This month’s Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben from What’s Cooking. This is one of the first challenges where I really know each of these bloggers and so I couldn’t wait to see what they would come up with to challenge us this time. I should have guessed from this pairing that we would end of with a pastry! Ben is a master at making Puff Pastry and Kelly is always coming up with great ideas of how to make the DB challenges reflect her culinary style. Therefore, it just made sense when I saw the challenge would be a Danish. On the outset, I must admit that I wasn’t too excited about the challenge, as I generally don’t like Danish. It is always so sweet and the dough is generally plasticy, wet and gummy from the filling sinking into it. But as I have come to learn with these challenges, the things we sometimes buy, often do not reflect what the original homemade variety would taste like.
Once I saw that cardamom was involved in the dough recipe they had picked out for us, I began to feel slightly more relieved, as I have a huge love for this spice. Then when I read further that we could experiment with the filling I felt even better! I do not like pie filling-like danish or pastries and when I skimmed the recipe and saw apple filling, my heart sank. I really dislike apples, especially apples in baked goods. But as I read more thoroughly, I was thrilled to see I didn’t have to go that route. So I thought about what flavors of Danish I do like, and I came to a conclusion, it had to involve cheese. In the Italian kitchen, ricotta cheese is often used as a filling for sweet confections and is often seen in baking, especially the more South you go. So I decided to go with the ricotta, but I needed some way to sweeten it. I didn’t want to use sugar, I wanted to make this pastry kind of classy and fit in with summer. As I mentioned in the last FFF post, I have always been intrigued with cooking with lavender, and I really wanted to try that out in this pastry. So I settled on honey. Honey is so luxurious and really has a warmth to it. Plus honey and lavender sounded like a match made in heaven. So I placed about 3 TBS of local honey in a bowl and mixed a heaping teaspoon of lavender in with it. The lavender hat we consume is the flower, and I know, from working with saffron (the stamen) that a little goes a long way because it is so perfumy. I then mixed this in with about 5 oz. of ricotta cheese and used this simple filling for this beautiful and delicate danish.
Then at the end, I drizzled leftover buttercream icing from the Opera Cakes we did last month! It was heaven!
I am a danish convert now. The dough was so beautiful and I loved all the layers we made within it. It created such a light but crunchy texture after it was baked. Oh and the baking was such a joy, as the smell was absolutely intoxicating! The cardamom in the dough was perfect. In my opinion it really made the whole thing. I didn’t have any oranges, so I left the zest out. But I don’t think it mattered much.
If you love a good Danish, you must try this recipe. Even if you don’t love it, I suggest trying it out. I made one gigantic braid (didn’t read the directions thoroughly enough to realize the recipe makes TWO braids…, even though it is mentioned several times…), and I put about 2/3 of it in the fridge. We are having guests next weekend to celebrate Independence Day, and I think it will make a wonderful breakfast! Not just that, but we will get to enjoy it again.
Recipe to follow:
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