Saturday, February 22, 2014

Danish pastry-The classic sweet roll

I've always been mesmerized by these light and airy pastries filled with sweet jam. They just look so beautiful--almost too lovely to eat. Ah, but these pastries live to be eaten. They live to be enjoyed by people all over the world. That was my goal exactly with these danishes. I wanted to make them look too good to eat, but so enticing that you can't help but devour them. I think I achieved that if I do say so myself. 

I decided to add a little twist into these pastries by adding a thin layer of hazelnut cream, very similar to a frangipane, between the two layers of dough. The result is a deliciously nutty and earthy note added to each bite. The danish dough itself is so flaky and buttery, which is everything you would want in a danish. The butteriness stems from the addition of a butter block into the dough. This process is called "laminating" the dough. I'll discuss this further in the recipe section of this post. 

Overall, this danish is not all too difficult to make. I highly recommend beginners to buy puff pastry dough rather than making danish dough from scratch. The laminating of the butter is the hardest and most tedious part of making the dough. If you aren't interested in waiting around hours to make a simple slab of dough, buying puff pastry dough is definitely a healthy alternative. However, if you're up for the challenge, by all means go ahead! 

Recipe Review:

Taste: The addition of hazelnut cream adds a wonderful nutty note to the pastry. The jam has the perfect amount of tartness that contrasts the sweetness of the icing and butteriness of the pastry itself. 
Texture: It is very flaky and light. There is a nice bite even though it virtually melts in your mouth....which is a good thing! 
Level of difficulty: This is definitely not a beginner's recipe if you want to make the dough from scratch. The hardest part is making sure the butter is correctly added to the dough. The rest is a piece of cake. 
Appearance: It is a beautiful golden pillow topped with a rich and dark raspberry jam. 

Black Raspberry Danish 
makes approx 14 danishes 
adapted from Joe Pastry 

Pastry Dough
5.5 ounces (2/3 cup) milk
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons (6 grams) instant yeast
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg

Butter Slab
8 oz unsalted butter, left at room temperature for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons flour

Combine the first six ingredients into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the ingredients until they come together and becomes smooth and uniform, about five minutes. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl and let it rise for a half hour at room temperature. Then, leave the dough in a fridge for a minimum of two hours or overnight. 

When you are ready to use the dough, begin making the butter slab. Put the butter on top of two layers of plastic wrap, with 1 tablespoon of flour under the butter and one tablespoon over the butter. Wrap the plastic over the butter and, using a rolling pin, begin beating the death. You really want to flatten the butter. Once it is flat, cut the dough into a rough square and pile the scraps on top of the square. Then keep beating. Repeat this process until the butter is pale and dull looking. If it beings to shine, the butter is too soft. If that's the case, put the butter back into the fridge to let it firm up again. Once the butter is pale and dull, it is ready to be laminated into the dough. Make sure it is a square shape. 

Now it is time to laminate the butter. Take out your dough and roll it into a square slightly larger than the size of the butter slab. The rest of this recipe is easier to see than it is to write. Therefore, I will now direct you to Joe Pastry's instructions. 

Hazelnut Cream
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons softened butter 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and process until a creamy paste in formed. Leave in the fridge until ready for use. 

Sweet Roll
1 recipe danish pastry dough
1 recipe hazelnut cream
1 jar of jam--your preference 

Begin by rolling about a pound and a half of Danish dough out into a square about 1/4-inch thick (the actual dimensions don’t really matter). Spread a thin layer of hazelnut cream on half of the dough. Fold the other half over to enclose the hazelnut cream. Then, cut the dough into 1 inch strips. 

Now, gently stretch the dough and pinch one end and begin twisting the opposite end. Now, still holding one end of the dough strip down, drape the strip down and around the center point in a curlicue. Tuck the end under the pastry so it doesn't unravel in the oven. Put them on parchment paper and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature for 2 hours, until the dough is soft and airy to the touch.

After two hours, the danishes are now ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Using a spoon, indent the center of the pastry and lay about a teaspoon of jam in the middle. Brush the pastry with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool and drizzle them with powdered sugar icing. Enjoy! 

*Visuals can be seen at Joe Pastry

As you can see, this recipe is extremely time consuming. The dough alone takes 4 hours to proof. This definitely is not a recipe for those in a rush. A whole day must be dedicated to making these danishes. However, the end product is definitely worth the effort and trouble.  I highly recommend making a trip to Joe Pastry because he provides many wonderful step-by-step photos. If you are interested in a new baking adventure, this is the recipe for you. So go ahead and give it a try! You won't regret it.

As always, Happy Baking! 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Chocolate Chip Brownie Mix

Finally, I can check something off of my baking bucket list: homemade brownie mix. I've always wanted to make my own mix, just like Duncan Hines or Pillsbury. It just so happened to be my friend's birthday, so I thought that to be the perfect opportunity. It turns out that making a mix is just as easily done as it is said. At first I thought that maybe there might be some technical problems with the order of the ingredients, but I encountered no problems when I made a test batch. 

One thing I love about this mix is not only does it make for a great gift, but it also yields killer brownies. I kid you not-these are the best brownies I have ever made. Please, make these. It'll be the best decision you make all day. I have never been one to enjoy extremely gooey brownies. I always found the texture to be unpleasant. My kind of brownie is a chewy and somewhat denser brownie. These brownies are just that. To increase the chocolate flavor, I recommend using extra dark cocoa powder, not Nestle and definitely not Hershey's. 

As you can see in the photos, there are six layers. Originally there would be four layers but in order to increase aesthetic appeal, I split the cocoa powder and sugar in two. This created two layers of both instead of one thick and boring layer of sugar and one of cocoa powder. What's great about giving this as a gift is that it only requires three more simple ingredients to make    D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S brownies: eggs, butter and vanilla. I cannot express enough just how good these brownies are. They are so chewy and chocolatey and wonderful all around. 

Recipe Review: 

Taste: So chocolatey. It isn't overly sweet which is really nice. The overall flavor you get is a good quality chocolate. 
Texture: Chewy and soft. Not loose and fudgy, which is something I fear most in brownies. It is very moist despite its lack of undercooked qualities that most brownies possess. 
Level of difficulty: Easiest brownie recipe ever. 
Appearance: There is a slight shine on the top, but not as much as I would like. However, it does not crumble every where. It definitely holds its shape. 

Chocolate Chip Brownies
makes 24 brownies 

1 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cocoa powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Start with a glass jar that has been properly sterilized. You can find instructions here.

In a small bowl, sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Carefully layer that mixture on the bottom of the jar. Lightly tap the jar in order to level the ingredients. 

Next, sift the cocoa powder and the sugar in different bowls. Layer them alternately: 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 cup sugar, 1/3 cup cocoa, 1 cup sugar. Be sure to level them after layering. Also, after layering the cocoa powder, use a damp paper towel to wipe the insides of the jar. 

Lastly, layer the chocolate chips until it reaches the top. The amount of chips might vary depending on how large your jar is. Give the jar one last tap and seal tightly. 

Final assembly:

Attach a tag or print a sticker on your computer with the following instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees °F.
2. Grease and flour a 9x13inch baking pan. 
3. Empty jar of brownie mix into a large mixing bowl, and whisk slightly. Mix in 1 cup melted butter3 eggs and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Mix thoroughly. 
4. Spread the batter evenly into prepared baking pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. 

So there you have it, brownie mix in a jar. As you can see, it's extremely simple and is a great gift for friends and family alike. Hopefully you give it a try and hopefully you LOVE it! One last note, I made the sticker on the front of the jar on Jam Labelizer. It's super easy and free for all users. Give it a try! 

As always, Happy Baking!