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I’ll never forget reading my first Daring Bakers Challenge over 2 years ago. We were on vacation in the Outerbanks, and I was so excited to read what my recipe would be. But Danish? Have you read about making the dough, and how it takes literally HOURS to make? How complex it can be??
I’m telling you now – forget all of that.
Yes, it does take several hours. But most of those hours the dough is just hanging out in the fridge. Every so often, you pull it out, roll it, fold it, and back in the fridge it goes to rest again. Do not be daunted! I used to think bakery danish was good stuff. USED to being the key here. There is nothing like fresh, homemade danish that you make yourself. All of those flaky layers (all 81 of them!) holding in your flavor of choice, braided up like a work of art…you almost don’t want to cut into it. Almost. But you can’t have your danish and eat it too! Go on, dig in!
Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough (enough for 2 large braids)
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.
Making the Braid
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.
I am now brave enough to cut my braiding strips fairly thin, about 1/2 an inch or less. This provides a prettier braid in my opinion, but the taste is no different . If you are timid, cut them wider. Just be sure to not spread your filling too close to the edge of the cuts, as you’ll lose filling. Err on the side of caution.
If you are having trouble proofing the braid, cart it out to your car. I do this all the time. Be sure to make sure the pan is level, or you may risk leaking.
BIG TIP: When rolling the dough out to cut and fill – do it ON YOUR SIL-PAT (or parchment). Do this because you may have the most amazing braid sitting there all gorgeous on your counter, but you are going to have to pick that sucker up and get it on a pan. Believe me, it sucks trying to do that. Be smart. You can thank me later.
Fillings: Fill it however you like. I personally love cream cheese and fruit. or cream cheese and chocolate. This time of year, a pumpkin cheesecake filling with dark chocolate chips would be heaven. Crap…I think I just talked myself into something.
I hope you will give this a shot. It really is easier than it looks, and it is one of those recipes that when you are finished, you are truly PROUD. Everyone deserves that feeling!
Have a great week…and don’t forget to VOTE for my Bourbon Bacon, Shrimp & Avocado recipe over there on the sidebar please…Just CLICK VOTE! Thanks!