Going Danish for the daring bakers…

by Sunita on June 29, 2008

When this month’s daring bakers challenge was announced, I was elated…I had grand visions. All four of us adore Danish pastries …Danish braid (with danish dough) was what was chosen for this month by Kellypea and Ben. But then, I kept the challenge till the last moment (over a period of two days…last Wednesday and Thursday). On the latter, I had an eye appointment to attend to, which took much longer than I expected. However, I was determined to finish it…and although the grand designs were not quite realised…whatever was made with the dough did come out very tasty and so did not beat myself up too much.

I will let Kelly do the talking regarding the challenge…

”Technique: Making and working with yeasted laminated dough
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 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.

Some History:
• According to many sources, “Danish” was born when Danish bakers went on strike, and 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, and 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.

Guidelines for this Challenge:
• Use the recipe as written to make Danish dough and create at least one Danish Braid. The recipe will allow you to make two full braids unless you choose to make only half the dough.
• Fill the Danish Braid with the apple filling provided and/or any other filling as long as it is something you make yourself from scratch.

• Dough ingredients include ground cardamom and 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.
• 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.


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 above)
2 cups apple filling, jam, or preserves (see above)

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 ”.

What I did-

  • I made the dough according to instructions and faced no problems. But I did need more flour than was asked for. I left the dough in the fridge overnight, for the final resting. This beautiful smelling dough was a pleasure to work with….rose beautifully and I was able to roll it out without any leaking butter ( the refrigeration definitely helps).
  • I filled the braids ( made two with 3/4 of the dough) with a savory filling (spicy potatoes with tomatoes, yellow peppers and peanuts) instead of the above mentioned apple version. One braid was topped with sesame seeds and crushed red chillies and the other with just the sesame seeds.

  • With the rest of the dough, I made a few other mini sized danish pastries…croissants, cinnamon swirls and a few with peachy toppings and chocolate fillings.

I am not sure whether I will try this a lot in the future…the butter is definitely going to keep me off… ( when other’s make it for me , it is a different matter, though :-P )..hmm, maybe , for a treat. But, all in all, I must say, that this was a very tasty challenge. The spicy braid was a great hit and so were the croissants ( one of Dinesh and the kids’ great weaknesses)…we had the braids for dinner and the leftovers even made their way to Dinesh’s lunch box the following day. Thanks to dear Kelly and Ben for choosing this yummy challenge.

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Nupur June 29, 2008 at 10:04 am

What a wonderful project, Sunita! As usual, your results are spectacular. I’m only glad they don’t sell savory pastries like the one you made otherwise I would be buying a Danish everyday…it looks simply delicious.
I’ll have to overcome my fear of “beurrages” and make this someday :D


2 Ann June 29, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Love, love, LOVE the sound of your savory version!


3 JZ @ Tasty treats June 29, 2008 at 2:10 pm

wow!! perfect danish pastry sunita!! i screwed up pretty bad TWICE!! anyways, ur pictures are awesome, make me want to try it again!!

BTW, i made ur strawberry jam yesterday…will post soon!! :-)


4 Aparna June 29, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Glad to see your post this month, Sunita.
Its absolute Danish heaven here on your blog.


5 Sagari June 29, 2008 at 2:54 pm

beautifulllll sunitha ,everything looks sooooooooo beautifullllllll


6 Shilpa June 29, 2008 at 2:56 pm

Thats great looking braid Sunita. Kudos.


7 glamah16 June 29, 2008 at 3:20 pm

Wow. It all looks so stunning. I wonder what could be grander than what you presented so far!


8 Namratha June 29, 2008 at 5:34 pm

Whoa, that’s a whole lot of danish pastries…very nice! I did the savoury one too. :)


9 DaviMack June 29, 2008 at 6:02 pm

Awesome! I love the savory filling, and particularly the red pepper flakes on top! Yum!


10 farida June 29, 2008 at 6:37 pm

Sunita, wow, you went so creative with the dough! Everything looks fabulous!

I agree the dough took much more flour than asked in the recipe.


11 Lorrie June 29, 2008 at 9:11 pm

oh my, you really did an amazing job!
Your fillings and the end result, everything looks great!


12 Kevin June 29, 2008 at 10:11 pm

Your braid looks great! I like the sound of that savoury braid with the red chillies on top. Nice pasties as well!


13 Dee June 29, 2008 at 10:17 pm

You are awesome!!! I am always on the look out for savoury version.. fat chance I will take up some challenge like this , but its definitely a treat!!!! Everytime I come here .. there is a surprise for me… Love ya sunita :) Hugs :) )


14 karuna June 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm

wowow, all of them look so good. i like the savoury one. nice twist


15 A&N June 30, 2008 at 12:09 am

OMG! I just do not believe that anyone can do this. We are going to try this, mebbe a 100 years down the line!

You know what you should do? You should open a gourmet bakery or something! And you take nice pics too, so your marketing is done too. Oooh, I guess I just went crazy looking at the Danishes!

Ooooooooooh, I want some NOW!


16 Rachel June 30, 2008 at 12:47 am

Wow..now all of them look perfectly done///Am glad you did this challenge..

Love the fillings and the toppings….


17 breadchick June 30, 2008 at 1:15 am

Sunita, what a wonderful collection of danish, pastries and fillings!!


18 Nags June 30, 2008 at 1:16 am

that looks so pretty and i can imagine the time you must have spent on this!! lovely :)


19 Ben June 30, 2008 at 2:11 am

Look at all those delicious pictures! You did a great job, I am really impressed (well you always impress me)

Thank you for baking with us :)


20 Miri June 30, 2008 at 4:05 am

Wow, amazing bread Sunit – especially the braid!!! Congratulations on whipping these delectable creations in a short time!


21 Meeta June 30, 2008 at 5:58 am

as always a lovely variety of excellent stuff. sunita you make the challenges with a wonderful elegance. perfect!


22 Tarah June 30, 2008 at 12:03 pm

Beautifully done! Gorgeous photos!


23 Raaga June 30, 2008 at 12:53 pm

this looks just great… I hope I get to make this soon


24 Rajitha June 30, 2008 at 1:48 pm

OMG!! how good does that look! and i am with Nupur…savoury ones are my weakness..if it were available here..i would do a drive-by there everyday ;)


25 mimi June 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

beautiful photos! your little pastries look great, but your savory version sounds oh so delish!


26 Mallugirl July 1, 2008 at 12:15 pm

Those look really proffessional, Sunita. The savory version sounds really good.


27 SMN July 1, 2008 at 12:18 pm

Sunita amazing and u really rock girl


28 Laavanya July 1, 2008 at 12:41 pm

WoW!!! Your post is like a visit to the pasty shop :)


29 sunita July 4, 2008 at 10:07 am

Thank you everyone, for your lovely comments…I really enjoyed making as well as eating them…it was a really yummy challenge :-)


30 Dolores July 10, 2008 at 7:38 am

Oooh… I love the savory spicy braid you made. Great job!


31 Clumbsy Cookie July 14, 2008 at 1:20 pm

Wow! I’ve just discovered your blog, everything looks great here. I love what you did with the pastries!


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