Tag Archives: dough

latvian birthday cake (or: i verbally abuse creepy people in costumes.)

22 Aug

confession time: i am terrified of people wearing costumes. halloween makes me nervous. larpers freak me out. furries send me running & screaming.

in my opinion, people in costume act differently than when they are uncostumed.  they act like they are someone else and therefore in ways they usually would not. normal social rules seem not to apply.  and if their face or eyes are covered? all bets are off and you are more than likely going to be accosted by this crazy costumed psycho.

true story.

i have facts to back this up.

last halloween i celebrated (albeit hesitantly) at a pub down the street from my apartment and encountered two guys hovering on the edges dressed as if they had just walked out of “world of warcraft: the movie.” one was dressed in a way i can only think to describe as a giant human-sized thumb wearing a sheet and chain mail. i have no idea how else to describe it. the other was wearing some sort of demon-orc hybrid complete with retractable giant wiggly tongue and severed arm prop.  the thumb kept to himself, but the demon-orc took to licking random female passers-by or making a show of licking the severed arm in a, dare i say, “erotic” fashion.  i have absolutely no doubt that under that costume was a socially-awkward, skinny, pimpled man-child who spends his days and nights making internet cash by selling his high-level video game characters. uncostumed i have serious doubts that demon-orc would have spoken to a woman not to mention lick her.

all of that being said, i don’t mind disguised objects: they aren’t sentient and therefore won’t try to attack me out of a false sense of security.

kitchen utensils that look like animals? adorable.
bookshelves that double as doors to secret rooms? both fantastic and delightfully mysterious.
a cake pretending to be a pretzel? into it.

this seems like a good time to segue into my recipe: the latvian birthday cake. i was doing an internet search for “weird cake recipes” in honor of my friend’s self-created holiday devoted entirely to cake, aptly named “cake day.” when i came across the latvian birthday cake, i knew i had to give it a whirl. who in their right mind creates a birthday cake from yeast and saffron and shapes it like a pretzel? the latvians, that’s who.  i had a hard time deciding whether this was a cake or sweet bread or a pretzel. i still don’t know. but you know what, it tastes awesome, so i don’t care. and neither should you.

latvian birthday cake from global table adventure

what you’ll need:

2 tsp yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp saffron
1 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
2 eggs
2 tsp thin strips of lemon zest
2 tsp this strips of orange zest
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick 0f butter, softened)
5 1/2- 6 cups flour
1 cup raisins

for the topping: 1 egg for egg wash, 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds

1. dissolve yeast in warm water with the saffron and a pinch of sugar. (appx. 5 minutes).

2. meanwhile, since butter doesn’t come pre-softened (unless you count the sort in the tub i suppose), let’s soften your butter.  i don’t actually own a microwave… sooo desperate times lead to softening your butter on top of a toaster oven…

3. mix your yeast with the rest of your ingredients (except those for the topping) in the bowl of a standing mixer.  you may not need all of your flour–just enough to form a soft dough. so for goodness sakes, don’t just throw it all in like a heathen.

4. knead your dough for about 10 minutes. you will be, appropriately, using your dough hook for this. your dough may try to escape. just a warning.

look for your dough to come away from the sides of your bowl. it will look sticky, but won’t be super sticky. make sense? no? trial and error is a great teacher, i say.

5. let rise until doubled in size (about 1.5 hours).

6. we will now be shaping the dough into a pretzel shape.  roll out the dough into about a 3 foot long log, then tuck ends like one would for, a, you guessed it, pretzel. keep the holes about fist sized as they will close up while baking. allow to rise for another 30 mins.

7. brush your beautifully proofed pretzel-shaped latvian birthday cake with a beaten egg and then generously sprinkle with sliced almonds. the egg will give your pretzel/cake/thing a nice shine. the almonds will just be tasty.

8. bake at 350 degrees f for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. see above.

this cake is most happily enjoyed while still warm and with a nice dusting of confectioner’s sugar.  jam is also quite lovely as an accompaniment.

the verdict: i don’t know if i would necessarily call this a cake, but whatever it is–i am a huge, huge fan. i literally had to take to slapping my own hand to keep myself from grabbing more.  and please note that this recipe produced a big honkin’ cake, so there was a lot of hand slapping required.  the orange with the saffron and raisins gave it a wonderful flavor that i am having a challenging time figuring out how to describe (so just trust me), and upon reminiscing on this recipe (which i confess wasn’t baked yesterday or even in the past 2 months), my roommate declared it “so yummy.”


a truly daring danish!

2 Jul

alright, so i’m a wee bit late with my june daring baker challenge post…  but i like to think that i am merely being “fashionably” late.  this past week has been crazy what with my helping m move to the big apple (how could she leave me!?  who will style my food now?!  and leave fun presents on my bed?! and looove me!?), learning dirty italian slang from j’s noni during fiesta, and catching a freakish summer cold.  but you know what darling foodies?  great things come to those who wait.  like this post.

yet again, the daring bakers manage to challenge.  granted, pretty much everything is challenging at this point in my baking career…  but still, i can’t help but feel like i skipped the whole shallow portion of the pool and jumped right into the deep end hoping by a miracle that floating back up to the top is intuitive.  most of my baking goes like this… “huh, the recipe says to do this.  well, i have no friggin clue what that means… buuut maybe if i whap this against this then swish it up a bit it will work out.” maybe i should start googling words or consult something… oh wells, not my style.  i am more of a fumble through life and hope for the best kind of girl.

this month’s challenge was hosted by kelly of sass & veracity, and ben of what’s cookin’?  we daring bakers were supposed to make a danish braid, which according to the mini history lesson kelly and ben provided was created in some capacity by either the danish or the viennese, or both, or something.  i’m not really sure.  it might just be one of life’s great mysteries.  they did a better job explaning, but i can’t make neither hide nor tail of it… i feel like all we really need to know is that it is a butter-laminated, dough-layered, yeasty twisty thing of major yum.  as far as my actually making the braid/dough, it went surprisingly well.  this actually seemed easier than last month’s opera cake challenge.  turns out i’m a big fan of kneeding things.  makes me feel strong and provincial. 

the danish dough made enough for two braids, so one went in the freezer for another time/another post update/savory attempt.  but the one for this post is made with a nutella and dark chocolate filling. there are things i would have done differently upon further reflection… but we will get to that later…

the dough:

what you’ll need:

For the dough (Detrempe) 
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons 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 teaspoon salt

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

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

2. add sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla bean 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. 

(i feel like there is something exhilirating about sifting flour directly on to the table.  an element of danger, perhaps.  like your mom will walk in any second and catch you and send you to your room for making a mess.  hi mom!)

(so, i had no idea what “make a fountain” meant.  this is the only thing i could come up with.  im pretty dubious about this situation.)

4. pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. 

(ahh, this seems a little too dangerous.  i can’t believe i am pouring liquid on to my table with only fluffy flour to stop its flow! don’t tell my mom!! or j’s mom since she technically is the one who donated this table.)

(still going… still freaking out…)

(my thoughts at this point were “holy crap, i can’t believe this is actually working” / “man i hope this is actually what they meant by a fountain and it doesn’t explode in two seconds”)

5. with your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges.  turns out something was wrong here… because at this point, the liquid exploded across the table threatening to cover everything within 4 feet including my recipe, ingredients, candles (what? i like mood lighting) and roommate’s computer.  i proceeded to shriek, which caused all my roommates to come running to my aid.  except nic, who is apparently immune to my shrieks.

6. 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. transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. refrigerate for 30 minutes.

the butter block

1. combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (does anyone actually own this?  and can you tell me what the heck it is/if it is actually necessary?) 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.

combine ingredients, swish it up, voila!

2. after the detrempe (fancy name for ball of dough) 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. 

3. 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.  (my butter squished out the sides like crazy, so dont be too dismayed if the same happens to you.  it makes a gigantic mess, but is not the end of the world.)

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!  (thank goodness for the genius who thought up the finger poke tracking system.)  refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.  i sliced the dough in two at this point.  one to be refrigerated, one to be frozen.

but right now, let’s take a brief time out to check out these layers… 


5 hours or more later… 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.

the braid:

what you’ll need:

nutella and dark chocolate for the filling.  mega yum.

and your dough (1/2 of the original batch).. look how poofy it got overnight!

1. line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.  on a lightly floured  surface, roll the danish dough into a 13 x 18-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick.  (the db recipe said to roll it to 15×20, but that seemed pretty impossible, so i shrunk down the size.) 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. (again, didn’t seem possible at this point because it wouldn’t fit on the pan and would thus making slicing tricky.  so i moved it on to the pan later after braiding.

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. add the filling, by spooning on to your braid down the center of the rectangle.  i put down nutella, and then added chocolate chips on top.  but looking back, i would have melted the two together first in a double boiler and then put that on as the filling.  when i just put the chips, they seemed to burn a little bit.

4. 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.

5. 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.

be sure to tuck those ends in there. otherwise it might pop open in the oven and resemble a rib cage, which is cool in its own way.. but not really what we are going for here.

egg wash: whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

proofing and baking:

1. spray cooking oil (ie: 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. (i did it at room temp, which was probably close to 90 anyways considering my lack of ac.  woe is me.)

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 freezed for 1 month.

the verdict: so good.  and i can’t begin to explain how accomplished you will feel.  i think mine was burnt a little bit, and considering that i actuall baked it for a less amount of time than stated above, have come to the conclusion that my oven runs piping hot.  the original dough recipe called for cardamom and orange zest in addition to the orange juice, but well, i’m currently on the cheap… so i opted out and just kept the orange juice from the recipe, which gave it just a bit of tang and a little extra somethin’somethin’.

i brought the danish with me to nyc, thinking that i could bribe people with it to help us move m’s stuff up to her apartment/trick her new roommates in to liking me…

what are the tester’s saying?

pw: “honestly, no words.”

ev: takes two

nic: “ah! i never got any!!”