Daring Bakers, June: Danish Braid

There's that logo again, that's right, it's . . . the Daring Bakers' monthly project!


In short, at the beginning of the month, the host(s) for the month assign a secret baking recipe to the DBers, and at the end of the month, all the DBers reveal their results! This month, Kelly and Ben assigned Danish Braids with whatever filling we chose. (Please click on their links for the recipe.)

Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid
I chose to go with an apple date combo and chocolate!

This wasn't my first time making danish. In fact, the first cooking class I ever took was in laminated dough. At that point, I still wasn't totally enamored with cooking and baking, especially baking. In fact, baking kinda terrified me. So I decided to jump in head first and take the most challenging class I could find. I was so pleased with the results! In fact, danish became and remains one of my favorite things to make! The danish braid forms I learned to make were different; this project had bakers physically braid the dough, where the form I learned earlier was more of a twist.

The start was the same, though:
Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid

And the next step just followed a logical course:
Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid

Filled and braided:
Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid

Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid

Chocolate (like pain au chocolat . . . mmm):
Daring Bakers June: Danish Braid

Overall, I was very happy with this project! The dough was a bit stiffer, and the recipe didn't talk about sealing the butter block into the detrempe (which I thought was odd). In class, we made our butter blocks on parchment and let them set in the fridge just for a short time before laying them into the detrempe, then sealed the block in to make sure it wouldn't ooze out during rolling. We paid special attention to how firm the butter felt before rolling it out after resting--if it was too soft, it might ooze out, and if it was too firm, it might tear the dough. I worked this dough intuitively, and it worked out well. For some reason, this dough didn't rise in the fridge as much as the dough I usually use. I'm really relieved it rose during proofing! The taste is definitely comparable! The essential cardamom and orange zest made that unmistakable danish taste, and the flaky, buttery pastry was just about as good as it gets.

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 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 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.


Jenny said…
Your braids look great. I had made danish before too, but thought this was the most fragrant dough I had worked with. I'm dying for a chocolate version now though....
Jeanine said…
Looks fantastic. Wonderful job. I'd love a chocolate version as well...may have to get working on some more dough! ;)
Anonymous said…
I love dates and chocolate!! - great looking braids :)
Erin said…
Your braids look great! I'd really like to try a chocolate version next time :)
Lorrie said…
apples, dates, and chocolate, oh my. looks wonderful, great job :)
breadchick said…
Really nice danish with great fillings!
Renee said…
Very nice braids! they look scrumptious.
Jen Yu said…
Your braids really look terrific. I'm so glad you like this recipe. I am a huge fan too. Awesome job!
Miss Ifi said…
Your braids look lovely and I am sure that the chocolate one tasted like a piece of heaven!!!! I do love my chocolate!
Congratulations on your yummy looking challenge!
Amy said…
OOoh, apple date. What a GREAT idea!!
Rebecca said…
Chocolate! Mmmmmmmm.
Jacque said…
Mmmmm, apples and chocolate... two of my favorites. Your braids look terrific!
Dolores said…
*Dates* with the apples... I love it! And thanks for sharing the lessons you've learned with Danish pastry. I've found that every little bit of insight helps.

Great job!
Claire said…
Mmmmm...that apple looks great. Nice job!

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