it really added to the whole culture of the place.

The Riad (like a B&B) where we were staying was like a little piece of paradise compared to the hustle and bustle of the streets. It was cool and quiet and had a lovely roof terrace with comfy seats and an awning which made it a great place to sit in the mornings to enjoy breakfast and in the evenings with a book when there was a welcome breeze.

Breakfasts was a simple yet tasty affair which comprised of French baguette and soft doughy pancakes studded with holes, similar to Pikelets, which was served with jam and butter and accompanied by freshly squeezed orange juice. I have since learnt that the pancakes are called Beghrirs.
Lunch and dinner proved more difficult. Everywhere we went had the same food on offer which consisted of omelette, tagine or couscous. Now you may think ‘what else did you expect?’ but I did expect some variety not just in dishes but also in flavours. Nearly everywhere had the same flavour combinations and we saw about three restaurants that even had the same printed menu! Plus its not the best place to go if you are vegetarian I don’t think they understand a diet of no meat or fish. At lunch I could have plain omelette or omelette and chips and even then one turned up full of ham despite always asking if they were vegetarian. In the evenings I could have a Tagine aux Sept Legumes (seven vegetables) which I though meant it would contain seven different vegetables, but turned out to be seven pieces of vegetable consisting of carrot, courgette and a yellow coloured potato. Or I could have Couscous aux Sept Legumes which was exactly the same vegetables as in the tagine only with a bit of couscous underneath and if I was lucky some tomato on top. It got rather boring after a few days and I was amazed that despite their easy accessibility to numerous spices they tasted quite bland. My sister, who’s not vegetarian, found the same thing although she did have more options. I had envisaged couscous dishes flavoured with lots of aromatic spices and containing things like raisins, apricots, nuts and chickpeas. I don’t mean to make it sound awful, but it wasn’t quite what I was hoping for.

One day we ate at a street stall which I was thrilled to find was offering some different foods. We had bread, olives and a tomato pesto style dip to start and then griddled aubergine and spiced sweet potato cakes to follow. The potato cakes were particularly good as they were well spiced.
The highlight of any meal for me was always the mint tea. I have been drinking mint tea for a few years, which usually consists of teabag, hot water and a mug but in Morocco they do it oh so much better. They use loose dried mint leave which give off a wonderful aroma when rubbed between your fingers. These are heated with some water and sugar in a special silver teapot set over a flame. This is then brought to the boil and left to steep before being slowly poured into pretty little glasses from a height. It pours out a golden amber colour with a slight green hue and fills the air with its minty aroma. I had never had it sweetened before but it’s fantastic! So soothing and comforting. I’m not sure if its bad luck to only serve it to one person but whenever I order it they always poured out two glasses. My sister didn’t like it but I was more than happy to make it disappear.
In the evenings a few women begin wandering the streets selling macaroons. These are not your dainty small French macaroons but they larger, flatter, chewy outside squidgy centered macaroons. These macaroons were studded with shredded coconut which became more apparent the more you chewed and released the oils, they were delicious.
One of the most interesting parts to explore were the Souks. These are a maze like collection of alleyways and narrow streets which are crammed full of small shops selling almost everything you could think of – ornate metal lanterns, colourful silky slippers and scarves, spices, wooden spoons, leather bags and belts, decorative wooden boxes, glasses, teapots, carpets and jewelry. The stretched for miles, snaking off in different directions and yes, we did get lost but we just keep wandering until we saw something we recognised. All the sellers expect you to barter over the price of the item you want to buy and will sometimes even go down to 20% of the original price they quoted you, so you should never accept their first offer. However, we discovered that if you ask a price of something they take this as meaning you are going to buy it, so you need to make sure you definitely want it before beginning conversation or else they get annoyed.
We also ventured further a-field and explored El Badi Palace which is now mostly in ruins and watched over by the many storks nesting on its walls.
The Marjaroelle Gardens which were owned Yves Saint Laurent and house plants from 5 different contents all beautifully displayed and surrounded by exotic plants in bright blue, orange and yellow pots.
The Palmary which contained acres of palm trees in sandy desert like surroundings. Another plus point to this is that you can explore them on camel back!

Saturday, 7 June 2008


Everyone was wanting a little treat for after dinner and profiteroles got a unanimous vote. The nice thing about making the little choux buns is that you can fill and top them with whatever takes your fancy. My family and I went the traditional route of fresh whipped cream or ice cream topped with lots of rich chocolate sauce. Filling them with crème patisserie and topping them off with caramel turns them into elegant croquembouche and piping the choux pastry into logs will result in éclairs. Choux buns can also be stuffed with savoury fillings so they are extremely versatile.

When you making choux pastry it is important to have all your ingredients ready as the pastry (which is more like a batter) requires lots of vigorous beating after adding each ingredient is added to keep it lump free. It can then be piped or spooned onto a baking sheet where it then puffs us and become hollow during baking. It’s a good idea to splash your baking tray with water before baking the buns as the resulting steam produced helps the buns rise. You must also pierce a small hole in the top of each bun to allow the steam to escape as soon as its out of the oven or else you risk them turning soggy.

These little buns are quite simple to make but look impressive enough to serve for guests. They are best eaten the day they are made, but this didn’t prove to be a problem in my house.


(Recipe by Delia Smith)
60g strong plain flour
150ml water
1 tsp caster sugar
50g butter
2 eggs

For the filling
250ml double cream, vanilla ice cream or crème patisserie

For the chocolate sauce
100g dark chocolate
1 tbsp golden syrup
100ml milk

Method – for the choux buns
Heat the oven to 200C. Grease and line two baking trays and set to one side.
Weight out the flour and sugar together and place onto a sheet of greaseproof paper that you can pick up easily in order to add the flour quickly later on.
Break the eggs into a cup and whisk lightly.
Heat the water and butter together in a pan until the butter has melted. Bring to the boil then remove from the heat.
Quickly shoot in the flour and sugar and beat until the flour has been completely worked into the water and the mixture has turned thick and glossy and is forming a sticky ball in the middle of the pan – around a minute.
Gradually beat in the egg a little at a time until silky smooth.
Now run your baking trays under the tap so that water droplets cover the surface.
Using a teaspoon, dot spoonfuls of batter over the baking trays, leaving a 1 inch gap. Alternatively you could pipe blobs using a piping bag.
Bake for 10 minutes in the 200C preheated oven, then increase the temperature to 220C for a further 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven, they should be crisp, puffed up and golden brown in colour.
Transfer the buns to a wire wrack to cool, piercing a small hole in the top of each one to allow the steam to escape. The hole will be covered in chocolate sauce later.

For the chocolate sauce
Break the chocolate into small pieces and add to a pan along with the golden syrup and milk.
Heat very gently, stirring frequently until the chocolate has dissolved.
At this stage it will look far too liquid but keep stirring it over the heat, allowing a few small bubbles to appear. It will suddenly start to thicken, at which point remove it from the heat and continue to stir until you have a thick glossy sauce.
Can be used straight away or left to cool to room temperature.

To assemble
Whip the cream into soft peaks.
Pipe or spoon the cream into the centre of the choux buns and pour over the chocolate sauce.
Makes 25 choux buns

I’m off on holiday to Marrakesch with my sister very early tomorrow morning, so there won’t be any posts for the next 10 days or so.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Ratatouille Wraps

These are my favourite wraps to eat for lunch or for a light dinner. They involve making a finely diced ratatouille mixture which is allowed to thicken more than usual to produce a spoonable consistency. This is then cooled before being used to fill a tortilla wrap which has first been spread with hummus and crisp lettuce and topped with a little scattering of grated cheese.

The ratatouille is not a traditional recipe as I have also included a little spice, not to add heat but just to bring a depth of flavour. The red onion and pepper provide a wonderful sweetness that works well with all the other flavours. All the different textures of the soft tortilla, creamy hummus and crisp lettuce work so well together. I think they taste best when ratatouille mix has been allowed to cool to room temperature, but I don’t see why you couldn’t use it when warm with a toasted tortilla to match. They may not look much but they taste delicious.

Ratatouille Wraps
1 red onion
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small tin chopped tomatoes
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
1 red pepper
1 large carrot
1 large courgette
6 black olives
2 tsp soft brown sugar
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
½-1 tsp curry powder

To Serve
Tortilla wraps
Grated cheese

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Finely dice the onion and crush the garlic and add to the pan. Sweat the onions and garlic gently for 5 minutes until they beginning to soften.
Dice the carrot and pepper into 1/2 cm dice, add to the pan and cook for 10 minutes before adding the roughly diced courgette.Pit and finely chop the olives and stir into the pan along with the tomatoes, herbs, sugar and spices and two tbsp water if your tomatoes are not very juicy. Allow the ratatouille to simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the tomato sauce has become thick and sticky and all excess liquid has evaporated.
Leave to cool.
To make the wraps, spread the tortillas with a layer of hummus and cover with a layer of torn lettuce leaves. Spoon a quarter of the ratatouille mixture down the centre of the wrap. Grate over a little cheese of your choice.
Fold one end of the tortilla in over the filling and then roll into a log shape. Secure with a cocktail stick and serve with salad.
Makes 4 wraps

On another note I have now finished my year work placement and have just moved back home for the summer and am surrounded by boxes – how I’m supposed to fit a whole flats worth of stuff into my room I don’t know! I will really miss working, I loved being part of a team and treated like an equal. I’m not looking forward to returning to the stigma of ‘a student’ for my final year of uni. Thanks to everyone who helped and supported me throughout my last year, at times it was a challenge, but I can’t believe its now over.