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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Culinary School - Session 28: Brioche, Cinnamon Nut Danish and Fruitcake

Culinary School: Session 28 (10.20.14)

Brioche, Cinnamon Nut Danish and Fruitcake

Best smelling day ever...

If there were ever a session where I wish I could share the amazing smells coming from the ovens in the Professional Pastry Arts Level I classroom, it would be this session.

Cinnamon Nut Danish! Holy hell, these were amazing! I wasn't terribly excited at first by the description: cinnamon... nuts... not a terribly mind-blowing combination. Perhaps I was simply disappointed that we were not going to be making the cheese variety (a long-standing personal favorite... and I'm also partial to my Maple Glazed Apple & Bacon Danish). But any thoughts of cheese filling were quickly forgotten once I started chowing down on these nearly perfect pastries

As for the Fruitcake... it wasn't awful. Consider that high praise. I've never much enjoyed the texture of dried fruit inside of a cake. But this Fruitcake stands miles above the versions you see in local supermarkets during the holidays (probably having festered in storage since the prior Christmas).

Baked Cinnamon Nut Danish

Baked Fruitcake in Loaf Pan

All things microbiological...

Before we hit the mixers, it was time for a little "Yeast in Review". Nothing quite whets the appetite like a good discussion about micro-organisms.

  • There are three main types of yeast:
    • Active Dry (including Instant)
    • Compressed Fresh
    • Starters (i.e. sour dough)
  • The optimal environment for yeast is: 
    • Warm (~75 degrees Fahrenheit - yeast is dormant below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and dies between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit)
    • Mildly Acidic (PH of 4.5)
    • Available Food Source (e.g. sugar and starches, which can broken down)
    • Moist
    • Oxygen Rich
  • Fermentation is inhibited by:
    • Cold 
    • Salt
    • Fats
    • Highly Acidic Environments
    • Too Much Sugar Content
  • During fermentation, yeast releases carbon dioxide and alcohol. If the dough has a sufficiently strong gluten structure, the carbon dioxide will be captured and the dough will expand/rise. The alcohol bi-product contributes to the flavor of the bread.

- Ingredients Running Tally -

Ingredients used to date (10.20.14):
  • Flour: 11,625g
  • Eggs: 5,200g (104x)
  • Sugar: 5,775g
  • Butter: 7,315g
  • Milk/Cream: 5,955g

- The Recipes -



Taking the concept of butter-enriched dough to the extreme, brioche is texturally the quintessential bridge between bread and cake. Mixed, wrapped in plastic and placed in the freezer, this dough will be used next class to make Brioche a Tete Parisiennes.

Focus Techniques:
- Adding butter to the dough before too strong of a gluten network develops. If the gluten structure is too firm, it will be difficult to incorporate the butter. Over-mixing the dough may cause the butter to melt at which point the dough should be chilled before continuing.
- Freezing the dough in loose plastic to fully retard the fermentation process and to save the dough for future use.


Danish (Cinnamon Nut)

A nearly perfect pastry. The danish dough itself is a soft, sweet and flaky base for a filling of Creme d'Amandes, cinnamon sugar, chopped pecans and liqueur plumped raisins.

Focus Techniques:
- Forming a Paton of laminated dough with a Detrempe and Beurrage, as you would with puff pastry. However, this Detrempe contains yeast which ferments between each turn of the dough. 
- Layering the dough through a series of three single (letter) turns.
- Filling the dough by first rolling the Paton to sheet pan size, then layering Creme d'Amandes, cinnamon sugar, toasted pecans and raisins. The layer of Creme d'Amandes should be thin or else the filling may burst through the pastry during baking.
- Rolling a log of dough by tightly pressing and pulling the dough as you go. The outer seams should be tucked inward as you roll. The far edge should be lightly egg washed to help seal the log at the end of the rolling process. Once formed, the log should be wrapped in parchment and chilled before individual danish are cut.
- Cutting individual danish to a width of 1.5". A serrated knife should be used. If the log of dough is not chilled, the dough will tear.
- Forming the danish by unrolling the last inch of the dough, stretching it and tucking it under the base of the danish. This process prevents the danish from splitting open during baking.
- Arranging the danish on a sheet pan leaving ample room between each item. The danish will expand significantly during the final proof and during baking.
- Pressing down firmly in the center of the danish prior to baking. This helps prevent the danish from becoming overly domed in the ovens.
- Egg washing the danish for better color.
- Finishing the danish with Nappage or Glaze.

Filling for Cinnamon Nut Danish

Rolled Danish Dough Line with Fillings

Unbaked Slice of Cinnamon Nut Danish

Proofed Unbaked Slice of Cinnamon Nut Danish

Baked Cinnamon Nut Danish

Group of Baked Cinnamon Nut Danish



It could be worse. This quick bread (chemically leavened) contains a high proportion of dried fruit and nuts to flour resulting in a very dense loaf. This version was made with dried pears and pecans (rather than many different types of fruits), resulting in a more straight-forward flavor. 

Once baked, Fruitcake is often soaked with rum on a daily basis for several weeks. This version received a single (but healthy) brushing right out of the oven.  

Focus Techniques:
- Using the Creaming Method to mix the butter, sugar and eggs into a airy emulsification.
- Using a scant amount of baking powder for leavening (chemical). Given the other ingredients in this recipes, particularly the high proportion of dried fruit and nuts to flour, this cake remains very dense despite the leavening.
- Dusting the dried fruit and nuts in a small amount of the recipe flour content to prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the batter.

Unbaked Fruitcake in Loaf Pan

Unbaked Fruitcake in Loaf Pan

Baked Fruitcake in Loaf Pan

Unmolded Fruitcake

Take a look at the full syllabus

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