Sunday, June 29, 2008

Danish Braid - Daring Baker's Challenge

This month's Daring Bakers challenge is hosted Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? So what has DB in store for all those "daring bakers" out there ..... a DANISH BRAID!

Now this will be tough cause I have no affection with yeast whatsoever ... you could say pretty close to mixing water with oil! In fact I've almost given up on making anything with yeast or anything remotely resembling it after a few disasterous attempts a few years ago. I was at first tempted to skip this challenge but what the heck ... what's a Daring Baker without being challenged! So I rolled up my sleeves and started to strategize on my plan of attack! Hah!

I decided not to use an apple filling as suggested in Kelly and Ben's email as I had just made an apple tart-tatin recently for a friend's dinner party. Instead I opted for a raspberry and vanilla pastry cream filling and the remaining dough to be made into smaller sized pastries filled with egg mayonnaise & crispy diced bacon and a spicy potato & peas samosa-like filling.

I made the pastry dough first but had a bit of a problem combining it with the butter block. It's probably because the weather that day was hot and humid and I had to put the dough into the fridge a couple of times to let it rest. I finally managed whew ... and after the final turn rested the dough in the fridge - I was planning on doing the braid and filing the next day, which was Sunday.

When I woke up on Sunday morning I realized it had rain in the wee hours of the morning and the skies looked gloomy and dull. Maybe luck was on my side as the weather was much cooler as compared with yesterday. I thus went to work on making the raspberry filing, the pastry cream and the two filings for the savoury pastry. Once all the filings were done, I set it aside to cool and then started on the braid. Braiding the dough was quite easy as Kelly and Ben had included references to Julia Child's of Julia Child - Lessons with Master Chefs

Thereafter it was just popping everything into the oven. The smell of the braids and pastries baking in the oven was heavenly ... my husband commented on it too. I only wish I could include a link in this post for "smell" so that you can get a whiff of it - unfortunately not, so you'll have to content with the pictures only.

I'm glad I did this challenge and I'm already planning on doing some danish braids in the next week or two. Thank you Kelly and Ben for this challenge.

To see what other Daring Bakers have done, please visit the Daring Bakers Blogroll.

(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 tsp cardoman (I couldn't find cardoman so I substituted it with nutmeg)
1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt

Method for the Dough:

If using a standing mixer:

1) Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed.

2) 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.

3) Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.

4) Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer:

1) Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.

2) Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.

3) 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.


Ingredients for the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Method for the 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.



1 10 oz (280 gm) package frozen raspberries
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
2 tsp cornstarch


1) Combine all ingredients and cook, stirring until slightly thickened. Cool. (Can be made a day or two ahead - keep in refrigerator until use)

(makes 1 cup pastry cream)


2/3 cup milk
2 inch piece vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch


1) In a small, heavy saucepan over high heat, combine the milk and vanilla bean and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, in a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and cornstarch until well blended.

2) When the milk reaches a simmer, remove it from the heat and gradually whisk the hot milk mixture into the yolk mixture. Return the mixture to the saucepan and place it over medium heat. Cook, whisking constantly, until the pastry cream thickens and boils, about 1 minute. Discard the vanilla bean and transfer the pastry cream to a small bowl.



3 tbsp oil
5 potatoes peeled
1 cup green peas
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1 green chilli finely chopped
3 tbsp green coriander, chopped
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin seeds


1) Boil, cool and peel the potators. Dice into 1/4" size.

2) Heat oil over medium flame. Lower the heat and add in onion. Stir fry until golden brown. Add in peas, giner green chilli and fresh coriander. Add diced potatoes, salt and all spices.

3) Mix and cook on low heat for 3 - 4 minutes, stirring whilst cooking. Dish out and set aside to cool.

(Makes enough for 2 large braids)


1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups raspberry filling
1 cup almond flakes (for sprinkling on top of raspberry braid before baking)
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 pastry cream down the center of the rectangle. Then add the raspberry puree on top of the pastry cream. 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.

Proofing and Baking the Danish Braid:

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.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mad About Bananas!

Have I gone bananas? I probably have .... bananas for bananas that is!

I've got this sudden urge to come up with several recipes which calls for the use of bananas. I'm not sure what has gotten into me but it's one of those strange moods. I'm sure everyone has one of those moments.

Here's a quick lesson on bananas ....... since this is the topic of discussion!

The banana plant grows to an average height of 30 feet (about 9 meters) and is actually related to the orchid and lily. Hmmm ... I didn't know that! The banana is believed to have originated in Malaysia - heh this is my home country. India’s Islamic culture names it as the famed fruit of knowledge and in that version of the story it is said Adam and Eve covered themselves with banana, not fig, leaves. Today, the world’s greatest producers of bananas include Costa Rica, Panama, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, India, Brazil, Ecuador, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

We love bananas especially in desserts or cakes. Bananas are good to eat when ripe though in some countries the unripen version is also used for cooking. The skin of bananas turns black when they are refrigerated, though it does not affect the quality of the fruit inside. Very ripe fruit can be peeled, frozen in freezer bags, and used for baking.

Nutritional value of 1 medium banana:

Calories: 108
Protein: 1.2g
Carbohydrate: 27.6g
Total Fat: 0.56g
Fiber: 2.83g
Potassium: 467mg

Here are some recipes which I had tried out whilst "going bananas"!

Banana Phyllo Tart
(serves 6 - recipe from Sugar)


4 tbsp dried cherries (can substitute with any dried fruit - I used cranberries)
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature (I used ricotta)
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
8 sheets phyllo pastry
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
2 oz semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 small bananas
3 tbsp rum (optional)

Ingredients for the Chocolate Sauce:

1 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup Dutch process cocoa powder (can be replaced with melted chocolate)
1 tsp instant coffee
1/2 cup whipping cream

To Assemble Tart:

1) Preheat oven to 400° F. Soak dried cherries in hot water for 5 minutes to soften and drain. Beat cream cheese until smooth and stir in sugar and vanilla extract.

2) Working with one sheet of phyllo pastry at a time (keep remaining phyllo completely covered under a damp towel), cut 1 sheet in half. Brush first half with butter and place second half on top and brush with butter. Repeat process with another sheet of phyllo cut in half. Spread 2 Tbsp cream cheese in the centre of the pastry.

3) Place 1½ Tbsp chopped chocolate and a sprinkle of dried cherries over cream cheese. Peel banana, cut in half and place pieces next to each other on top of filling and sprinkle with rum.

4) Fold end edges of pastry in over banana. Roll up banana to create a square package and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining bananas. Baste parcels with butter and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.

5) To plate, pool a bit of warm Chocolate Sauce (recipe follows) onto plate, slice wedge of banana phyllo tart and arrange over sauce.

For the Chocolate Sauce:

Bring water and sugar to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes. Sift cocoa powder and whisk in with instant coffee and return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, add cream and whisk until sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Chill until ready to serve and reheat in microwave before serving. (Yield: Approximately 1 cup. )

Banana Cupcakes


125g butter, softened (if using unsalted butter, add ¼ tsp salt with the flour)
330g (1 ½ cups) sugar (I had reduced this to 300g)
2 – 3 ripe large bananas (mashed)
½ tsp vanilla extract (or 1 tsp natural vanilla essence)
2 large eggs
100ml (1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp) buttermilk
225g (1 ½ cups) self-raising flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda


1) Preheat oven to 160 C fan-forced. If you are not using a fan-forced oven, preheat the oven to 180 C.

2) Place butter, sugar, vanilla and eggs into a food processor.

3) Process for 2 minutes. Scrape down sides of processor. Add buttermilk and pulse to combine.

4) Add mashed banana.

5) Sift flour, salt (if using) and bicarbonate of soda together into a large bowl. Add flour mixture to food processor and process until just combined.

6) Fill cupcake moulds ¾ with batter. (For this process, I find an ice-cream scoop to be extremely handy)

7) Bake for 15 – 20 minutes, or until skewer inserted in centre comes out clean.

8) Leave cupcakes to cool.

For the Topping:
(make the topping just before serving, otherwise the bananas will turn colour)

1) Slice about 2 ripe bananas and place them into a pan. Then add 1 tsp of cinnamon and 1 tsp of honey.

2) Gently heat over a low fire until bananas have soften slightly (don’t over cook!)

3) Leave to cool before spooning over cupcakes.

Kuih Kodok (Malaysian-style Fried Banana Fritters)


3 big ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 egg
Some water
Oil for deep frying


1) Break the bananas (with hands) into small pieces and put them into a bowl.

2) Add flour, egg, sugar, and some water. Use a big spoon and stir the ingredients so they are well blended.

3) Heat up a frying pan and add some cooking oil for deep frying. Once the oil is heated, scoop up a spoonful of batter into the frying pan. Try to "shape" the batter so it's somewhat round. Deep fry until golden brown.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend Trip to Malacca

Last weekend my husband, myself and some friends of ours decided to drive to Malacca.

Malacca is a historical town located on the Western Peninsular of Malaysia and is about a 2 hour drive from Singapore. We set up early in the morning at 6am expecting a traffic jam at the Woodlands check-point. This is the exit border from Singapore into Malaysia. And sure enough there were already a long queque of cars at the border - it took us close to an hour just to exit Singapore. It's not our first time going to Malacca. I've forgotten how many times we've been there and we'll usually just stay one night only.

Malacca is rich in history and had a lot of conquerors in the past century : Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch en English. In the past the city was a strategic place at the border of the Strait of Malacca. It was a major port along the spice-route, and its harbor bristled with the sails and masts of Chinese junks and spice-loaded vessels from all over world. Other goods traded included silk and porcelain from China; textiles from Gujarat and Coromandel in India; camphor from Borneo; sandalwood from East Timor islands (now called Indonesia); nutmeg, mace, and cloves from the Moluccas, gold and pepper from Sumatra; and tin from western Malaysia.

In 1511 Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese. The Portuguese came to the East to capture the spice trade, led by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Portuguese failed to maintain the glory and prosperity of Malacca because of restrictive policies, competition and wars. The Portuguese ruled Malacca from 1511 to 1641 and during their ruling , they built a fort called "A Famosa". To this day, this fort still stands and is a major tourist landmark.

However on today's modern streets of Malacca, it is the Chinese influence that is felt most. Over the centuries, the Chinese and local Malay cultures in Malacca intertwined, eventually producing a completey unique society, the Baba-Nyona. This fascinating microculture reached its height around the turn-of-the-century, and Malacca's Baba-Nyonya Heritiage Museum preserves typical Baba-Nyonya household.

We stayed at our usual hotel which is Hotel Puri. The hotel is a carefully restored Peranakan house which once belonged to the decendants of an eminent philanthropist and rubber plantation owner, Tan Kim Seng. The original architecture of the building has been preserved which makes this a unique building compared to modern style hotels.

Hotel Puri is conveniently located right in the middle of Jonker's Street. Within walking distance are souvenior shops, lots of eateries, antique shops, museums and on week-ends, the stretch of road behind the hotel is closed to vehicles. A night market is held every week-end nights - Friday to Sunday.

Upon checking into the hotel we immediately made a bee-line for our favorite assam laksa and chendol. Assam laksa is a noodle dish with a tamarind based-soup. The other ingredients would consist of flaked fish meat, slice onions, cucumber and fried wanton. Chendol is a local dessert made of shaved ice, coconut milk, starch noodles with green food colour (I call it green worms) and palm sugar .... Yummy! Beside assam laksa we also ordered curry laksa and fried fritters.

Assam Laksa & Curry Laksa

Fried fritters and Chendol

After our delicious meal we headed back to the hotel to freshen up and rest, but not before making arrangements to meet again at the hotel lobby for dinner.

For dinner we decided that we'll walk (about 20 minutes walk) to Jalan Ong Kim Wee for satay celup. Satay Celup (steamboat or hot pot satay) which is popular in Malacca is a dish where an assortment of raw and semi-cooked seafood, meat and vegetables on skewers are dunked into a continously boiling pot of satay sauce (a spicy peanut sauce). How much your dinner bill would cost is determined by the number of empty satay sticks on your table. Some sticks are coloured at the ends to indicate that the price is slightly more.

After dinner, we strolled down to Jonker's Walk (which is just behind our hotel) to browse at the various street stalls at the night market. It was also the eve of Father's Day and a celebration was also being held that Saturday night with singing and stage performances.

A variety of knick-knacks and food are sold by the street stalls, including a vendor who was selling all sorts of steaming dim sum snacks.

I even caught sight of one vendor who was selling this chewing gum amongst his other wares.

Guess anything and everything goes .... haha!

After strolling through the night market and picking up some small items and snacks, we decided to head for Coconut Restaurant which is located a few shop lots away from our hotel. We love this place for it's wood fired pizzas. Every time we're in Malacca we will not fail to drop by this joint. Even though we were still stuffed from dinner, we "die die must try" (famous Singaporean phrase) their pizzas. We ordered our usual large extremely thin crust Margarita pizza - this is the best way to eat pizza and a variety of their drink concotions!

After our supper we strolled back to the hotel. It was bed time for my friend's children (and their mother) but my friend, my husband and I went to a nearby pub just around the corner - in fact quite a number of pubs have now sprung up since my last visit. The locals as well as tourists will hang out here and there's a singer who will sing the oldies on weekends. Some of the locals will also put on their dancing shoes! It's quite fun sitting there, sipping our drinks whilst soaking in the local scene.

Come Sunday morning and we decided not to have breakfast in the hotel even though it comes with the room. We went out instead to have mee sua. This particular coffee shop near Jalan Tukang Besi (translates to Blacksmith Road) serves very good mee sua.

Mee sua is a noodle made from flour and in Chinese tradition, mee sua is served on your birthday accompanied with 2 hard ball eggs. In addition to ordering mee sua soup we also ordered a dish of bitter gourd with sliced pork and liver cooked in black bean paste. Also not forgetting our "wake-up beverage" aka local coffee.

After breakfast we strolled around Jonker's Street and took in the local architecture and scenery.

The oldest Chinese temple in Malacca - Cheng Hoon Ting Temple

A shop selling red clogs (wooden shoes) and another shop selling antiques.

Close to noon time we went back to the hotel to pack and check out. We then headed to a local Teochew restaurant for lunch.

Teochew is a prefecture-level city in Eastern Guangdong province in China. The Teochews have a different style of cooking and are famous for their steamed fish and braised goose.

You could say we went "wild" here and ordered a variety of everything. All I can say is the food here is good and their standard is always consistent. It is a small family run restaurant - only 8 tables and will seat about 60 people. The owner who is probably in his 70's and his son will mingle and chit-chat with the customers.

Famous oyster noodle & Stir fried leeks with mushrooms and baby corn

Braised pork belly - eaten with steam bun (Chinese version of a burger)

Steamed pomfret Teochew style with preserved vegetable & crispy chicken

Famous Teochew dessert - Yam with Gingko Nuts, where the hearty flavour of taro is transformed into a smooth sweet paste that melts in the mouth. This is surely a traditional Teochew dessert not to be missed

All in all our weekend in Malacca had been a most enjoyable one ... good food and good friends! Malacca has not seen the last of us as we will be back soon.
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