Its the end of the month, and that means a new Daring Bakers challenge! Yeah! This month we are doing a Danish Braid. The dough for this is a lot like puff pastry. Puff pastry, uh oh. That is all butter and flour. Its easy to sub out butter with Earth Balance, but I don’t like using it, way too much fat! Well, there is no real way to take the fat out and still get all of those flaky layers, so I decided I would go ahead and use the earth balance. More about that when I get to the recipe. To start with, our hosts for this month were Kelly of Sass & Veracity, & Ben of What’s Cookin’? Make sure you check out their adventure with the Danish Braid.
The Technique: Making & working with yeasted laminated dough
The Recipe: “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking
Why Danish Braid?
• Danish dough is in the family of butter-laminated or layered doughs with puff pastry being the ultimate. Danish dough is sweet & 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, & a great starting place to begin to learn about laminated doughs in general.
• Danish dough is extremely versatile, & once made can be used for a variety of baked goods. The possibilities are endless.
• Since our ever-expanding Daring Bakers group lives in 2 different hemispheres, the Danish Braid will allow for fillings that are in season in both hemispheres. Hopefully that will assist with cost factors & availability of product.
• I love pastry & have never made Danish pastry before. When I asked Ben to co-host this month, I suggested several ideas, & the Danish Braid seemed to be the best way for people to have the opportunity to learn, if unfamiliar with laminated doughs, & for those familiar, to be able to maximize choices for ingredients not only in the dough, but the fillings, toppings, & the shape of the braid as well.
• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, & 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, & 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.
Why Sherry Yard’s recipe?
• The Secrets of Baking is one of the newer books in my collection, but I’ve had time to try many recipes & am more than satisfied with the results.
• The organization of recipes in the book is built upon the philosophy that if we learn basic techniques, many other recipes come from those techniques. This isn’t new information, but it’s the first time I’ve seen the information organized in such an accessible fashion.
• Her Danish dough recipe included both cardamom & orange, & the combination sounded intriguing.
Guidelines for this Challenge:
• Use the recipe as written to make Danish dough & create at least one Danish Braid. The recipe will allow you to make 2 full braids unless you choose to make only half the dough.
• Fill the Danish Braid with the apple filling provided &/or any other filling as long as it is something you make yourself from scratch.
• Dough ingredients include ground cardamom & orange zest. Cardamom is traditional in Scandinavian breads, but if it is cost prohibitive, or if you have dietary restrictions, by all means, leave it out or replace it with something else. You are welcome to omit the orange zest or choose another type of citrus to flavor your dough.
• The method or style of your braid is your choice. You may vary the width of the dough strips, type of edging, or angle of cuts.
• Often, a glaze, nuts, or sugar are used as toppings. You may choose to use any or all of these, or others you may find interesting.
• Use one or more fillings such as fresh berries, pastry cream, preserves or jams, curds – there are lots of possibilities.
• Once you’ve made a Danish Braid, experiment with Danish pastries with the extra dough.
• If there’s a way to try something savory with the extra dough, then why not?
• 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 & the technique for Danish pastry is very similar & 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 & 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.
• When making cuts in the dough for the braid, make sure they are not too long & provide a solid base for the filling.
Makes 2 ½ 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 & milk in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment & mix on low speed. Slowly add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, & orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook & 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 & cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Without a standing mixer: Combine yeast & milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, & orange juice & mix well. Sift flour & salt on your working surface & make a fountain. Make sure that the “walls” of your fountain are thick & even. Pour the liquid in the middle of the fountain. With your fingertips, mix the liquid & 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 & easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes. You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky.
1. Combine butter & flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment & beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl & the paddle & then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth & 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“ & ¼“ thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter evenly over the center & 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 & keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, & refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right & left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18“, ¼” 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, & refrigerate the dough 2 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“ in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, & 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 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 & sauté until apples are softened & 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, & 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” rectangle, ¼“ thick. If the dough seems elastic & 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” long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1“ 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 & 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 & 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 & tuck in the ends.
Whisk together the whole egg & 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, & 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 & 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, & bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool & serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight & stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
What changes did I make? Well, to start with, I used the active dry yeast, soy milk in place of the whole milk, just vanilla extract (my vanilla bean was totally dried up, although not suprisingly, I have had it for over a year), 1 TBSP egg replacer mixed with ¼ cup warm water for the egg, and earth balance for the butter.
Here is what I did:
Day 1: The Fillings (You can make it all in one day, but I opted to spread it out because I didn’t have enough time all in one day to wait for all of the rest times)
I opted not to make the apple filling that came with the braid. I just don’t like cooked apples. I made all of my fillings. I made an orange rhubarb filling for the braid, cherry preserves, mixed berry filling, and blueberry apricot. They were all good, but nothing amazing, so I am not going to share any of the recipes.
Day 2: The Detrempe & Beurrage
Don’t be scared off by the french names, its really just the dough and the butter block. I made the dough, but had to add about ¼ cup water because it was so dry out and the dough wasn’t coming together. The butter block came together easily. I did my first two turns as instructed, then for my third turn, I did a double book fold which was shown in a video that the hosts linked to. On my fourth turn, I finally remembered to add a little flour when the dough got sticky, which I completely forgot to do on the first three. It would have made it a lot easier if I had remembered that earlier. After all of the turns (I actually did an extra one to add a little more flour in because it was still pretty sticky), I divided the dough in two and put it in the fridge to rest overnight.
Day 3: Assembly
The next day, I assembled the braid, but I used soy milk instead of the egg wash. Proofed the dough, and baked it. The braid baked up nicely. With the remaining half of the dough, I made some different shapes, but I baked two trays at once, rotating them half way through, but they still got a little crispy.
Verdict: I would really liked it and would love to play around with it more with different fillings and learning from my mistakes, but there is just too much fat in this and my body just can’t handle it. So, I probably would not make this again. I would recommend that if you like baking, you must try this recipe at least once. I am very glad that I made this, and I may try it again for a special occasion, but I would half the recipe. K thought it was good, but he’s not a big fan of fruit fillings (except for pb & j), so he only ate a couple of pieces. I am trying not to eat it all in just a couple of days, so I froze half of the braid and gave some to my parents to try.
Any changes I would make? Well, I would do just a rhubarb filling, or an almond filling. I would probably drizzle a glaze over the top and sprinkle some almonds over the top. I didn’t encounter too many problems. The ones I did encounter were due to lack of focus and I was watching a movie while I had the two trays in baking, so I didn’t check on them like I would have otherwise. The movie was pretty good, so I think it was worth it, the danish still tasted good.