DB 1st Challenge - Blackberry Danish Braid

When they say challenge, they ain't kidding! I about bowed out when I saw that we were making a Danish Braid, but being on a gluten free diet has really helped me to come out of my comfort zone and embrace baking challenges. I find it so rewarding when my baking is met with success and when it's not, instead of feeling despair I'm met with a stronger determination to try again. It must be that stubborn streak in me coming out of hiding!

I found this challenge to be immensely rewarding and my fear of pastry dough has even dwindled a bit. My Danish braid was flaky and delicious - an overall success. My only disappointment was that the dough barely rose, but after cooking gluten free for over three years I wasn't really expecting it to! I'm anxious to check out some of the other gluten free daring bakers to see how they fared and what tips I can glean from their experience.

The recipe we used for this challenge comes from Sherry Yard’s "The Secrets of Baking". Everyone doing the challenge was to strictly follow the recipe for the Danish dough and than fill the braid with any topping of your choosing as long as you make it yourself. The only exception is for those on alternate diets who can make slight modifications to accommodate their diet. I swapped out the flour cup for cup with a gluten free flour blend and added 1 tsp xanthum gum. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written.

DANISH DOUGH - Gluten Free
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 or pumpkin pie spice
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 gluten free flour blend
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons xanthum gum
sweet rice flour for dusting sticky dough

Ingredients for the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup gluten free flour blend

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 and xanthum gum 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.

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.

Blackberry Topping 1/2 cup water 6 tablespoons sugar 4 1/2-pint containers blackberries, divided

Stir 1/2 cup water and sugar in heavy large saucepan. Add half of berries and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until syrup thickens, mashing berries with back of fork, about 12 minutes. Pour into medium bowl; gently stir in remaining berries. Cover and chill until cold, at least 3 hours and up to 1 day.

DANISH BRAID Makes enough for 2 large braids Ingredients 1 recipe Danish Dough 2 cups 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 (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.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

The gluten flour mix that I use most often comes from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts. It calls for "extra fine" brown rice flour that I order online from Authentic Foods since my local store doesn't carry it. You can also buy Annalise's flour mix pre-made by Authentic Foods if you don't want to mix your own. I've been using the extra fine brown rice flour for about 18 months and the thing I love most about it is that the gritty texture I once found in my baked goods is no longer present. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Gluten Free Flour Mix

6 cups brown rice flour (extra finely ground)
2 cups potato starch (not potato flour)
1 cup tapioca flour

Mix together in an airtight container. Makes 9 cups.

Vegetable Fried Rice

I love fried rice! One day after missing not being able to order it in a restaurant it dawned on me - I learned how to make this in my 6th grade Home Ec class. Hello! If the 6th grade version of me could make fried rice, then this older version of me had a pretty fair chance of being able to make it too. And it is so easy! My favorite recipe is based off of one I found at www.allrecipes.com The original recipe has a lot of ingredients and requires a lot of chopping. I love this recipe because it's so easy to make,it's delicious, and I usually have all of the ingredients on hand. I especially love the addition of sesame oil. It gives the fried rice that depth of flavor not often found in home-made Chinese food. Tonight dinner was finished and sitting on the table in under 15 minutes. Now that's what I'm talking about! Here's my version:

Vegetable Fried Rice

3 cups cooked white rice (leftovers preferred or cook 1 1/2 cups rice to get 3 cups cooked)
3 tablespoons sesame oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen stir fry vegetables or any other stir ins you like (see variations)
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup gluten free soy sauce (more or less depending on your preference)

Heat a wok or large skillet over medium heat. Pour in sesame oil and stir in onion. Cook until translucent, then add garlic. When garlic is lightly browned, stir in vegetables. Stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender. Stir in beaten egg and cook just until egg is scrambled and firm.
Add rice, mix thoroughly with vegetables and stir in soy sauce. Adjust seasoning to your preference and serve immediately.

Variations: instead of stir fry vegetables add a combination of any of the following equaling a total of 1 1/2 - 2 cups. chopped ham, chicken, shrimp, carrots, celery and of course frozen peas.

Catalina Taco Salad

My version is loosely based on a recipe found here, but mine's vegetarian (at least tonight), uses a lot less dressing, and had no taco seasoning... does that make it a "not taco" taco salad? I love salads because you can pretty much use whatever you've got and it always taste good, plus it's so nice on a hot humid day to not have to fire up the stove!!!

I didn't really measure, but here's a list of ingredients and an approximation of how much I used:

Catalina Taco Salad

4 cups spinach
1 can kidney beans drained and rinsed
1/2 cup frozen corn
2 small tomatoes chopped
1 avocado seeded and cubed
1/2 cup grated cheese
2 green onions sliced thinly
1 cup fritos
1/2 cup light Catalina salad dressing

Toss everything together in a large bowl and serve immediately. If you think there will be leftovers, add the fritos to each individual serving instead of mixing them with the salad. Otherwise they will get soggy.

This is one of our favorite salads - especially during the summertime!