Our first challenge taught us a valuable lesson - plan ahead. After inviting several friends to join us during the baking - to keep us company and taste our first creation - we realized that the recipe would require more than one evening to make.
Undaunted, I prepared the dough alone on Wednesday evening , the last day of my one week vacation. And what a pleasant way to end it - with ground cardamom and orange zest. Though intimidating on paper, the dough turned out to be a breeze. By 8 PM it was chilling in the refrigerator and ready for Sara's arrival on Thursday after work.
Later that night, while baking a batch of cookies, I discovered that the oven in my new apartment runs on the *extremely* hot side. To bake at 350, the oven had to be set at around 200 or 225. After burning one batch of cookies, and with no time to call the landlord and complain, I stuck a candy thermometer in there and hoped for the best.
I had the easy part - I arrived Thursday evening at Erica's house, friends and burritos in tow, to find the dough already completed - smooth, elastic and smelling of cardamom and oranges. Yum!
As my friends, and most of my acquaintances, will tell you, I had a rather strong dislike of cooked fruit. So while I was so excited about joining daring bakers, I was a little disappointed at my first glance at the recipe. Carmelized apples? Ich. (I know, I know, it's practically un-american to not like apple pie, but something about the warm, gooey sweetness makes my stomach turn).
So I set out to find an improvised filling for one of the braids, and stumbled upon this recipe: http://www.cdkitchen.com
In truth, I think Erica got the tough end of the recipe this time around. Her dough was a cinch to roll out, and once the fillings were whipped up, we managed to spread them out, wrap them in beautiful braids and pop them in the oven. Though Erica and TJ were worried about the temperature, the candy thermometer did the trick, and soon their cute SF apartment was filled with the smells of cardamom, apples and cinnamon. I brushed the pecan braid with a sugary glaze, and we were ready to serve...
Though it was somewhat strange to eat a breakfast pastry at 9:30 pm, but both were divine (or so I hear). I tried to coerce our friends into divulging which they thought was better, but all I got out of them was that they would be perfect at brunch - would we mind making them again?
So all and all, the baking was a smashing success. Photo documentation? We're still learning on that one, though Erica's boyfriend TJ has some obvious skills (see his photo below)....