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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danish Braid

The Daring Bakers strike again! The Daring Bakers started as a small intimate group of supportive baking enthusiasts who wanted to share their challenges and triumphs tackling a chosen recipe each month. The group is growing like wildfire and we number over 1,000 members. There is never a dumb question, never a disaster we cannot learn from, and never a success that we do not celebrate.

This month the Daring Bakers are tackling a Danish Braid. Our hosts, Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?, picked “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking.

First a little history and information from our hosts....

“Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread. Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there. In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

Why Danish Braid?
Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not. The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general. Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

Now, a little feedback from me...

I loved, just loved this challenge!!! To tell the truth I relish every challenge because I learn so much from the other lovely bakers. Every challenge reveals something about myself too - following directions is a discipline I have yet to master .... but... I can trouble shoot like no one's business.

Rolled Dough Ready for Filling

This baby was filled with a homemade almond pastry cream and a drizzle of raspberry coulis. If I had followed all the directions, I would have braided my first attempt more evenly, oh well....

Lessons learned:

1) Room temperature has a different meaning depending on where you live. In Singapore, it meant melting butter. In Ottawa (Canada) we had a wave of cold weather; my "beurrage" was a hard lump of shivering butter.

2) All the instructions are important, not just the ones I remember.

3) Making two braids helped me use those instructions I omitted on my first attempt.

4) This was the sexiest Daring Baker challenge ever. Without exception, every picture from the Daring Bakers made me want to lick the screen.

The recipe can be found at the host's websites. It was loooong but filled with important information that should not be skipped. (sigh) Thank you to our lovely hosts for picking this challenge. We all appreciate the time and effort you have put toward making this experience fun.

Friday, June 13, 2008


Shove over juvenile delinquents, grandma and grandpa are moving into your territory.

Every time there is theft or vandalism in my neighbourhood everyone bobs their head while sighing about the state of youngsters today. Where are the parents? Children learn at the knee of their parents so the parents are obviously derelict in their duty.

Parents? Are you sure that's the example youngesters are following?

The most brazen examples of theft I've witnessed are from the seniors in the neighbourhood. I live in a place blessed with gorgeous gardens. Little did I know that the price of a garden was paid in contraband.

I stopped one senior in her tracks as she bent over to pluck plants from my garden to add to her already generous bouquet. "What ARE you doing?" She jumped back, apologized profusely and went on her way. I wish that had been the only time I'd seen illicit harvesting, but it wasn't.

From the little old lady skipping along the path with a fistful of daffodils from the city garden to the grandparents accompanying their grandchildren as they strip flowers off the plants, each one seemed to think gardens were public property to be plundered at will.

Gardens ARE publicly provocative in displaying their glory. Maybe it's the equivalent of wearing a short skirt and having a dirty old man sneak a little pinch on the crowded bus. Shame.

I am doing my part to combat this grey crime wave by growing a brazen carpet of dandelions in every spare nook and cranny of my garden. I'm pretty proud of my success.

So far, not one dandelion is missing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Excellent Pain

Do you slather on the sunscreen after seeing this?

(This is a loaf of bread with "Excellent Bread" written in French. "Pain" is French for bread and excellent is the same in both languages.)

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spectacular Camouflage

My children think I'm nuts. To tell the truth, they are probably not the only ones. There is a certain game we play called fetch and it goes like this...

"Mommy can't find her glasses, has anybody seen them?"

"No... no... no..."

"Does anybody know where they are?"

Another chorus of "Nos"

The glasses are the lovely seamless type. Seamlessness allows my husband to focus on the loveliness of my eyes without being distracted by clunky frames. Anything for romance... The drawback becomes apparent when the seamless frames blend into every piece of furniture that we own.

Since my eyesight isn't perfect, I can't find the glasses without, well, the glasses. There's nothing romantic about a squinty-eyed hunchback rooting through the couch cushions for her glasses. Therefore, I rely on younger eyes... (which is the whole reason we reproduce in the first place)

The next step is the reward.

"One dollar to whoever finds my glasses..." The kids are getting more savvy; it used to be 25 cents.

But now the game has evolved to a whole new direction. I asked my oldest if he knew where my glasses could be. He pointed to his head. Immediately, I felt the top of my head (it's happened before that they were on my head and I completely forgot) They weren't there. He burst out laughing.

I think he was circling his ear with his finger in the "you're nuts" sign.