Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish pastry for one.

It's finally ready! A little late, but still very much here!

Right, so the June DB task was Danish pastries, or more specifically, a Danish braid using a Sherry Yard recipe. This is where I go off track a little. I still have more dough to make a braid, but I thought I'll leave that one till later in the week so I can share it with friends. (Food always tastes better when you get to share it with people you love dont you think?) For now, a single-serve Danish pastry suits me just fine.

I can't believe how easy this pastry was to make. The dough was beautifully speckled and smelt heavenly with the lemon peel and coarsely ground cardamom, making it a pure pleasure to roll out the dough each time.

Simplicity has always been key for me. So for the filling, I tossed together some thinly sliced Packham pears, a bit of honey, whole cloves and a drizzle of vanilla extract. Simple, wholesome and so satiating.

This dough really holds its own too. I made a tres petit crossiant from the cutouts and found it really, really good. Oh dear, at this rate, I'll never buy anything from the shops again!

Thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? for hosting and coming up with this month's challenge!

DANISH DOUGH (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 (I used lemon instead and found it works just as well)
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 (Again, I used lemon juice in place of orange)
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.

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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Strawberry & Lavender Jam

Damn! Due to a technical difficulty, my DB post will be a day late. But better late than never, right? :) Check here tom for the post!

Wow I feel like I'm busier than ever! If I'm not at some party, I'll be catching up with someone over dinner or drinks or just simply catching up on my reading. I'm delving into Buddhist teachings and the Dalai Lama dialogues now, something which I've always found interesting but never really caught onto for some time. I can't begin to tell you how riveting it is!

Last week was Vina's birthday and she invited us to celebrate with her with dinner, drinks and a show @ the Vanguard. She's such a great person and I really wanted to make something special for her. I recalled her mentioning she's got a thing for sweet stuff (maybe it's because she's preggers), and with all the strawberries in season now, I decided to whip up some homemade jam infused with a tinge of lavender for something different. It's funny how lavender was the rage in food blogging, but most people have never heard of eating lavender or tried it for that matter. Phil actually thoguht he could die from it. Geez! *chuckle*

The highlight of the night was a performance by the Kahn Brothers, but to whet our appetite, the night started off with this duo - if I'm not wrong, I think they're from the Blue Mountains . The music was really good and easy to listen to. I liked them.

Then there was this.

This band was full on aggro. All the vibration from the loud, clanging music made me want to throw my steak up. Definitely not my idea of dinner music. The lead singer even got up and trampled all over his keyboard at one point. You know, self-expression is fine, but maybe because I enjoy playing music myself, ruining musical instruments just rubs me the wrong, wrong way.

After that band, everyone was really looking forward to the Kahn Brothers. They've got this amazing presence - the moment the band got on the stage, I felt instantly relaxed. Then again, after the show put up by that crazy band, anything would probably calm your nerves. The music is indie acoustic - my favourite song for the night was "Everyday". Yep, they've just got themselves a new fan!

Ritey, gotta prep my dough for the night! My post will be out tom - promise! :D

Strawberry and Lavender Jam (makes about 2 cups)
500g strawberries, rinsed and quartered
1/4 cup sugar (I cut down on the amount of sugar substantially to make this jam as wholesome and natural as possible. Feel free to increase the quantity to 1/2 - 1 cup)
1 tbsp dried lavender buds
1 tbsp lemon juice
Place the strawberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium-heat. Stir frequently until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice and continue stirring, lowering the heat. Add the lavender buds to steep. The jam is ready when it thickens and runs off the back of a spoon slowly and thickly. Ladle the hot jam into a sterilized jar and seal.