Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge #7

Peach Danish Braid
(My comments are in blue)


Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

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

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. I added about 1 cup more flour, but then again, I'm at an altitude.

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. Also, be sure that you brush off excess flour as you fold your dough.
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.

I filled my braids with sauteed peaches (about 5 )
and cinnamon but they reduced quite a bit so if I do this again, I would be sure to use more filling.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

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. (Seriously~ spray your plastic! Bad things will happen if you don't.)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.

I really enjoyed this challenge~ I've made puff pastry before, but danish dough is markedly sweeter and more forgiving. One thing I added was a light brushing of melted apricot jam to the finished braid for a shinier, glossy finish. Every professional baker does this for their pastries.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Domestic Duties

Part of the freezer stash

It's been a productive week, but I still feel a day late and a dollar short. On Monday I had a full scale baking/ cooking day. I filled a shelf in the downstairs freezer with a few casseroles and some other goodies. I love going down to the basement freezer and choosing which dinner would be great for tonight. The best part about it is that even though it’s convenient, it’s still homemade!

Have I mentioned that I get to have company next month? I. AM. SO. EXCITED! I still can’t believe it. My favorite people (outside my immediate family) are coming to stay with us! I’m seeing lots of laughs, good conversations, loads of sweet tea, and a 1st birthday party in our future.

So I’ve taken the bull by the horns and begun the food prep. After all, how fun is it to have company and not get to fellowship because you are working in the kitchen? So I figured if I’m going to make cookies, I might as well save my valuable time and make 2 months worth of cookies with the same time and effort as just 1 batch.

So, since Monday I’ve added to our freezer stash:

  • Waffles for the freezer {2 batches}
  • Ham casserole for the freezer {1 for this week, 1 for later}
  • Cookies for the freezer {~5 dozen}
  • Whole wheat crackers {2 batches}
  • Lasagne for the freezer {2 large pans}
  • Taco casserole {one for this week, one for later}
(And I’m hoping to add a few banana breads to the list before the week is out.)

Also, yesterday, I had the extreme pleasure of completing most of the June Daring Bakers challenge. This month was a great challenge and I’m so excited about sharing it with you all~ look for it here on Sunday.

A Word on Real Vanilla

Baking is my passion but it’s also a special treat when I use real vanilla beans. Now I know that quality vanilla extract can be quite expensive, much less buying the real beans, but I’d love to show you how a small investment can reap huge vanilla flavor rewards and last a long time.

First off, get yourself some nice beans. I know you’ve seen them at the grocery store and even at Walmart, but beware. What you’re buying is the fruit of an orchid plant. A seed pod to be exact, so please don’t buy anything dry and shriveled. I've seen a lot of beans that rattle around in the jars. Hmm. Makes me wonder how long they've been in there. What you’re looking for is fresh and plump and moist~ like fruit should be.

As for me, I buy my beans online. On eBay to be exact. I buy them by the dozen from a reliable seller that ships them to my door fresh, plump and vacuum sealed. I cut open the package and take a big heavenly sniff of vanilla goodness. Ahhh. After that, I plunk all of them into my vodka bottle. Yep, vodka. Keep it in a dark place and shake it every now and then and in 6 months you’ll have real vanilla extract.

Now when you have a recipe that calls for a vanilla bean, it usually says a vanilla bean “split and scraped”. Fish a bean out of your vodka and slice it lengthwise. Then, using the tip of the knife you just had in your hand, scrape the teeny tiny black seeds from the pod and put them where ever your recipe specifies.

Most people leave it at that. But, if I’ve shelled out good money for good quality beans and good quality vodka, I want to use every iota of flavor that I’ve paid for. I place the spent pods in a cute jar of plain white sugar and shake it up. And there you have vanilla sugar (great for coffee and tea) in a week or two.

This is my "old reliable" bottle. She's getting kind of low.

When my vanilla extract runs low, I top it off with vodka and plunk in a few more beans. Keep up this cycle and if you’re patient, you have great quality extract and beans ready for your best recipes forever.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Our Jumpin' Bean

On our latest trip to the outlets with family, the Eurobouncers caught the attention of our kids and their cousins and the dads while my SIL and I got lost in the Gymboree Outlet. (Think Gymboree clothes at Walmart prices). I emerged just in time to see my baby girl getting strapped into what looked like a deathtrap.

"Tim, she's only 4, please don't let her do this!" "Isn't that thing missing some shoulder straps?" "Are you sure she wants to?" Tim just smiled at me.

Then the machine drew the bungees tight and her little feet lifted off the trampoline below and her eyes grew wide. The man snatched her feet and bounced her way high and her whole body tensed. I heard a little moan.

"It's ok Dabney!" I said. "Remember when Angelina was scared of the highwire when she played the Rose Fairy Princess?" Now I know it sounds corny, but she really did relax after that moment. She even smiled.

She jumped high the next time she reached the trampoline and never winced again.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Home at Last!

Phew. What a crazy week! Last Wednesday, the 24th annual Christian Home Educators of Colorado Family Conference began in Denver, so Tim and I (the Publicity chairmen) drove up with the kids and had a great time. I stayed with the children, mostly, in the hotel room and tried to help Tim when I could. The speakers were just spectacular this year. Headlining were Doug Phillips with Vision Forum, Kevin Swanson and Voddie Baucham. Also, Jay Wile spoke and I was quite excited about hearing him too. He's a scientist who writes high school text books from a thoroughly Christian perspective~ pretty rare. I had read wonderful reviews about his texts so I made sure to catch part of his talk about why he is a creationist. Then, one of my kids spilled a drink and another fell off his chair, so we had to find the exit pretty quickly. We also heard Voddie Baucham on family worship and that was just excellent as well. What encouragement for fathers!

Also, my favorite part of the conference is the vendor hall. There were over 200 booths and most were filled with excellent curriculum and books and tapes about family. I kept stalking the Vision Forum booth (I'm sure those nice young Vision Forum men were wondering what my problem was) and drooled over all those lovely resources I read about online and in their catalog. If you aren't familiar with their ministry, click on the link in my sidebar~ you won't regret it. I also found a few vendors carrying resources from Answers in Genesis and loved flipping through their actual books and reading the backs of their dvds. And then there was the CHEC booth and and the Math-U-See people and the people who sell handwriting paper... Because our oldest is only 4 years old and we have most of our Kindergarten curriculum lined up, Tim told me I could buy only one thing in the entire vendor hall. Wow. Decisions, decisions! So many ministries, so little money. In the end, I decided on the Zoo Guide, Aquarium Guide and Museum Guide from Answers in Genesis, sold as a set. The idea is to take these along when you visit all these places and instead of teaching your kids what these establishments want them to know, you teach them about what they're seeing from Christian perspective. I'm already loving it. We don't do tons of formal schooling right now, but we do go to museums, aquariums and zoos!

Last Friday night was the concert featuring the Colorado Wranglers and the Von Trapp Children. (They're the great grandchildren of the Captain and Maria). I must say I really hadn't been excited about the concert and hadn't planned on going. I mean, would they be yodeling? But as the time rolled around, I decided to go and take Dabney and maybe see if there were some of the cheap last row tickets were available. My friend Esther was selling the tickets, and as she was trying to find two tickets next to each other, a lady came up to Esther and I and said she had two tickets that she didn't need and where should she put them? Wow! Esther handed them right to me with a smile. I am so glad we went. What a great time. We've been listening to the Colorado Wranglers since we moved to Colorado and it was great to see them again. Dabney thought it was so cool to see real cowboys. The Von Trapp children were amazing and I was stunned at the beauty of their voices together. (And the only song they yodeled in was "The Lonely Goatherd" from the Sound of Music.) It was great to learn about the real family behind the movie.

We had a great time at the conference, but boy, is it nice to be home with the kids in their own beds and clothes in the closets and dressers not in suitcases. As I type this my laundry is humming away in the washer and I really must go see if the dryer cycle is done. Have a nice Monday!

Oprah's presidential choice? God forgive us.

I came across this yesterday and I think this is something everyone needs to know. If you read nothing else today, please let it be this.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Thursday, June 05, 2008

My Window "Mistreatments"

Dining Room

Master Bedroom
(This one wins the award for the most dramatic transformation)

Boy's Room

Front Room
(I am so glad I added the colorful panel~ but I might have to change out that upholstery tack for something a little less noticable)

Kitchen Window
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