When I first started with 'TWD : Baking with Julia' group, I used to be almost religious with the bake-along. I attempted to do at least one recipe every month. And yet, these past six months I have been extremely erratic, if not missing from the forum. And it's time to correct this.
Because it's this group and this book that have single-handedly taught me to bake. The recipes in the book, written by Dorie Greenspan, are so lucid and well written, that even a novice like me could recreate the recipes with reasonable success. And then there have been the fellow bakers who have been exceptionally encouraging. One important lesson I have learnt from them is to adapt recipes and ingredients to what is locally available. And my recipe index is testimony to that. I have been able to attempt a decent array of baking recipes, all thanks to this group.
So, to get back in the groove with this group, I chose a recipe that they had attempted way back in October last year. Its a braided breakfast pastry, made with a Danish pastry dough and filled with a strawberry jam filling.
A Danish pastry dough is made along the lines of a croissant or puff pastry dough i.e. you have to roll out and fold the dough a couple of times to create the many layers. However, this recipe uses a cheat's version to achieve the same result but with much lesser work. If anything, its way easier than you think!
The tough part for me was the braiding. I'd like to blame the heat that I keep whining about these days but its just down to my clumsiness. As you can see to salvage the situation, I cut the braid and then took the pics!
There is a jam filling which was made in a microwave. Even if the dough does not interest you, the jam recipe is a keeper.
The end result is slightly sweet, rich, buttery, flaky pastry which encases that vibrant jam filling that peeks out through the gaps. Although, I must confess, my pastry was not as flaky as desired and I get the feeling that may have something to do with the quality of the yeast. Even if my attempt was not visually appealing, the flavour more than made up for it. The sweet yet slightly tart strawberry jam is a beautiful accompaniment to that rich, buttery pastry.
This is an indulgent breakfast pastry but, I'd only recommend it to the enthusiastic baker. There is a fair amount of time involved in making it. And do not attempt this in the summer heat. If you are keen on how this braid should look, do check out this page for the links from the other bakers who have done a fabulous job!!
Recipe courtesy : 'Baking with Julia'. Makes one long braid
For the Danish Pastry dough (For the braid, you will need half of this recipe)
- 1/4 cup warm water (between 105-115 degrees F / 40-45 degrees C)
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
- 1 egg, at room temperature
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter
- 1 egg white, beaten, for an egg wash
For the Strawberry Jam Filling
- 1 cup crushed strawberries (you can use a combination of several types of berries)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
For the Danish Pastry Dough
- Pour water into bowl; add yeast and let stand for 2-3 minutes until yeast foams. Add milk, egg, sugar and salt and whisk to mix. Set aside.
- Measure flour into food processor with metal blade in place. Cut butter into 1/4 inch thick slices and drop into flour. Pulse 8-10 times, until butter is cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Be careful to not over-pulse. You want nice chunks of butter dispersed throughout the flour to make those mouth watering layers in your finished pastry!
- Empty flour mixture into bowl with yeast and with rubber spatula, gently fold the two mixtures together just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t be too energetic! The butter must remain in pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread dough or cookie. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 4 days).
- Lightly flour a work surface; turn dough out onto it, and dust dough with flour. Using the palms of your hands, pat dough into a rough square. Roll out to 16 inches on a side.
- Fold dough into thirds, like a business letter and turn it so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book.
- Roll out again, into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold into thirds again.
- Roll out to make a 20-inch square. Fold square into thirds again to make a long, narrow rectangle.
- Then again, fold into thirds to make a square. (If at any point in this procedure the dough gets very soft, cover and chill it for 30 minutes or so.) Cover and chill the dough before final shaping.
- Before you go ahead for the final shaping, make your filling
- Stir the berries and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl.
- Put the microwave oven set to full power and cook for ten minutes.
- Stir the mixture and cook for another 5 minutes until the liquid is completely absorbed and the filling is glossy. The cooking time, at this point, will depend on the power of your microwave, so keep a lookout and keep checking the mixture at one minute intervals.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Scrape the filling into a small container and cool to room temperature. Seal the container and chill.
To Shape and Bake the Danish Braid
- You will need only one half of the Danish Pastry dough.
- Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 10 x 16 inches on a lightly floured surface.
- Transfer the rectangle of dough to a piece of parchment paper.
- Spread the jam filling down the centre of the pastry.
- Cut slanting strips at 3/4 inch intervals along both sides up toward the centre using a small, sharp knife.
- Fold strips over the filling in a crisscross manner. Transfer the piece of parchment paper with the shaped braid to a baking sheet. Brush the entire braid with an egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the pastry rise at room temperature until puffy, about 30 minutes (the pastry will not double).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 degrees C.
- After the pastry has risen, bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.