This months Daring Bakers challenge was a Danish braid and I was really looking forward to making it. The Danish braid is made with Danish pastry dough which is made by folding dough with butter into many layers. The Danish dough should bake up nice and light and buttery and flaky. I had been wanting to try making a multi-layer dough that puffed up when cooked for a while. As coincidence would have it I had also recently bookmarked a cheese danish recipe that I had wanted to try.
One thing that I really liked about this challenge was that we were allowed to choose the filling. Since strawberries were in the peak of their season I could not pass up on the chance to use some fresh strawberries. I had just made some strawberry and rhubarb jam and I though that it would go well in the braid as well. Since I still had the cheese danish on my mind I also decided to add some cream cheese. In the end it turned out to be a strawberry Danish braid with cream cheese and strawberry and rhubarb jam.
As with most Daring Bakers challenges the Danish braid was no walk in the park. There are a lot of steps and it took a lot of time. I was hoping to get the whole thing done on one day of the weekend but I ran out of time and had to finish it the next day. Overall each step was pretty easy though. The only problem that I had with the recipe was that it said that while folding the dough that you roll it out to a particular size each time but then after letting it sit in the fridge over night you were supposed to be able to roll out the same dough to over double the size that you were rolling it to the day before. My dough rolled out to the same size as it did the day before and I rolled it a bit thinned so that I could have some extra to make some cheese danish. Maybe the yeast was supposed to have more than doubled the size of the dough while it was in the fridge? Maybe my yeast was not as active as it could be? The dough did expand while proofing before baking... The Danish braid baked up well, though I could have pulled it out of the oven a minute sooner.
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/3 cup sugar
1 orange (zest)
3/4 teaspoon cardamom (ground)
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean (split and scraped)
2 eggs (chilled)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
3-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 egg (lightly beaten)
1. Whisk the yeast into the milk in a bowl.
2. Add sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix.
3. Sift the flour and salt onto your working surface and form a bowl.
4. Pour the liquid into the middle of the bowl.
5. With your hands, mix the flour into the liquid starting from the inside and working out until combined.
6. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, about 5-7 minutes.
7. Chill the dough in the fridge for 30 minutes.
8. Pulse the butter and flour in a food processor until combined.
9. Let the butter sit at room temperature until the dough is ready.
10. Roll the dough out to about 18x13 inches and about 1/4 inch thick.
11. Spread the butter over the right and center thirds of the dough.
12. Fold the left third of the dough over the center followed by the right third and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
14. Place the dough on the work surface lengthwise with the open ends on your left and right.
15. Roll the dough out to about 18x13 inches and about 1/4 inch thick.
16. Repeat steps 12-13 until for a total of five times.
17. Chill in the fridge overnight or for a minimum of five hours.
18. Roll the dough out to about 18x13 inches and about 1/4 inch thick.
19. Slice the left and right thirds of the dough at an angle and parallel to the other side into 1 inch wide slices.
20. Spread the filling on the middle of the dough.
21. Fold the slices of dough from the left and right sides of the middle, alternating and forming a braid.
22. Fold the top and bottom flaps over to hold in the filling.
23. Let the dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours.
24. Brush the egg onto the top of the dough.
25. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.
In the end I was really pleased with both the Danish braid and the cheese Danish! They were both really good! The Danish pastry was nice and light and flaky and buttery and good. In the pictures you can see the layers and that it puffed up nicely. The pastry itself was full of flavour from the vanilla and the cardamom. The cream cheese and strawberry and rhubarb jam and fresh strawberry filling was perfect. I enjoyed both the Danish braid and the cheese Danish for breakfast last week and they both disappeared quite quickly! I am really glad that I got to make the Danish pastry and I look forward to making it again.
Take a look at the other Daring Bakers danish braid creations.
Tsoureki (Greek Easter Bread)