Sunday, June 29, 2008

Daring Bakers - Danish Braid

This month's challenge, hosted by Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What's Cooking was a fun one. I'd never made a Danish braid or any laminated dough before so the learning was entirely valuable. It was also fun to think about fillings and combinations of flavours.

My Danish braid is filled with a combination of ricotta cheese, cream cheese lemon zest and juice and raisins masserated in Creme de Cassis (a blackberry liquor that's totally fragrant)

Some History:
• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and Viennese bakers were brought in to replace them, creating what is referred to as Vienna Bread.
• Conversely, it is also said that Danish bakers went to Vienna to learn the techniques Viennese bakers employed, and Danish dough was created there.
• In the early 1800’s, C.L. Olsen spent time in Germany, believing in the idea of gaining inspiration from bakers of other countries. He brought knowledge back to Denmark to introduce “foreign” breads to his country, also hiring people of other nationalities to bake in his family bakery.

• Laminated dough – is layered dough created by sandwiching butter between layers of dough
• Detrempe – ball of dough
• Beurrage – butter block
• Turn – each “fold & roll” of the dough produces a single turn in a 3-step process where the dough is folded exactly like a business letter in 3 columns. Each single turn creates 3 layers with this method.

For Your Consideration:
• This recipe calls for a standing mixer with fitted attachments, but it can easily be made without one. Ben says, “Do not fear if you don’t own a standing mixer. I have been making puff pastry by hand for many years and the technique for Danish pastry is very similar and not too difficult.” Look for the alternate directions in the recipe as appropriate.
Yard recommends the following:
• Use well-chilled ingredients. This includes flour if your kitchen temperature is above 70 degrees F (~ 21 degrees C).
• It is recommended that long, continuous strokes be used to roll the dough rather than short, jerky strokes to make sure the butter block is evenly distributed.
• The 30-minute rest/cooling period for the dough between turns is crucial to re-chill the butter and allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
• Excess flour accumulated on the surface of the dough after turns should be brushed off as pockets of flour can interfere with the rise.
• Yard calls for a “controlled 90 degree F environment” for proofing the constructed braid. Please refer to this chart to assist you in this stage of the challenge:

Proofing Temperature For Fresh Dough
(room temp) For Refrigerated Dough
Degrees F Degrees C
70 ~ 21 1-1/2 to 2 hrs. 2-1/2 to 3 hrs.
75 ~ 24 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 hrs. 2 to 2-1/2 hrs.
80 ~ 27 1 to 1-1/4 hrs. 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
85 ~ 29 45 min. to 1 hr. 1 to 1-1/2 hrs.
90 ~ 32 45 min. 1 hr.

• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long and provide a solid base for the filling.

Danish Dough

Makes 2 1/2 lbs dough


For the dough (Detrempe)
1 oz. fresh yeast or 1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1 1/2 tsp 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

For the butter block (Beurrage)

1/2 lb (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.

2. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well.

3. 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.

4. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Without a standing mixer:
1. Combine yeast and milk in a bowl and mix with hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
2. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
3. Sift flour and salt on your working surface and make a fountain. Make sure that the "walls" of your fountain are thick and even.
4. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain.
5. 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 5-7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky. (careful here not to add too much)

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.

Makes enough for 2 large braids

1 recipe Danish Dough (see below)
filling of your choice

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.

Verdict: This is one of those recipes that although it has several steps to it, I would make it again without hesitation.

Thanks Kelly and Ben - this was fun!! StumbleUpon


Mary said...

Your braid looks great! I agree this recipe was fun and I'd totally do it again!

Dee said...

At a glance, I thought this was waaay too difficult to even contemplate. However, your pictures and clear instructions make it seem quite possible, even for me :)

I love the informative post.

Dharm said...

Very Nice Giz! I wish I could have seen how you braided your Danish before making mine!! Yes, I agree that the DBs push us to try things we wouldnt have otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Your braid looks fabulous! And didn't you adore the smell in your kitchen while it was baking? :-)

Cannelle Et Vanille said...

I love the combination of the cheese with raisins and a bit of cassis in there. Lovely!!

OhioMom said...

Great looking braid, wonderful tutorial :)

Anonymous said...

great looking braid! this is going to be a recipe i use time and time again, i loved making it!

grace said...

that's simply cheesalicious. sinfully cheesalicious. sensationally cheesalicious.
stupendously cheesalicious.
i'll stop now.
great job. :)

giz said...

Grace - you win, you're the adjective queen.

Cakelaw said...

I love the sound of your filling. I have two mini bottles of creme de cassis in the cupboard that I bought on a whim and had not really thought of anything useful to do with - until now.

Anonymous said...

Gawd! i bet that was some gooey goodness to eat. Nice work.

Anonymous said...

So, so lovely. I mean a work of art really!

Anne Coleman said...

I love your filling choice! That had to have been DEE-licious! Awesome job, dear.

Anonymous said...

Giz, what a pretty Braid! I like the flavor combination you used for the filling too - how clever! Isn't it fun to not only try something new, but to add to your talents in the kitchen?!?! It makes me feel all grown up. Great job, sweetie!

xoxox Amy

Anonymous said...

It was a fun challenge, wasn't it?

Your braid looks great, and I'd never have thought of macerating the raisins in creme de cassis. Great idea!

Molly Loves Paris said...

Your braid looks wonderful. And I love your filling idea. It has such scope for the imagination.

Helene said...

Love your choice of filling...cassis...yum! You did an awesome job!

glamah16 said...

Damn that filling sounds heavenly. Perfection!

Jackie said...

The filling sounds delish! Love the bit of history too!

jenniferhoiyin said...

wow that looks so perfect and what a filling, so yummy!

Michelle said...

Oh MY!!!!!!!! Your filling is sounds totally outrageous!! It has to be the most creative filling I've seen to date!

Cakespy said...

So worth the time--and so delicious! How can we ever go back to store bought danish pastry!?

Amy said...

Oh, yumm! Your braid looks wonderful. I would do this again in a heartbeat!

Vicarious Foodie said...

I would have been terrified (terrified!!) to attempt that. Yours looks great though. Very impressive!

Proud Italian Cook said...

Great job! But your filling is what I'm really lovin!

test it comm said...

Great looking braid! I like how full of filling it is.

Melanie said...

I love your step-by-step photos. And what a unique combination of ingredients for the filling. Sounds and looks delicious!

Lori said...

Good choices for your fillings. YUM. The braid is beautiful! In the Fall I will do the apple one and a cheese one. Of course thos macerated raisins sound pretty good!

Heather said...

You are a great DB. Thanks for stopping by my site and leaving a comment.

Your Danish braid looks great!

Chef Jeena said...

Oh that filling looks so very tasty! I love the danish pastry too yum yum yum!! :-)

Jenny said...

Your braids look beautiful! Very nice!

Andreia Sousa said...

Wonderful idea for the filling. I'll take note of it. Congratulations!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

I love that crosswise picture! Your filling sounds so interesting and delicious!

Anonymous said...

Just beautiful! Very well done!!

Anonymous said...

Your braid and filling looks delicious, great job!

Dayna said...

thanks for stoping by my blog. I had to crack up as it looks like we have two or three photos that are so similar!

Anonymous said...

The filling looks great, and I love the step by step pictures!

Sophie said...

Good for you for wanting to do this again! I'd do the same...but I admit, I do need a bit of a break :P! This month's challenge was certainly for the daring...I almost didn't do it :D.

Jacque said...

Your braid turned out so neat and pretty! I like your scalloped strips.

And regarding the Solo almond filling I used. Here in the US, it's found in the baking aisle, next to the canned fruit fillings. Solo makes quite a few flavors... raspberry, cherry, apricot, I think even prune.

Ben said...

I am loving all the cheese fillings I've been seeing today. My next (oh yeah, there will be a next one) braid is going to be cheese filled :-p

Thank you for baking with us :)

shambo said...

Wow! That is impressive! Looks wonderful!

Prudy said...

Beautiful braid. Love your step by step photos. I'm heading back to check out your barley pilaf.

Anonymous said...

I am totally impressed with your filling choice and final results. Your braiding technique is perfect! I wish mine looked so pretty.

Elle said...

What a great write up...history, photos for the steps and one gorgeous braid at the end! Woot!

That Girl said...

Gotta love the dough hook, right?

Colette said...

Yum! That filling looks awesome.

Half Baked said...

Yummy! that's a really nice braid and your flavors sound delish!

Anonymous said...

Wow! How did you get your ricotta filling to stay so thick? It looks gorgeous and what a tasty flavor combination- yum :)

Jacey said...

Your filling looks and sounds amazing. My mouth is watering, thinking of blackberries an cream cheese. And bread.

Susan said...

Amazing filling - its so full! Great braid, it looks just perfect...and I live all of the step by step photos!
-Susan of

Anonymous said...

Absolutely gorgeous Giz. The braid looks superb.

Sorry I've not been around here much lately.

Fitness Foodie said...

I love the danish, it looks so good. I want to try my luck on making one of these as it does seem fun.

Anonymous said...

Looks great! You filling sounds wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Wow! What a feat to make that gorgeous danish. . . it looks irresistible (though hope it wasn't TOO irresistible!). ;)

Namratha said...

Wow, that's a perfect braid in every aspect...awesome! :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent work on this challenge!

Miss Ifi said...

mmmm yummy filling.. that just looks sooo good!!! Congratulations on some very nice Danish pastry and braids

Elle said...

Wow, your danish filling looks fabulous! And so cheesy! I'd also totally make this again. Beautiful!

Katie B. said...

Yowza! Your filling sounds delicious! Great work!

Anonymous said...

Oooh, love cassis! Yum! Your braid looks gorgeous!

How To Eat A Cupcake said...

That looks SOOOO yummy! You did a great job!

Deborah said...

Wonderful job! Your braid is gorgeous and your filling sounds delicious!

Unknown said...

Great job! Raisins? Interesting... I bet it tasted wonderful in the cream cheese.

Jen Yu said...

Very lovely work on your challenge. Beautiful braid there. Congratulations!

Barbara said...

I'm not a fan of raisins but your braid could change my mind. Great job.

Maggie said...

I love your filling idea. I'm going to try playing with creme de cassis in my dairy-free one next time.

Jaime said...

great job! it was also my first time making a laminated dough and i agree - i'd definitely do it again :)

Dolores said...

Oooh... I love your filling choice. And it's wonderful that this was a learning experience you're anxious to repeat. It was one of my favorite challenges too.

Anonymous said...

Funnily enough, I feel the same way. Of all the challenges I've done so far I'll be the keenest to make this one again with a few changes for the better. Your filling looks divine though!

Ruth Strong said...

I'm really impressed! Your braid looks great!!!! I've still to make mine! But I'm looking forward to it after seeing everyone elses!

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