Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish Braids

This month's challenge was, I admit, a very fun one. I felt like a really real baker! Doing turns, marking them with special thumb prints, letting my dough proof- oh such fun. I only had one kinda major chaotic moment which I think I handled pretty well. But let's start off by grinding up some cardamon and zesting an orange (which is no east feat with a cheese grater...)


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.

It was so horrible, that I had to recreate the scenario using a drawing...

With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. (What they mean is throw any dry flour into the liquid to keep it from running off the counter edge) 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. (This dough was a sticky mess and I'm not sure how to fix that- but it all seemed to work out in the end)


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.

I apparently didn't quite get these direction correct... that whole right side should be slathered in butter. Also- you have to love that geometry. Look at those straight edges!

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)

  • 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.

In the second braid I mushed the raspberries first and then laid the chocolate on top- Next time I would mix in about 2tbl of sugar.

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.

Look! It's proofed! or pooffed even!

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.

PS: A better picture of the complete Danish will be up tomorrow- because I'm just so damn organized... Here ya go!


  1. I just showed Mike your Danish Braids, you did a great job making them. I would love to try to make them this summer. Kris made us "The Soup" it was delicious, it would be a fun dish to serve friends. We are excited to see you in a few more weeks!!!

  2. oh my my..........thats looks wonderful.This is a time for smellovision if i ever saw one!
    How did it taste? How long did it take to make? Will you make one for me. smile

  3. It wasn't as sweet as I wanted it to be but still delish and it took me from about 7pm to midnight plus the assembling and baking the next morning... I think if and when I do it again, it could make it MUCH quicker. And yes- I'll make you one :)
    Just a few more weeks ladies!

  4. It looks gorgeous!! I laughed at the part where you talked about the difficulty of zesting. I bought a zester not too long ago and I STILL hate zesting things. I hate zesting things and I hat peeling nuts, I have come to realize. But I do love the results of incorporating zest, there's nothing quite like it. Your danish looks delicious, nicely done :)

  5. Making the danish dough without a stand mixer is quite an achievement!
    And the braids look great!

  6. Your braid looks soooo good. White chocolate and raspberry filling!!! Yum.