Daring Bakers: Danish Braid

I did a little dance of joy when I saw what the June challenge would be for Daring Bakers. I have been wanting to make a homemade danish (or really any pastry) for quite some time now, but had never taken the plunge before now. So thank you to this month’s hosts, Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’, for choosing such an awesome challenge! I am not sure what I waited so long for, because this was definitely not as difficult as I envisioned it might be. The process for making the dough was much the same as bread, with the added step of rolling a block of butter into it (the key to the flaky dough that is characteristic of pastries). The results were fabulous! I made this early in the month for a visit by my mom and sister and made three varieties: the apple in the recipe, peach (my mom’s favorite), and cream cheese (MY favorite).

More about the braids, the recipe, and more pictures after the break…

I really didn’t run into any problems with this recipe, although I do wish I could have made neater-looking braids. Admittedly, I didn’t really measure my strips but instead just tried to line them up and make the same number of cuts. Something I’ll have to practice when I make more danishes, which I now plan to do often!

And now the recipe (don’t let the length scare you!):

Danish Dough

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

For the dough (Detrempe)
1 ounce fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 large eggs, chilled
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

For the butter block (Beurrage)
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Combine yeast and milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick and even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.

Butter Block
1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside at room temperature.

2. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼ inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

4. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Apple Filling

Makes enough for two braids

4 Fuji or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a sauté pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 – 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and sauté until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Left over filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.

Danish Braid

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see above)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see above)

For the egg wash: 1 large egg, plus 1 large egg yolk

1. Line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15 x 20-inch rectangle, ¼ inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.

2. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

3. Spoon the filling you’ve chosen to fill your braid down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom “flaps”, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom “flap” up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.

Egg Wash
Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking
1. Spray cooking oil (Pam) onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch.

2. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

3. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.


30 Responses

  1. I also made the apple filling, per Dh’s request it was yummy! I love your apricot and cream cheese combo!

  2. wow wow wow. the apricot cream cheese one is calling my name. these look amazing chelle!

  3. I agree with you that the hardest part was making a good looking braid! Your flavor choices sound delicious. Great job!

  4. Neat braids, schneat braids. Messy braids are the best-y braids. Oh man, sorry. Your fillings sound wonderful!

  5. Cream cheese filling is my favorite too, though this time around I combined it with raspberry. Your braid looks great!

  6. Beautiful, Chelle!! 🙂

  7. I think that, from what I can tell, the people with the neater strips may have rolled their dough thinner than you (or I) did. Or something – if you find out, let everybody know. 🙂

  8. Apricot and cream cheese, yum! Great job! Looks delicious!

  9. I love your choice of fillings, especially the cream cheese!

  10. U think your braids look fine. I need to practice for the next time. The cream cheese and abriocot souund really good.

  11. Turned out great. I think you should combine the peach and cream cheese…yum!

  12. I love all the varieties – those turned out wonderfully!

  13. your braid looks gorgeous and i love that you tried 3 fillings, all of which sound amazing.

  14. i love cream cheese too, everything looks really good!

  15. Looks great! Your braiding is better than mine!!

  16. Looks great. I thought about doing a cream cheese version as well, but only used what we had on hand, so no cream cheese. This was a great challenge.

  17. How wonderful that you were able to please everyone with their favorites! Great job!

  18. i liked the cream cheese too…and aren’t these so much easier than we thought?? or maybe we’re just THAT good. I bet that’s it…

  19. So funny I would ahve to say that cream cheese danish is my favorite. Yet I did not make it. Your braids look wonderful and I was so happy to about this months challenge.

  20. Your fillings sounds awesome and your braids are beautiful! I will be making this recipe again also. It was so good.

  21. You really rose to the challenge!

  22. when these taste so good, then don’t worry about how neat it looks! i wish i did cream cheese, as it’s really my favorite kind of danish. yours look great!

  23. Wonderful job! And they look terrific to me!

  24. Ooh, I love that last picture.

  25. I think your braids look beautiful and I am glad to hear that you plan to make this recipe many times again. It is a real keeper. Thank you for baking with us 🙂

  26. great job! ehh, i didn’t measure my strips either, just tried to line them up when cutting them… the result is one tasty danish regardless! i love fruit and cream cheese danishes and wish i could have tried that combo, but it’s just an excuse to make the recipe again now 🙂

  27. Well done on your beautiful danishes!

  28. Look at all those! Well done indeed on your challenge this month.

  29. Beautiful braids Michelle. I need to try a sweet one. Soon…

  30. hi,really well shirt,do you know where i can find that fantastic.thanks,bill

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