I’ve faced India’s summers for 26 years. I know it means multiple baths at the oddest times in the day, huge loads of laundry every morning, the constant need for liquids and the urge to jump into the first water body you see. But that is not how one survives this summer.
No, you are a survivor if standing in a sweltering kitchen, you try and make, and fold, a dough that honestly, looks nothing like dough. But ends up like this. THEN, you have beaten summer.
If you follow me on my Facebook page, you’ll know we enjoyed these Danishes on Sunday morning, a lot of hard work rewarded 🙂 Soft, buttery, filled with cream cheese and strawberry jam. Not exactly whole grains and fibre, but why should Sunday be as dull as Monday!
Making this takes patience and cool temperatures. I had neither. For all of you in India, facing the heat, this post is customized for our kind of weather. Game face on!
I’ve made bread before and that turned out great with no heart-stopping mishaps. But it was December, Mumbai’s pseudo-winter month. As I learned the hard way over the weekend, heat does not a good dough make. But in the end, look what we got to eat 🙂
The recipe for this Danish braid came from Sally’s Baking Addiction. It’s a stunning blog and I’ve made a ton of recipes from here. When I ran into trouble with this one, I wrote to her and asked if the weather was the culprit and she said yes. Curse you, summers.
So here’s what happened. At the point where you mix the flour and butter in a food processor to form a crumble like mixture, the butter should be cold, cold, cold. The key to creating a flaky pastry or in this case, dough. As I was cutting the chilled butter in my very hot kitchen, it started to soften. No kidding. With the heat of the food processor, it worked its way right into the dough especially because I ran it for another 10 seconds to ensure a good crumble. My advice would be to crumble the butter into the flour by hand so you have more control over it and it remains in clumps and your bread remains flaky.
So instead of a dry, but crumbly flour mixture, I had a moist one. Mixed it in with the wet ingredients and I was greeted with the wettest, stickiest, most runny dough I’ve ever seen and I had to add more flour. I thought I misread the measurements or something, but no, everything was ok. To my understanding, the heat just softened the butter and therefore the dough was too stretchy and elastic which meant it spread everywhere. What a nightmare. I chilled it overnight anyway and when it came to folding and rolling it (three times!!!!) the next day, it was more of smooshing and beating it three times because the dough kept softening so fast. My husband was right there, helping me through it, continuously flouring the kitchen counter 🙂 Because I had to work so fast, I couldn’t take too many in-process pictures. The original recipe however, is a treasure trove of photos and good tips.
Now for the good news. The bread is insanely delicious! In spite of all the fiascoes, it is soft, super buttery and just yum. The strawberry jam and cream cheese filling is just perfect. I didn’t use any eggs in the filling itself, but it turned out great. Soft, creamy and tangy. The cream cheese glaze on top was an afterthought but since I didn’t use an egg wash (I don’t like the taste), the glaze helped to add some moisture.
The braiding itself wasn’t difficult at all. You should definitely do this part on butter/baking paper so you can easily transfer it to a baking tray. You could choose not to braid and simply cut it into desired shapes too. In fact in hindsight, having a butter paper base would helped even during the folding and rolling process.
Plan ahead, make the dough the night before, chill overnight and then the next day, get down to shaping.
It’s amazing how beautiful the finished product can look and how great you feel 🙂 Do make this, there’ll be a few hurdles if you live in a humid country, but nothing you can’t work through. The recipe instructions below are tailored for just this, based on my experience.
I’m pretty proud of myself for this. Do let me know if you try it and how it goes 🙂
What you’ll need:
For the braid
1/4 cup water
2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (I used Blue Bird)
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 and 1/2 cups flour plus more to combat stickiness
14 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cold (Easier to measure as 210 gms. I used two 100 gm packs of Amul butter and added a tablespoon more. If using unsalted butter, add a tsp of salt)
You’ll divide the dough in half and work with only one half at a time. Freeze the other half for later use to make a second braid.
For the filling
4 tbsps plain cream cheese
4 tbsps strawberry/your favourite jam
These proportions are enough for one braid. I suggest not overloading the braid with filling as the dough is fragile anyway. You could pretty much fill this with whatever you like. Chocolate chips, cinnamon sugar or even savoury fillings. Go nuts!
For the glaze
3 tbsps cream cheese
2 tbsp milk
2 tsps caster sugar
These proportions are enough for one braid. The glaze was just a last-minute addition so I went with my instinct. Feel free to increase or decrease any of these amounts according to taste.
What to do:
1. Heat the water in the microwave or on the stove till it is warm, but not hot enough to burn. Stir the yeast and water in a large bowl and set aside for 3 minutes. It should appear foamy/bubbly. The yeast must dissolve completely and the bubbles might only appear after stirring.
2. Add the milk, egg, sugar and salt (if using) and mix. Set aside.
3. Cut butter into 1/4 inch slices and add to a food processor or blender. Top with flour. Process till you have a crumble mixture, with clumps of butter visible. You could do this by hand for more control, though it’ll take longer. Don’t let the flour and butter work themselves into a dough.
4. Pour the flour mixture into the wet ingredients and fold gently, not overmixing. Fold until the dry ingredients are just moistened. If like me, you find yourself with a very wet dough, add up to 1/4 cup more flour. Mix and tip onto a large piece of clingfilm. If it remains wet, don’t worry. Seal it tightly and chill overnight.
5. Unwrap the chilled dough and place on a very well-floured surface. If you have butter paper, spread that out and then flour it, before beginning to work the dough. Using the palm of your hands, gently flatten the dough into a small square. From there, roll out into a 15 inch long rectangle using your rolling pin. Keep flouring as needed, on the dough, around it, wherever. Don’t be shy.
6. Fold the dough from either side, overlapping the first fold (refer pictures in the original recipe). And roll it out into a 15 inch long rectangle again. Then, fold. Repeat the rolling and folding process more time for a total of 3 times. If the folding isn’t quite as you had thought it would be, it’s ok. Push it together as best as you can, flouring the stickier bits and the layers will form on their own.
7. After the 3rd time, fold the dough up tightly, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for at least 30 minutes or up to 1 day.
8. After at least 30 minutes, take the dough from the refrigerator and cut it in half. Wrap 1 half up and keep chilled as you work with the first half. If you are not planning to use the second one the same day, freeze it.
7. Roll out your dough to make a 12×6 inch rectangle. Definitely do this on a large sheet of floured butter paper so you can easily transfer the braid to the tray.
8. Cut off two corners of the dough and then two small triangles at the other end.
9. Spread first the cream cheese and then the jam down the center of the dough. Cut slanting strips (3/4 inch – 1 inch each) along both sides. I used a very sharp knife. Starting with the top right/left, fold the strips onto the filling, overlapping them as you go. Look at the pictures below for a guide. Fold the bottom end up to ‘seal’ the filling in, lift the braid onto a baking tray and chill again for 10 minutes. This just a precaution because as you cut and fold, the soft dough will start to get softer and stretchier in a warm environment. Chilling helps keep it all together.
10. Preheat oven to 200 C. Transfer the baking tray to the oven and bake the braid for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure to rotate the pan to ensure the braid is browning evenly. I didn’t bake further though I had a couple of dense spots in the bread, thanks to all the drama. I was afraid over-baking might dry it out.
11. Make the glaze by mixing all the ingredients together till you have a drizzle/pourable consistency. Allow the braid to cool for at least 10 minutes, spread with the glaze, slice and get ready for your mind to be blown 🙂
Happy bread making!