Danish Braid - Daring Baker's June Challenge
Many thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cookin'? for providing the June challenge. They gave some great information about the history of the Danish braid as well as some nice variations on how to fill it. I chose to use the apple filling they included with the recipe which made Jim very happy as apple was his choice as well. Kelly and Ben also listed some links to videos and photos on how to make the dough and the braiding. These were most helpful. I have included them at the end of this post.
So, I mentioned that I wasn't as much of a stress monkey with this challenge. I decided to make the recipe last Sunday. Throughout the day, I was fine as I sailed through making the detrempe and beuragge (that's the dough and butter block). Then as the day wore on and I realized that I would be up until nearly midnight with this thing, the stress began to start. This was a school night after all....I needed my beauty sleep, especially since I had just worked a 6-day week. But I was committed to finishing the braid so as soon as we finished dinner, I began the final assembly of the braid.
Here's where I would make a change to the recipe. I would use more flour to dust the work surface (or make two smaller braids which would be easier to move). A light dusting wasn't enough as the braid wound up sticking to my counter top. My stress level ratcheted up a few notches when I tried to lift the braid and realized it was sticking! And I had a perfect braid dang it. My struggle to move this 18" long braid caused it to twist and start to break apart. Thankfully Jim came in and helped me with it. All that was left now was to let it proof for 2 hours. After an hour, I checked to see how it looked. It looked the same, no change. Hmm...the heck with it. I declared the proofing to be done and put that bad boy in the oven. And my stress melted away when I pulled this beautifully baked braid out of the oven. It looked a wonderful as the house smelled good.
Jim took some into work to share with a co-worker who said the dough was perfect and the filling not too sweet, it was just right. We enjoyed the rest of it for breakfast all week and as dessert one night.
Alterations I would make next time would be to make two smaller and easier to handle braids, use different fillings like almond, raspberry or cheese and not forget to put a little sugary glaze on top of the finished braid. And.....I would not try to make this in one day. I'd make the dough one day and assemble everything the next.
Here is the recipe if you want to try your hand at making one.
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
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.
4. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap and 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 above)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see above)
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 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.
Danish Pastry technique on YouTube. Interesting general information on making a dough similar to this one.
PBS.org – Julia Child: Lessons with Master Chefs
Video cut for a Danish Pastry Braid by Beatrice Ojakangas who is the featured baker of the Danish Braid recipe in Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan. Great information.