So the Daring Bakers put an end to May and the Opera cake, and as always there were a few days of anticipation for the upcoming challenge. What can it be? What will June hold? For those not in the know, the suspense between one month’s reveal and the next month’s challenge post is truly “Hitchcockian”. Finally, “the drumroll please”….

Courtesy of Kelly and Ben, Danish a ‘la laminated yeast dough…immediately my response was “Oh SHIT!!!!”. Ya see, I am an Italian with a mutant bread gene, unlike my fore “fathers and mothers” yeast does not flourish in my presence!!! Ciabatta, foccaccia and plain ole white bread are not items that roll out of my kitchen in abundance. Hell, I have been known to screw up those frozen, thaw, raise and bake bread doughs!!!! So kids…..I was SKEERED!!!

I read and reread…”what am I gonna do?”. Some more reading…..”laminating I can do, I’ve done puff in the past, this is the same”, all but the damn yeast, that is!!! Reread a final time…what are my options?

  • Hit the lottery and hire a personal chef to do the deed!
  • Claim employ by the CIA and that there is a covert mission I am involved in and that I must bow out of this month’s challenge.
  • Bite the freakin’ bullet and tame the yeastie beastie!

I am still po’ and I am sure as hell not Maxwell Smart, so I guess it’s biting the bullet. So on with the show and what a three ring circus it was!!!

There was not much to think about with this challenge (aside from how to not kill yeast), fillings came quickly and I decided on no added creativity, make a braid and get it to rise!! End of story, NOT!!

So in my travels through DBerdom, I have met some really interesting, talented and downright funny folks. As luck would have it, a group of them were having a sunday morning chat/bakefest and they invited me along. Yeehaw, maybe I can get some yeast pointers. Well, the evening before I made my dough and did my turns, I figured I would have just the proofing and baking stages to deal with during our chat session and I could get some good tutoring. That morn, I awoke earlier than expected, so I took one step more off my list and rolled, cut, filled and braided my dough, all that much more time to absorb the wealth of knowledge coming my way.

9 am est, finally chat/bakefest time!!!!! The conference began and the greetings flew, a joke or two and then….here comes the knowledge!!!! Well, I learned alot that morn…especially that a party hat emoticon on Skype is actually very pornographic!! Now really, it wasn’t all bad and bawdy, just 95% of it was!!!

The remaining 5% of the time, however, I learned a couple very important things…



While I learned these 2 very important things and while the bawdiness was ensuing, my neatly braided dough SAT there!! More chat and more bawdiness and still my dough just SAT!! I was losing hope!! “No no no, all is well” were the many replies to my chagrin. An hour past the recommended proof time my dough was still sitting, proud as a peacock it SAT!!! Finally, to all I proclaimed, “my braid is rising slower than a 60 year old whose Viagra script ran out last week!”. Oh it was funny, flippin hilarious as a matter of fact! Still Mary, the voice of hope and all that is yeast, encouraged me to have patience and faith, it is as it should be. She actually got me thinking, all was well!!! So in the oven it went, 25 or so minutes later it emerged, neatly braided, slightly darker than I wanted (personally it is my thought that the yolks in the wash added this color, I tend to only use the white and a little water in my eggwash)but all in all it was very visually appealing. A little after noon I ended my session, I had grass to cut and a yard needing tending (BTW, Did I mention that it was 90 degrees and about 300% humidity at 9 am, so imagine the temp at high noon). After the yard was dealt with and I had cooled down, I went to check on my braid, it too had cooled. I drizzled it with a simple powdered sugar glaze and it was pretty, although something kept telling me things were amiss.

I sent out a “Thanks for Having me” email to all the morning chatters and hint of my suspicions that the braid had failed. Again, “no no no, all is well”, “we want pictures” and most of all “patience”. Finally, time to cut, uh huh it did raise a bit…it actually had a great taste but was much more dense than the flaky pastry I was anticipating. An end to the June Challenge, or so I thought….

Now, it is not as if I lost sleep at night over this but I kept thinking laminated dough is to be flaky and tender, I had dense! Tasty but DENSE!!! OK, so perhaps that is this particular dough, seems I wasn’t the only one in the group with similar results. The last straw was an email that went something like this, “am I always the oddball in the group, my danish was flaky”, so off to the kitchen I went. The only differences in batches were the weather on the first attempt (oppressive heat/humidity) and I didn’t add any additional flour to the 2nd batch (the first needed a bit more than called for), all else was the same. So once again I rolled, folded, chilled and so on and so on! And what did I get…….?

Two, beautiful, flaky, tender laminated yeast dough Danish Braids!!!!

So, lessons learned once again…

Bread Machine yeast- It’s pretty damned hard to kill. Although in my first batch of dough I used the active dry called for, even though I didn’t really kill it, I did manage to severely maim it.

Patience- Not only in waiting for a dough to rise but also patience in perhaps having to do it a few times more before one gets it correct.

And one thing I wasn’t told of that day but I certainly learned from it…When one gives guidance and encouragement it most definitely has the power to inspire another to overcome whatever it is that is before them.

Thanks Mary, I haven’t beaten the yeastie beastie but I got the lasso ’round its neck and I plan on reigning it in real soon!!!!