Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Danish Braid

Time for the unveiling! This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Danish pastry dough and form it into a braid with an apple filling. The recipe makes enough Danish dough for two recipes, and we were allowed to make any filling or any shape for the remainder of the dough.

This challenge was fun! I had never made puff pastry or Danish pastry, so the layering with butter and folding techniques were new to me. It took a little time, since the dough had to chill for 30 minutes between folds, and had to chill overnight before it could be formed into the braids. But it wasn't active time, so I could get other tasks done while it chilled.

The filling was yummy! The braid didn't take all the filling, and the extra made a good topping for ice cream sundaes.

The braids went together easily. I think I was supposed to make the parallel cuts along the side diagonal, but straight cuts worked well and the resulting braid looked, as one of my tasters said, "like a professional made it." (High praise for this definitely non-professional baker, indeed!)

Both braids were gobbled up quickly by my tasting team (my co-workers and my husband) but the cream cheese/blueberry filling was definitely the favorite.

Many thanks to the hosts of this month's challenge:

Kelly, of Sass and Veracity, and Ben, of What's Cooking.

For the cheese Danish filling I blended:

1 8 oz package of cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsp lemon juice

I spread this on the middle section of the dough and covered it with a layer of fresh blueberries (about 1 cup.) Then I baked it along with the apple Danish braid as the recipe below directs.

Daring Bakers Danish Braid
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.


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.

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.

Makes enough for 2 large braids


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

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.


Dolores said...

Beautiful braid. Your tasters are right... looks like a professional made it to me. I'd *love* a slice of your blueberry cream cheese creation. :)

Cynthia's Blog said...

Wow, lovely, I wish I would have thought to use the filling on ice cream. This was my first challenge. I am glad to be included!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Oh my yes Lynn, I could so go for a slice of your blueberry cream cheese danish!! Isn't it fun to find you can be 'professional' because that sure looks professional to me and probably tasted even better than what you can buy from the pastry case.

Angela said...

Your braid is gorgeous! I'm particularly tempted by the blueberry and cream cheese filling--yum!

Lorrie said...

what a beautiful braid!

breadchick said...

I'll bring the tea when Tanna and I show up! It is simply lovely.

Rebecca of "Ezra Pound Cake" said...

Perfect braiding! Looks delicious.


Claire said...

Great job...and what a fantastic compliment! The blueberry version sounds fantastic to me!

Marye said...

fabulous! It looksgreat and I bet it was fatnastic

Renee said...

Very nice braid!

Jen Yu said...

Very pretty! You made some lovely braids there and the fillings are terrific. How inspired :) Congrats on a successful challenge.

Lunch Buckets said...

They turned out beautifully! DBs have taught me that us mere mortals can really do such a thing. Some better than of others of us, but still! I'm not afraid to try anymore.

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