Monday, June 30, 2008

Danish Braid

It is that time of month again. As the month of June closes, there is no better way to end the month than to present a Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge was an exciting one for me. A critical ingredient was yeast - and I just don't bake much with yeast. I know...shame on me. So, when I first read the recipe, I was very excited. And you know what, yeast isn't that scary!!

This month was hosted by Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin’?. They chose a technique that I have never tackled - Making and working with yeasted laminated dough. The recipe was for "Danish Braid" from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking.

So, what is Danish Braid? Kelly and Ben did a great job of explaining this technique to the Daring Bakers crowd, so I thought I would share it with you.

• 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.

• 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.

Sherry 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 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 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-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.

This is a completely lovely dough with a fragrance that is to swoon over. And when it's baking? My oh my.


Dolores said...

Great job with the June challenge... you've mastered the yeast monster. :)

Rebecca said...

Looks delicious!

Anonymous said...

Looks so delicious - very nicely done :)

Angela said...

What a lovely braid! Congratulations on a successful challenge!

Jaime said...

it looks great! good job!

Liliana said...

Your braid looks delicious! Great job!

Julie said...

Hi Renee!

Your braid turned out beautifully--definitely worthy of a bakery! Great job on the challenge!


kat said...

Your braid looks so perfect!

Gigi said...

Your braid is PERFECT and looks delicious!

Clumbsy Cookie said...

I hope this made you gain confidence to work with yeat more! It looks great, well done!

Cakelaw said...

I don't bake much with yeast either. Your braid is just perfect - love the pic with the apple filling peaking out.

Aamena said...

Hey am glad you tried yeast and liked it.. I love it! specially croissants and doughnuts! Beautiful braids.

Lori said...

Your braid looks very nice and I love your tile in the background.

When you realize that yeast is not that scary a whole world opens up, doesnt it? Doughnuts, bread, pizza....

BC said...

I swooned over the smell too. From beginning to end, it had a great aroma.

Deborah said...

Your braid looks great! I love how shiny the top looks!

Claire said...

mmmmm, looks great! Maybe I'll try this with apples in the fall.

glamah16 said...


Anonymous said...

You are right, yeast it not scary. I used to think it was but I find out it was all in my head. Seems you tackled this one very well...great job!!!

mimi said...

thanks for visiting my blog! what a beautiful braid you have here, so nice to see the apple filling!

Anonymous said...

Your braid looks so golden-brown and flaky- beautiful work!

Barbara Bakes said...

Oh the smell! Your braid looks delicious. I guess you'll be doing more baking with yeast!

Ben said...

I used to be afraid of yeast, too, but after so many tries I think I am starting to understand it. Great job. Thank you for baking with us :)

Elle said...

That's a beautiful braid...isn't the fragrance while it bakes to die for?...and I love the green plate that it is on in the photo of the slice...gorgeous!No more fear of yeast...the little beasties will love you from here on in.

Lisa said...

Wonderful - really nice job with the glaze!!

Lunch Buckets said...

The smell is lovely isn't it?

Candace said...

Looks fantastic! Who show the yeast who is boss! :)

Jen Yu said...

Nicely done. Doesn't that just look delish? Congrats!

Miss Ifi said...

You did such a great job on your challenge and I am really glad that you are friends now with Yeast!!! ^_^

Pam said...

No need to fear yeast anymore. You did a great job and I bet it tasted great. I ate too much of mine.

Julie said...

Yeah, it does smell good, doesn't it? =) Your braid looks delicious!

Shari said...

Looks delicious!
Shari@Whisk: a food blog

moowiesqrd said...

Great photos! I love the shot of the apples oozing out of the braid. Baked apples are a favorite of mine and you've captured exactly why. There's nothing better than a baked apple with the syrupy sweet goo that results from apple juice + sugar.

Shelly said...

Wow, I was browsing the foodie blog roll tonight and came across your fantastic blog! This recipe looks delicous! Your bread looks fabulous!

creampuff said...

That's a lot of information and a lot of beautiful danish all packed into one post! Well done!

Jenny said...

Well done on conquering your fear of yeast, and so beautifully.