Monday, January 21, 2008

Danish Braid

Danish Pastry is a “laminated” dough, which means that it’s made up of dough and butter layers. There are two components to it – Detrempe, the ball of dough and Beurrage:  otherwise known as a butter block.  The dough is rolled out in to a rectangle and folded up into thirds like a business letter, let to rest, and rolled out and folded, several more times, which makes all the wonderful little flaky layers of pastry. (If you've made croissants, this will be a snap).  It is then filled down the center, while the edges are cut into strips to braid over the filling before baking.

I recommend reading the directions carefully a couple of times, I've added some hints  in red print from my own experience making it.  Due to the poor light in my crash pad night kitchen  (no windows) I don't have decent photos of the braid process, but it's not as complicated as it sounds.  If you can fold a letter into thirds and make a braid with your hair, you can make this. 

Adapted from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking (a great book!)

The version , for a small household makes 1  - 1/2 pound pastry, but easily doubles (to double, use the amounts in purple print in the parenthesis)

DOUGH (detrempe)

1 and 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast   (1 T)
1/4 cup whole milk   (1/2 cup)
3 Tablespoons sugar   (1/3 cup)
1/2 teaspoon orange zest finely grated   (zest from a whole orange)
8 green cardamom pods, cracked scraped and ground or  heaping 1/4 t, dried)   (16 pods scraped or 3/4 tsp. dried)
1 teaspoon Mexican vanilla extract   (2 tsp)
1/4 vanilla bean, split and scraped   (1/2 bean)
1  large egg, chilled  (2 eggs)
2 Tablespoons fresh orange juice, pulp strained   (1/4 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups plus 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour  (3 and 1/4 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt  (1 tsp)

BUTTER BLOCK (beurrage)

1 stick cold unsalted butter  (2 sticks)
2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour   (1/4 cup)

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 an additional 1 minute (it should be smooth and lump free.) Set aside at room temperature.

Preparing the dough - Detrempe

Slightly warm the milk in a bowl from a stand mixer, add 1 Tablespoon of sugar from the sugar allotment and add the yeast.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes. Mix with a paddle attachment on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, egg, and orange juice. Mix well, adding  the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Switch to dough hook and knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. Add a little more flour if it is too sticky. (amount you add varies on humidity and moisture content of the flour.  The dough is about ready when it quits sticking to the side of the bowl and begins stalking the dough hook as it spins, then starts flopping around in a ball shape). 

Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes. (Do NOT cheat on the 30 minute sesssions, the butter needs to chill and the gluten, to rest, have a glass of wine, relax)

After the dough has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and roll the into a rectangle approximately 18 x  13 inches and 1/4 inch thick.

The dough may be sticky, so dust it lightly with flour as needed. Spread the butter block evenly over the right two thirds of the dough.  Fold the left edge of the dough to the right, covering half of the butter (like you'd fold  a piece of typing paper into thirds to stick in an envelop)  Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. You will be turning it more times so keep track on a piece of paper.

Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

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, 1/4 inch rectangle. (Use long, continuous strokes to roll the dough rather than short jerky ones, to make sure the butter is evenly distributed). Fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third.  that's your second "turn".

 Refrigerate the dough for another 30 minutes.

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.


1 and 1/4  cup of fruit preserves, 1/4 to 1/3  cup cream cheese (more or less filling, to taste)

Prepare egg wash  - whisk together 1 large egg , 1 egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of milk (if you want a crispier, darker surface, omit the milk).

Time to make the braid

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,1/4 inch thick.   If the dough shrinks back when it's rolled (too elastic) let it rest for a few minutes then roll again.

Place the dough on the baking sheet. (Visually divide up the dough into thirds.) Along one long side of the pastry (one third of whole pastry)  make parallel, 5-inch- long cuts with a knife, each about 1 inch apart (to form 1 inch flaps, which will be braided) Repeat on the opposite side, eyeballing it to  line up the cuts with those you’ve already made.

Spoon the fruit filling down the center  1/3 portion of the rectangle and dot with teaspoons of the cream cheese   Before beginning to “braid”, fold up the dough at each end of the braid, to keep the filling from leaking out. Start at the top and alternate sides, folding the side strips in towards the middle and covering the filling.  The dough strips should overlap in the middle. You may want to wet the strips a bit with a clean finger dipped in milk so that they stick to each other better where they overlap. Once it's all corseted up (and you will need a corset after eating this).

Proof and Bake

Spray cooking oil onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof in the warmest room of the house, or the oven that you've heated up to about 100 degrees, then turned the heat off.  When it's ready it will be double in volume and light to the touch.

Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. (I you're proofing the pastry in the oven, please remove it first!)

 Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Brush the pastry with the egg wash.  Bake 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so the end of the pastry that was 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. Glaze with a mixture of powdered sugar and milk  (1 tsp of cream or milk per 1/2 cup sugar) when cooled just slightly as desired.

1 comment:

  1. This will be tried out on Monday since I get to choose the "special bread for Monday's


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