This is my first challenge as part of the Daring Bakers crew – (apologies for late posting due to the oven situation) and what a brilliant challenge this was. I have honestly never seen or made anything like this before – yeasted, sweet dough wrapped around soft chewy meringue with an endless combination of spices and fillings. So the opportunity to try something that had been completely off my baking radar was an absolute joy. What I love about the Daring Bakers’ challenges is that they do force you to try things that you might not otherwise have a go at, or in my case, have on the list of things to try, but never quite get round to because of all the potential problems (the dough might not rise, it might be too heavy, the meringue might flatten or leak out, etc etc). So making this as part of a challenge was the perfect opportunity to let go of all the concerns and just bake for the sheer pleasure of having a go, and finding out what works.
I won’t lie, this is a complicated bake and there are certain steps that require a certain level of skill and patience…hence the name ‘daring’. Having said that, they are very learnable steps, for example, the sweet yeast dough. I have only worked with a sweet yeast dough once before and that was several years ago, so I am far from proficient in this area. But this was pretty straightforward to make. The directions asked for an initial quantity of flour, sugar, salt and yeast to be mixed with warmed milk, water and melted butter, which is then mixed with eggs and more flour, and then you are to add more flour with a wooden spoon until it comes together as a dough. The first time through, I found that this just wasn’t happening in the way I wanted it to, so the second time I gave up on the wooden spoon and just used the dough hook attachment on my kitchen mixer and added enough flour (which was quite a lot) until the dough came together and didn’t stick to the sides of the bowl. This ended up producing a light, elastic dough, which is set aside to rise for an hour or so.
Once the dough is risen and the meringue filling is made, the dough is split in two and rolled out into two large rectangles. The meringue is spread on top, followed by the filling of choice. This can then be either chopped up into rolls, or brought together into a wreath….the wreath option is a little bit more delicate, but definitely worth it. As seen in the pictures, the wreath has slices cut into it, which is most easily done with a pair of scissors. In the first version, I cut the slices before it was proved again which meant that the meringue absorbed into the dough a little more. The second version I waited to cut into the wreath after the second proving, just before it went into the oven, which meant that the meringue splayed out into the cuts more, creating a bits of chewy meringue in the slices. Personal preference is for the latter.
So that’s the process – on to the important part – the taste. Without a doubt, the dough is a winner. It is light and sweet, and not at all chewy – something like brioche. The flavourings and spices are entirely up to the individual bakers in this challenge, so I tried out a couple of versions. The clear favourite was the cinnamon pecan version, which was sublime…especially when warm. I also really enjoyed one made with garam masla spice, dried apricots and pistachio nuts and, when baked and cooled, drizzled with cardamom icing. I made another cinnamon one with the recommended pecans and chocolate, but found that the chocolate made it far too sweet for my taste.
All of the different version were made lactose-free by using lactose-free milk and soya spread for making the dough. I haven’t made it with regular milk and butter for a comparison, but I’m almost loath to try it as the dough is so good as is!
All in all, this was a brilliant challenge, as I feel like it has increased my baking repertoire, made me more confident with sweet yeast dough and – most importantly – has become a firm favourite with friends and family.