Almost any food combination that includes chocolate appeals to me.
Chocolate and peanut butter.
Chocolate and pistachio.
Chocolate and raspberry.
... Even chocolate and bacon (if you don't believe me, you need to order a Mo's Bacon Bar. Out-freaking-standing!)
You name it, if it includes chocolate, I usually like it. But, one of my all-time favorites is chocolate and banana.
For the June Daring Bakers recipe, our hosts—Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking?—challenged us to tackle yeasted laminated dough in the form of a danish braid. Huh? I have to be honest that I get a little freaked out every time I have to work with yeast, let alone dough layered with butter. It scares the bejeezus out of me . Will it rise properly? Will the butter actually form layers or just blend in? I'm convinced this is why Julia Child always took a swig of her sherry while she was in the kitchen. Maybe she was just taking the edge off from attempting challenging dishes? . . . I digress.
The only hard and fast rules for this challenge was that we had to make at least one danish braid using the recipe provided. The suggested filling was apple, but we were given the option to go sweet or savory and use any filling of our choice. Since I'm always looking for excuses to eat chocolate, I knew I wanted to include that in my filling, but certainly didn't want just chocolate. I glanced around my kitchen for inspiration and fixed on the bananas across the room on my counter. Banana pastry cream and chocolate. Lovely combination.
While the total time took a while, the actual labor involved in making the dough was fairly easy and straight forward. I had to make the dough twice because I realized I misread the ingredient measurements the first time and added way too much flour. Otherwise, it came together easily for this home chef. The hard part was keeping track of how many times I turned the dough. I tend to multi-task, so kept track of my progress by making hash marks on my printed recipe. If you have a lot going on while making this, mark the dough with your finger (as the recipe suggests) or keep track on paper of how many times you have turned it. I found it to be a simple, yet helpful tip. The braiding came together quickly and I topped with the egg wash and some coarse sugar. The directions instruct you to fold up the ends of the braid, but I lean towards a more rustic look with pastries and rather enjoy seeing the filling peek out a little. So, I skipped that step and left my ends exposed.
As for the taste, I loved, loved, LOVED it! I made modifications to an existing vanilla pastry cream I had, so I was unsure it would come out okay, but I was so thrilled with the outcome. Just the right amount of banana flavor without being obnoxious. And the pairing with semi-sweet chocolate was the perfect balance. I cut it when it was still a little warm, so the chocolate and banana blended together.
For more yummy braids, check out the Daring Bakers blogroll. I'm a few days late getting my post up, so any Daring Baker regulars are probably overloaded on braids by now. Hopefully, this is at least different than anything you've seen. I haven't had a chance to look yet myself, so can't wait to see how everyone else interpreted the recipe. The opportunities are really endless. Thanks again to Kelly and Ben for a great challenge.
from Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough (enough for two large braids)
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
For the filling
1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 banana, mashed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 4-ounce semi-sweet chocolate baking bar
To make the 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.
To make the butter block:
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.
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.
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.
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.To make the filling
Heat milk in saucepan on medium-high until very hot. In a bowl, combine sugar, flour and salt. Whisk hot milk into bowl with dry ingredients. Pour the mixture back into saucepan. Heat to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook over medium heat a couple minutes, stirring constantly until mixture is thick and smooth. Reduce heat to low. Whisk in yolks and cook for a few minutes more. Remove from heat and let cool, stirring occasionally.
Mash bananas and lemon juice until smooth Add to milk mixture. Cover and refrigerate.
To assemble the danish braid:
1 recipe danish dough (see above)
1 recipe banana pastry cream, plus chocolate
Egg wash (1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk)
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.
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.
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.
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.
Proofing and Baking
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.
Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.
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.