Saturday, March 17, 2007

A "traditional" St. Patrick's Day meal...

And a Happy St. Patty's Day to ye! I hope everyone has been lucky and found their pot of gold today? Well, I'm no richer, except that I got to sleep in late and catch up on some old Martha and Oprah tapes. Of course, I was supposed to go into school and work on midterm grades today, but there were two problems. One, we had another sizable snowfall and the roads were bad, and two, it's still spring break, and I just didn't feel like going in! Hmph!

In between switching tapes in the vcr, I prepared a lovely, though admittedly eclectic, St. Pat's meal. I decided that the boiled dinner that we have every year sounded less than appealing today for some reason, so I went a different way, while still trying to be true to the essence of the holiday's cuisine. First of all, I threw the corned beef and a sliced onion in the crock pot earlier this afternoon, covering them with water and a palmful of pickling spice. After 5 or 6 hours, it was threatening to fall apart, so I fished it out. Then I added a half of a small head of cabbage that I cut up to cook in the broth along with a good glug of cider vinegar. In the meantime, I cut up a pound of carrots and 6 or 8 potatoes and began roasting them in the oven with some olive oil, cider vinegar, granulated garlic, celery salt, and black pepper. When the veggies were close to being done (tender and browned), I glazed the corned beef with some jalapeno honey mustard that my neighbor brought over this morning from a trip to the co-op (thank you!), and put that in the oven for 20 or 30 minutes, just until the mustard had cooked on like a glaze. Then, I must confess, I baked up a can of biscuits that I discovered in a bin in the fridge when I was looking for the cabbage, and that was that! Not exactly traditional, but then again, they apparently eat turkey and smoked salmon on St. Patrick's Day in Ireland, so I guess anything goes!

Because I went a bit off-sides with the meal, I decided to go completely traditional for dessert. So I made.....RUSSENZOPF! (As my darling friend, Phil, would say: "You do, and you'll clean it up!") Sounds totally Irish, right? Tee hee. What the hell is russenzopf, you ask? And why in the world would I make such a thing? Well, I blame Jen the Bakerina. She had a most interesting post recently about how, suddenly and mysteriously, many people were googling the word "russenzopf" and ending up on her site. Russenzopf is a European sweet bread (literally, "Russian braid or plait") made with a yeasted, laminated (Danish-like) dough and a delectably nutty filling and is now available for order from the bakery at King Arthur Flour. But leave it to the blessed Bakerina to teach us how to make it for ourselves at home! However, I would advise that you have plenty of time, patience, and emotional fortitude saved up before attempting this advanced pastry. It took me more than two days, and I almost gave up several times along the way, until the Bakerina talked me down off the ledge. It's really not that hard, just time-consuming. And my greatest concern was that the dough never seemed to be rising (especially compared to Jen's pictures on Flickr). But the Bakerina assured me that it would make up for it during baking, and right she was! The other thing that had me panicked was that my loaves took 15 extra minutes to cook, and I was very concerned that they would scorch on the outside before the middle got done. But they turned out beautifully, despite my lack of skill and courage. Thanks, Jen!

(Source:, adapted from King Arthur, and converted from the original metric measurements by yours truly, which should explain the odd amounts)

For the Danish dough:

scant 4 cups all-purpose flour
3 generous tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons + 1 ¼ teaspoons (or 2 ½ tablespoons!) granulated sugar
2 3/4 teaspoons (or scant tablespoon) salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 large eggs
7 ounces whole milk (but I needed a whole cup=8 ounces)

3 sticks plus 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Either by hand or in a stand mixer, combine the detrempe ingredients and knead to moderate gluten development (about 3 minutes in a stand mixer, a little longer by hand). Cover and refrigerate four hours (it won't hurt it to let it go longer than that).

Shortly before the dough is ready to come out of the fridge, make beurrage by pounding butter and flour together until they are amalgamated and form a rough 7"x 7" square. Butter should be cool and pliant, but not too soft. Remove dough from fridge and roll into a square. Roll edges out until they are long enough to cover the beurrage when it is placed in the center of the dough. (If you go Flickr and search for russenzopf, you'll see the Bakerina's very helpful pictures!) Incorporate the beurrage into the dough by folding the edges over the beurrage, then roll the whole thing into a long rectangle, less than 1/4-inch thick. Give the dough a single turn (folding in thirds, like a letter), roll again, give it another single turn, wrap in plastic and return to the fridge for about 1/2 hour, or until butter is rechilled and gluten relaxes a bit. Take it out and roll it again, give it a double turn (folding the two sides in to meet in the middle, then in half like a book), wrap well and let ferment overnight in the fridge (or up to 2 days).

For the filling:
1 1/4 up to 1 1/3 cups hazelnuts, roasted, skinned and cooled (I only had 1/2 cup hazelnuts, so I swapped out almonds to make the 1 1/3 cups)
1 1/4 up to 1 1/3 cups walnuts, roasted
1 1/8 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup (about 4) egg whites
generous tablespoon (3 1/4 teaspoons) ground cinnamon
finely grated zest of one lemon
generous tablespoon (3 1/2 teaspoons) vanilla extract

Grind hazelnuts and walnuts together with a little of the sugar, to keep them from turning to paste. Decant into a bowl, add other ingredients and mix. That's it. It might take a little elbow grease to make it all come together, but it will.

To assemble and bake:
Preheat oven to 425F and place rack in center of oven. Remove Danish dough from fridge and cut in half. Roll one half out to rectangle that is less than 1/4-inch thick, as you did during the rolling/turning of the dough. Spread half the filling (or less, if you prefer a lighter filling/crumb ratio) on the dough, keeping about a 1-inch border clear. Roll it up lengthwise, cut the roll in half lengthwise, and twist the halves together into a plait. (Be sure you can see some of the cut ends on the outside of the plait.) Place on either a parchment-lined baking sheet or in a buttered bread tin into which the loaf fits. Repeat with other loaf. Cover and let rise until dough just meets the top of the tin (only about a 50% rise).

When risen, brush the loaves with an egg wash and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 35 minutes (mine took another 15 minutes beyond that!). Be sure to rotate the position of the loaves at least once, and keep an eye on them. The trick is to get them baked through without burning the bottoms. The bottoms will get a little dark, but if you catch them in time, they won't scorch; they'll just be very well caramelized. You may also need to cover the tops with aluminum foil if they start to get to dark (I had to do this after the first 15 minutes at 425!).

Let the loaves cool in the pans on a wire rack until they are no longer too hot to touch on the bottom. Loosen the loaves around the edges with a thin knife and turn them out to cool completely on the rack before cutting and devouring. (You may wish to freeze one of the loaves for a future date, if you have that much restraint and willpower.)


Anonymous said...

Your St. Patty's day dinner looks WAY better than boiled dinner, which I confess I'd never even heard of before I moved to the east coast. And for good reason! And I admire your fortitude for tackling a two-day pastry! It looks lovely.

Randi said...

the bread is gorgeous!!

Anonymous said...

Oh, my dearest, look at your russenzopf! It's stunning. See, I knew it would work out. :) Of course you know I'm totally glomming onto your volume measurements, but I will totally give you credit for them. :)

Joy Bugaloo said...

Thanks for the kind comments about my russenzopf experiment, everyone! I was truly amazed that they actually turned out. By the second day (and still no discernible rise), I was ready to pitch the dough in the garbage and start over, though the thought made me want to cry. However, all was well in the end. And I must tell you, this pastry is one of the most delicious foods known to man (and woman!), especially if you cut thick slices and put them down for one toaster cycle (just until pale brown--don't scorch!). Man, oh, man, is that some good eats! --Gina

P.S. I have you, my Bakerina, to thank for the successful pastry lesson. And you are very welcome to my recipe conversions, rough though they are, especially since I posted your written instructions almost verbatim and directed people to your excellent Flickr photos! Tee hee. Thanks so much again for your wise counsel.