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Sunday, June 29, 2008

DB'ers June Challenge--Danish Braids

I so wish that I could bottle scents and sell them. If I could do that with this month's challenge, I'd sell a ton. We made Danish Braids this month, and the dough--not only was it a dream to work with, but it's scented with orange zest, vanilla bean, and cardamom. It just doesn't get any better than that, folks. The aroma while the braids were baking was heavenly! But that doesn't even compare to the taste. It was out of this world delicious! So good, in fact, that I had to send most of these to work with my husband. They were dangerous! Dangerously delicious, hehe! Fillings were up to us entirely, so I decided to go with half the apple filling recipe for one, and cooked down blueberries with a bit of sugar, layered over almond paste for the second braid. Both were fabulous, but the blueberry almond was my favorite, and I was sad to see it walk out the door to go to the office with my husband. But I seriously could have eaten all of these. OINK! They had to go.

This month's challenge was chosen and hosted by Kelly at Sass & Veracity, and Ben at What's Cooking.

A few facts:

• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet and is yeast-leavened, however, where as puff pastry is not.
• The process of making Danish dough is less complex than that of puff pastry, but equally as important to achieve best results, and a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, and once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.

There are a lot of steps involved, and it seems overwhelming, but it really isn't. The most important thing to remember, I think, is to let the dough rest for the 30 minute intervals. It needs three 30 minutes rests, and then the final rest of 5 (yes, 5!) hours. So plan to either start early in the day, or give the dough, and yourself, a rest overnight, and start again the next day. This recipe makes two braids. The time to divide the dough has varied in the posts I've read, but I split mine after its overnight rest in the fridge. Divide it, then roll each portion into a 10x15" rectangle. You'll cut parallel strips on each side, remove the extra dough in the corners (you'll see what I mean in the photos), add your filling down the center, fold in the 2 end flaps, then braid the strips. Make sure when you cut the strips that you leave a large enough base to hold the fillings--make sure your rectangles are 10x15 to start, and you should be all set.

Braiding was a bit stressful at the beginning, hoping I'd do it right, and have beautiful baked braids that held their shape--but it was a cinch to do! Make sure to cut your strips long enough so that they reach all the way over the dough on the other side, and give them a pinch to stay in place. Tuck your last braid under the previous one and give that a little pinch, too.

I've got lots of step by step photos, so here we go!

Some extra, but helpful info:
• 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.
• Ben on Cardamom: It can be very expensive as some stores, but if you have an Indian store nearby, it can be considerably less expensive than at your local grocery store. If you can’t find it or it is still cost prohibitive, then you can use a substitute. Many people would say that there is no substitute for the unique flavor of cardamom and it is better to leave it out. But I’ve found out that combining cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg in equal portions words pretty well. Of course, it doesn’t come close to the cardamom taste, but it worked just fine for one of my test batches.
• Kelly’s Two Cents: I had some green cardamom pods on hand and used 16, cracking and emptying the contents into a grinder to get the quantity called for in the recipe for the dough. The quantity barely put a dent in my 1 oz. bottle. If you don’t have an Indian store near by, you may consider on-line spice retailers like … -and-black or
Yes, there’s postage involved, but you’ll have cardamom for many other
recipes for a fraction of the cost, even with postage.

Danish Braid

Sherry Yard, The Secrets of Baking


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.


Butter Block

First roll out of the dough, and butter block spread over 2/3 of it.

Fold end with no butter halfway over buttered dough. You're folding in three, like a business letter.

Here is your folded business letter, and your first completed turn of the dough!

****This is where you let the dough rest for 30 minutes. Take it out of the fridge, roll to a 13x18" rectangle, fold the open ends in, like a business letter, and let it rest for 30 minutes again, in the fridge. This is your second turn. Two more to go, and after the last turn, give it a rest for 5 hours or overnight.

After the 5 hour rest period, divide the dough in two. Refrigerate one while you start on the other. Roll to a 10x15" rectangle, and continue on.

Apple filling cooking down. Blueberry filling was done the same way. Three cups blueberries, 1/2 cup sugar, cook down until syrupy and thickened. Add about 1/2 cups blueberries at the end for a few whole berries in the filling.

Almond paste waiting for blueberries.

Blueberry filling over almond paste.

Apple filling.

Finished braid.

Finished braids, proofing. I preheated my oven to 175 F, then shut it off and put the braids in to proof. After about one hour, they were ready to go.

Finished braids.

Glazed with a mixture of powdered sugar, water, and vanilla bean seeds.

I encourage everyone to try this recipe! You'll be thrilled to complete something like this, and so happy when you take that first (second, third, fourth, fifth, etc....)bite! It's not as difficult as it may seem. Just follow the steps, and you'll be fine.

Thank you to Kelly and Ben for choosing this recipe! I never in a million years would have thought I could do this, but I did! Another huge accomplishment and another DB Challenge chalked up. Whew! hehehe!

A few helpful links:

Stumble Upon Toolbar


Amy said...

Oh my gosh, Elle. This looks fantastic. I had been planning on doing an almond paste one but since I waited till the last minute, I ended up with different combos. I hear you on the wanting to eat all of it! I just packed one up so that it would be harder to eat the whole thing in one sitting.

Beth (jamandcream) said...

The blueberry filling looks lovely. I just stuck with the apple as this was my first challenge. Im just so relieved I managed to do what seemed like the impossible!!

Michelle said...

Absolutely gorgeous braids and your fillings sound wonderful.

Anonymous said...

So beautiful, and great choice in fillings! Your husband's coworkers are so lucky! :)

Anonymous said...

Beautiful braids!

Anonymous said...

your braids look wonderful elle!!

Judy@nofearentertaining said...

Great job Elle! I loved the berry one! I did mine with mixed berries and marscapone cheese.

grace said...

of all the fillings in all the lands, i'd pick apple and blueberry. i've never wished i lived next door to anyone as much as i do right now. and if you wouldn't give me any, i'd probably be forced to break into your home and take it. :)

Jeanine - The Baking Beauties said...

Absolutely beautiful! Your braids look perfect. Wish I could have a slice of the blueberry one, it's similar to the fillings I did for mine too. :) Great job!

Rachel@fairycakeheaven said...

I agree with you completely, I could have eaten my entire braid and had to have family over to eat the end cos I kept picking bits off it!!!

Your fillings sounds gorgeous aswell, and the braids look lovely, all puffed up and golden

Anonymous said...

Beautiful, just beautiful! So golden and gorgeous.

LizNoVeggieGirl said...

Hey, if you ever DO figure out how to bottle the scents, send some my way, please!! :0) Man, the blueberry filling looks perfect for your danish braid - yum!

Anonymous said...

It looks really fab - I can skip the scent ...if you mail it out to me, please??

Anonymous said...

Oh yum! They both look so pretty! Perfect braiding!

Sharon said...

Absolutely beautiful! I love the blueberry almond combo and I can almost smell these from my computer. Great job. That was an all day affair, huh?

Oh, I also passed on a blog award to you on my site. not sure if I told you that so if so, sorry for the repeat! :)

Anonymous said...

I so wanted to eat the whole thing myself, too, but alas! I shared with my husband, lol.

Beautiful job on your braids!

Shelby said...

Elle, great post! The braids are beautiful! I agree, we could all be rich if we could bottle that aroma of the braids baking! Grumpy was like, when is that stuff going to be done anyway! :-D

Anonymous said...

Elle, wow, you did an amazing job with your braids! So many fillings! The braids looks fantastic! You are such a great baker!

Anonymous said...

Your braids look just beautiful! I love the color on them. I did a blueberry filling too and really liked it.

Melanie said...

Mmmm...yum, the blueberry almond filling sounds delicious. And your braids look lovely! That was how my braid was supposed to look!

Anonymous said...

OH my goodness, the blueberry and almond paste filling look divine (and very NE summery too!)

Yup, making notes to do that version very soon.

Great danish.

Chef Jeena said...

Those fillings look fantastic! Great danish braids they look so yummy!

test it comm said...

Your braids look really good! I like that blueberry filling!

kat said...

wow, yours got so nice & puffy! that blueberry one is to die for!

giz said...

Elle, your step by step is terrific and your braids are just gorgeous. It was a fun challenge wasn't it? Next time, I'm making it with poppyseed and lemon - I will make it again.

Great job.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of almond and blueberry - must've been delicious!

Your danish braids look amazing!

Anonymous said...

Yours looks great! So pretty!

Anonymous said...

wow your blueberry filling looks so yummy! you should be so proud of your braid!

Erika said...

Elle, yours are so poufy! I am jealous, mine were flat, but I still ate them! Nice work and the blueberry and almond paste sounds wonderful!

hungryandfrozen said...

OH my goodness. How bad do I want an entire one of those for myself right now! Looks absolutely divine, Elle!

Ben said...

Thank you for the step by step pictures. I had my pictures but they disappeared from my memory card :( I was not happy. Hehe. Great job I love all your pictures.

Thank you for baking with us :)

Sophie said...

The almond paste is a great idea :). You're right, these scents would certainly sell if they could be bottled! Yum!

Anonymous said...

I want a slice of the blueberry filling bread! Looks wonderful!

Mrs Ergül said...

How nice to have a variety of fillings! Love the final bread, it's so lovely!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

These are so beautiful, Elle.

Ally said...

Wow, those look perfect! I love the combo of almond paste and blueberry!

Jen said...

HOLY YUM! They look Divine!

I may give it a shot over the summer. This kind of pastry has always scared me.

FunkeeDeeva said...

oooooooooooh this is awesome...I sucks at pastries...but I love to eat them :-)

Pam said...

Elle, your braids look perfect. I love the fillings you chose. Nice job!!

Patti said...

OH, that's a beautiful braid. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is very impressive. It turned out beautiful. I can't wait to join in next month's challenge.

Deborah said...

Great job on this challenge!! I love the blueberry one. And I ate more of mine than I'd like to admit...

Georgina Ingham | CulinaryTravels said...

Wonderful Elle, some gorgeous fillings too.

Elle said...

Thank you so much, everyone! I only have one regret...and that was sending them out the door with my husband! hahaha!!!

Anonymous said...

All these danish pictures make me want to start baking too!! How fun and yummy looking. Great job!

Jaime said...

mmmm... those blueberries look so juicy and delicious! you got some great process photos too :)

Dharm said...

Nicely Done Elle! The two fillings look delish!

Shayne said...

I really like that you put some helpful links at the end of this post, very good idea.

Great looking Danish too.

BC said...

I gave half away and still "oinked" out on the other half.

creampuff said...

Nicely done, Elle! I couldn't agree with you more about the scent of the danish bread and I love the blueberry and almond paste filling!

Anonymous said...

I love the aroma of this bread too. I think that's my favorite part. I can't wait to do it again and try out all the other fillings such as your blueberry one. yummy!

cakewardrobe said...

This looks lovely and perfect!!

Anonymous said...

Total perfection. And the smell of these baking ... you're so right.

Annie said...

Wow, incredible! They look like something out of a European pastry shop. I can almost taste them. The blueberry almond sounds fantastic.

But I'll tell you that you are a better women than I. That is something I could not do. Just the patience of waiting 5 hours would kill me alone. And I would have eaten all of them before ever having the chance to give them away!

Tiffany said...

Elle, your braids look so beautiful!! Very clean and even. Great job :) I was the same way with mine, I had to pawn most of them off to my family just to get them out of the house!!

genkitummy said...

your breads look so good! if you could bottle the scents, i'd buy a bottle!

Garrett said...

What? No raspberries? Even I did raspberries! Though...that was before I even read your post on raspberries and lime, so there's no lime in there. Your braids came out looking wonderful, great job. And if you end up finding a way to bottle scents - let me in on the deal.

Liz said...

Gorgeous job! Your braids turned out lovely, and I'm glad they tasted as good as they look!

LyB said...

Elle, your braids look fabulous! I'm not sure I would have attempted this but your step by step photos make me want to try it! :)

Anonymous said...

I'm tired after just READING about all that work! You are the woman, and I mean it!!!

Unknown said...

Well, I thought the blueberries were blackberries...BUT either is just wonderful. Great job!

Jessy and her dog Winnie said...

That looks so pretty!! I would kill to have a slice of that!

Jen Yu said...

Beautiful braids! They look so pretty and I love all of the photos. Great job!

Unknown said...

i hope one day i will be able to make this instead of just running to the nearest local bakery :)

Mama Mia said...

I didnt get to participate in this challenge because I was out of the country but your danish braids look amazing!

RecipeGirl said...

Looks like your challenge was a success! I especially like your blueberry/ almond choice for a filling. YUM!

Anonymous said...

Wow, Elle, those Danish Braids look amazing! I hope the people at the office had any clue as to how much work you put into making them! I think I'd have to send them along with a sign. ;-)

Anonymous said...

OH my GAWD. These look incredible, Elle! Not so hard, you say? They sure as hell look hard to me! But I'd eat one of yours. Or seven. :)

Maggie said...

I love the almond paste and blueberry one. I don't think I would have been able to let that one leave my house.

Anonymous said...

That must be the longest post EVER! haha. You did a GREAT job! What patience you have! It looks fantastic. :-)

Dolores said...

I share your desire to bottle the scents wafting from the kitchen on this one... as I catch up commenting on fellow DB blogs my third braid in as many months is minutes from emerging from the oven. My friends are addicted (yeah, I probably am too). We should start a support group...

Your blueberry almond filling sounds yummy... great job!

Ruth Strong said...

Beautiful braids! Great fillings. They sound real tasty!

MaryAthenes said...

Your danish braid looks truly scrumptious !
Yummy !

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