Sunday, June 29, 2008

Where the Danish Comes From

Each month, I attempt a new baking recipe, meant to teach me a particular technique, as part of an online baking group called the Daring Bakers. This month's challenge was to make a Danish braid, and the technique I learned about was making a yeasted, laminated dough. It was such a fun challenge--and with delicious results, to boot.
I ended up making a cherry cheese danish; I was very pleased with the results, and the recipe(see end of post) was long, but very easy to follow. My downfall this time (there always seems to be a downfall!) was with the appearance; I was rushing by the end (it was midnight--I skimped a little on the rise, and was pretty messy with the actual "braiding" of the pastry.) But as you might be able to tell, the recipe was relatively forgiving, and my danish looked presentable, at least.
It takes a loooooong time to make danish pastry: there are lots of half-hour rests in the fridge and then an at least five-hour refrigeration; then rising the danish before cooking. But the results were sooo good, I'm planning to try again, and this time use the dough to make chocolate croissants.
The dough is fantastic. As far as the filling goes, I opted not to use the apple filling, as, coincidentally, my next door neighbor had recently brought us an apple danish she had baked. (Different recipe.) I ended up using a recipe for cherry pie filling from here and trying to alter it to make it a little bit thicker (not successfully); and made a cheese filling using cream cheese and condensed milk, with a splash of lemon juice. In the end, the cheese taste was not particularly noticeable, but the cherries were great.
The actual start of the "lamination" of the dough: (I thought this was so neat!)

The ugly "before" photo (kindly note the cherries oozing out) (and I should probably mention that I had to use extra dough to seal one end of the danish which was exploding like a volcano)(see it on the edge there?):

The final product (notice how much more civilized it looks than the before photo):
So good. Try it when you have a bunch of time to pay attention to it!


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 sugar1 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.


Cynthia's Blog said...

I love it! You are a great sport. And you are spot on. The recipe was forgiving. Mine looks like a gigantic male appendage.

Aparna said...

That's not too bad. Probably the filling was too much. Tasted good, didn't it?
I've figured out that all the DB challenges require time and planning.:)

Lunch Buckets said...

I think it came out amazingly well - all things considered! I so wish I had gone with a fruit filling...

Felicia said...

Wow. It looks and sounds delicious :)

Rurality said...

How pretty that looks. My "after" would have looked worse than my "before" I'm sure! I'm somewhat baking deficient. :)

my food affair said...

your cherry cheese filling looks delicious!! i bet a chocolate croissant would be really good! great job!

breadchick said...

Nicely done on your challenge.

Claire said...

It's amazing what baking will do! Great job.

Debyi said...

Your finished braid looks great! Your before baking braid looks like it tasted really good! Great job.

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