Sunday, August 10, 2014

Dessert Braids: Nutella, Strawberry, and Banana/Cinnamon Roll



I'm back in the States.  After living for approximately two and a half wonderful months in Portugal, et al., you can imagine my reluctance to return here.  Still, I'd thought I'd muse about a few homeland items that I had taken for granted and truly missed that are not readily available in Western Europe (at least at the places I've visited):




I'm back in the States.  After living for approximately two and a half wonderful months in Portugal, et al., you can imagine my reluctance to return here.  Still, I'd thought I'd muse about a few homeland items that I had taken for granted and truly missed that are not readily available in Western Europe (at least at the places I've visited):
1. I missed dryers. I know that it is more economically friendly to hang out your clothes and to allow the sun to dry them, but I missed having my favorite pair of jeans washed and dried in about an hour as opposed to one to two days (on a sunny day). In fact when I was about to wash my clothes for the first time after my return to the States, my automatic reaction was to check the weather to make sure it wasn't going to rain. Then I remembered that I had access to a dryer again haha.

2. I missed cold bottles of water at the grocery store and restaurants. Most places offer tepid water in Europe, and after walking all around the city, I was always craving a big bottle of cold water. They were mostly readily available in tourtisty areas, though. Anyway, to combat this "problem", I would freeze and refrigerate 2-3 water bottles and take them with me around the city.

3. I missed some of my favorite fast-food and regular restaurants like Braum's and Charlestons.

4. Easy access to certain ingredients like baking soda (in Portugal you purchase this item at pharmacies, not at grocery stores), pure vanilla extract, powdered sugar in large containers, Mexican ingredients, etc.


However, with all the missing that went on, there are considerably more reasons why my heart will forever remain in Europe, especially Italy, and why I wish I could find a way to stay there permanently.

For instance, I love how easy it is to travel from country to country for under 100 dollars, how easy it is to travel to said countries without the need of a car (thankfully, buses, trains, ferries, metros/subway trains, etc are readily available), and how free I feel when I discover and walk through new cities and countries.

I love hearing quotidian speech uttered by locals, expats, and tourists in various languages. I love the rising excitement I feel when I'm edging closer and closer to a new monument or church I've longed to see and had only seen in travel guides, magazines, books, or television. Oh, and that feeling I get when I round that last corner and am greeted instantly by beautiful arches or tall bell towers or unique architecture! It is so utterly thrilling and satisfying!

These indescribable experiences make it easier for me to ignore the petty negatives aforementioned, including the pesky, hard-to-find ingredients.

Speaking of ingredients, on a previous post I mentioned how I resuscitated a lifeless dough by adding fresh yeast afterwards. With the leftover dough, I decided to make a non-puff-pastry version of a Danish braid with two different fillings: 1) Nutella with bananas and strawberries and 2) cinnamon, butter, and brown sugar (like a cinnamon roll filling).




Both turned out great; I thoroughly enjoyed the cinnamon version while my roomies devoured the Nutella one in fewer than 24 hours!


Dessert Braids
adapted by Use Real Butter

Dough:
1 1/4 cups (296 ml) whole milk
2 1/4 tsp (8 grams) active dry yeast
1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar
6 Tbsp (85 grams) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
5 cups (625 grams) all-purpose flour (not self-rising)

Dough instructions:
Heat milk over low heat until it reaches a temperature of 100-110°F or 38-43°C. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the milk. Allow yeast mixture to sit for 5 minutes. Add sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla extract, and salt to the milk. Beat with a whisk or paddle attachment until combined. If using a stand mixer, switch to a paddle attachment, and stir in 1 cup of flour at a time until the dough is thick. Switch to a dough hook or turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth (5 minutes with the dough hook or 7 minutes by hand). Lightly grease a large bowl with oil, and place the dough in the bowl. Coat the entire dough ball with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Set covered dough in a warm location to rise for 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Braid creation:
No ruler? ¡No hay problema! :)
Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Using a ruler or an everyday object (I used a pepper shaker), score the dough to create parallel lines. Next, using the ruler as a guide, cut the "legs" of the braids. Spread the filling of your choice within the parallel lines. Then fold over one leg over another from left to right or right to left until you reach the end. With a brush or back of a big spoon, spread some egg wash or milk wash tot he top of the dough to create a more golden crust. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the dough is golden brown. Allow braid to cool for 10-15 minutes before digging in!

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