Danish Braid

Food & Drink / Sunday, June 29th, 2008

Welcome to AllThingsJennifer’s very first Daring Bakers Challenge. Hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’?

Daring Bakers June Challenge: Danish Braid

Holy heck? DANISH BRAID? What’s a danish braid and how on earth am I going to make this beast!!!

Yeah, that’s what I thought when reading through the recipe. Laminated dough? Detrempe? Beurrage? I don’t understand, how am I going to do this folding thing? And the braid? And do you know how much vanilla beans and cardamom cost? Oy! (How did I ever dream I could be a pastry chef when I know so very, very little!)


Oh wait, there’s a video of the *turning* process.

And while Wegmans offered me a single vanilla bean for the cost of $10.50 the Lexington Co-op had 2 available for that price. Heck, I’ll splurge it’s my first challenge. And the Co-op always offers spices by bulk so I bought only one serving of cardamon for $.40. Not too bad.

I started my challenge after many, many other Daring Bakers did and I reaped the rewards of their questions and trials and tribulations reading through the message boards. THANK GOD. The braiding process made much more sense after seeing photos.

I was also glad I waited because my sister-in-law Dayna started her first challenge as a Daring Baker with me on the same day. Of course neither of us had a clue even after reading the recipe multiple times each, how long it would take us to complete!

While I was out fetching spices Dayna emailed me and said…

“HOLY CRAP – This dough smells amazing…It is like Orange Julius in my kitchen!”

Of course, mine did not smell like Orange Julius in my kitchen. But that’s a different story. Let’s start at the very beginning. Shall we?

DANISH DOUGH Ingredients
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

Ok. I have all the ingredients (eggs not shown in picture but I did remember to add them, oops!)

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.

I would really really like a standing mixer. I think I kneaded the dough too long and made it too tough, because throughout this entire process I found it hard, VERY hard to cooperate with.


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.

HOLY COW the dough was hard to roll out. After only the first roll it was impossible for me to get the dough to get the right size, in fact I never came close. I almost felt like I had too much butter block too, but it never came oozing out. Having Dayna close at hand to chat with helped incredibly, it was good to know we were facing the same challenges. Until I realized she was listening to Tom Petty (I HATE Tom Petty) and I was listening to Phil Collins and Genesis while baking!) (She HATES Phil Collins!) Too funny.

And did you see how many times we had to do this? 4. 4 times. So it wasn’t just difficult to roll out once or twice, but try FOUR times. And then it needs to be refrigerated for 5 hours! So there goes my Saturday. Rolling and turning and waiting. I knew my dough was a little tougher to work with than Dayna’s was for her but I hoped for the best.

Now tis Sunday morning. I’m freaking out because of all the work I need to do around the house before heading out to the family picnic. But I’m excited to get baking!!!

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
2 cups (mix) I had decided the night before to do a creamy mix of cream cheese/ricotta with Bananas and Pecans. I added strawberries to the second one.

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.

Dayna and I were both a little confused. We knew the recipe made two breads, but at what point were we supposed to split the dough?

I rolled out the first one best I could and then split it. Of course you are supposed to have one 15 x 20 rectangle in the end, I came up a little short, but improvised anyhow.

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.

Try as I might (not really) I am more of an abstract thinking baker person, not so much precision as you can tell. Unless it REALLY counts. Dayna on the other hand is a little more precise.

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.

Proofing and Baking (Proofing? YOU MEAN I’M STILL NOT DONE?)

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.

So there it is. My first Danish Bread. I think I filled it too full, so I let it cook a little longer in the oven but put a piece of foil top so it wouldn’t burn. I was SHOCKED that mine didn’t ooze or split open, again my choice of filling seemed well very filling and goopy.

My 2nd bread came right from the oven about 10 minutes before Dayna and my brother came to pick me up. I decided to bring along a little sample with me, because I was dying to see what it tasted like! It looked flaky (which was surprising after all the hard rolling I did!) But how did it taste?

Meh. It tasted meh to me! ONLY MEH!!! (Of course as you can see on my blog, I was in a Meh! kind of mood for a few days last week…wonder if that has something to do with it?) While cooking it smelled soooo good too! I think my choice of filling was less than spectacular and sort of heavy for this pastry. I was really impressed over the flaky dough despite the constant struggle I had with getting the dough to half the correct size it should have been.

Why was it so difficult for me I wonder? Was the yeast bad? Did I mix too long? I am still amazed that I could create such delight by hand though. (And I mean by hand, no standing mixer for me.)

Perhaps when I take the 2nd braid out of the freezer I will think differently? I am after all, about the expectations. And after going from the point that I was completely going to FAIL this challenge to realizing, I actually figured it out but I was running out of time and yet seeing it still worked in the end, impressive.

I think know I was expecting more though, I set the bar for my first challenge too high. I guess 12 hours of working on one pastry will do that to a person though. (And wanting to paint 3 rooms of my house and a bunch of other chores in the same timeframe.)

So yeah, the end product was good but the process was soooo much fun. I never in a billion uears would have attempted a danish on my own. Even with an arm twisting actually. But I’m so glad I did! I like being a part of the *group* of people all working together!

Hundreds and Hundreds and HUNDREDS of other bakers all over the world do the same DARING BAKERS challenge together each month. Check out all their masterpieces today at the Daring Bakers Blogroll (which is a daunting monster to tackle!)

And there’s also a Flickr group for the Daring Bakers. So you can drool over all the pretty, pretty pictures!

See ya in JULY! (Let it be cake, let it be cake, let it be cake…)

Whatcha talkin' bout Willis?