Tuesday, October 15, 2013

TWD: Danish Braid

Dear reader, I present to you my favorite recipe from Baking with Julia thus far. This pastry was so much fun to make - and easy too! Every step was simple to follow and resulted in a beautiful, puffy, buttery pastry.

While this recipe does require a little advanced planning because the dough needs ample time to chill in the fridge. However, there is a lot of flexibility in that the dough can remain in the fridge for a couple days in advance of baking, making this an ideal make-ahead brunch treat for company or holidays.

Look at those buttery layers!!!

For the filling, I did not adhere to any of the five fillings detailed in the book and decided to "go rogue" and make my own. I had a bottle of cherry preserves in the fridge, so I decided to pair that with a basic cream cheese filling in one braid. For my second braid, I used the extra cream cheese from my first pastry to make a pumpkin cheesecake filling. I also chose to drizzle a generous portion of maple icing over this braid once it finished baking.

While braiding my first pastry, I briefly toyed with the idea of using an egg wash to help seal the criss-crossed strands to one another in order to guarantee that they not separate while baking. I decided to ignore my instincts and follow the recipe as written and simply brushed the entire pastry with egg wash after braiding. Sure enough, my strands separated while baking. Having learned my lesson, I brushed egg wash on one side of the second pastry before braiding and this did keep everything together during baking, resulting in a much better, tighter looking braid.

Danish Braid with Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling

I am so in love with this recipe. I had a blast making it and I loved how delicious it tasted! I was so excited to share the results with Paul, as he loves a good danish (as well as crappy ones come to think of it...he has been known to devour multiple slices of stale danish from motel breakfast buffets). Fully expecting him to gobble down the cherry-cream cheese danish, I was taken aback when he announced that it was my pumpkin confection that had won his heart. (and his stomach!)

This is a fantastic recipe to have in your arsenal. The results are impressive without too much fuss. I'm already thinking this would be a great treat to whip up for breakfast on Thanksgiving, Saint Lucia's Feast Day, Christmas Eve, or Christmas Day!

Danish Braid (with two fillings)
pastry recipe and method from Baking with Julia

For the dough:
1/4 cup warm water (between 105-115 degrees)
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter

For the Cherry-Cream Cheese Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash)
1 teaspoon minced fresh lemon zest
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cherry preserves

For the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1 egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash)

For the Maple Glaze:
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp maple syrup
2 Tbsp brown sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp milk

1 tsp vanilla

To Make the Danish Pastry Dough:
Pour water into bowl; add yeast and let stand for 2-3 minutes until yeast foams. Add milk, egg, sugar and salt and whisk to mix. Set aside.

Measure flour into food processor with metal blade in place. Cut butter into 1/4 inch thick slices and drop into flour. Pulse 8-10 times, until butter is cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Be careful to not over-pulse. You want nice chunks of butter dispersed throughout the flour to make those mouthwatering layers in your finished pastry!

Empty flour mixture into bowl with yeast and with rubber spatula, gently fold the two mixtures together just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don’t be too energetic! The butter must remain in pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread dough or cookie. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or up to 4 days).

Lightly flour a work surface; turn dough out onto it, and dust dough with flour. Using the palms of your hands, pat dough into a rough square. Roll out to 16 inches on a side. Fold dough into thirds, like a business letter and turn it so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. Roll out again, into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold into thirds again. Roll out to make a 20-inch square. Fold square into thirds again to make a long, narrow rectangle. Then again, fold into thirds to make a square. (If at any point in this procedure the dough gets very soft, cover and chill it for 30 minutes or so.) Cover and chill the dough before final shaping. You can store the dough in the refrigerator for 4 days or wrap it air tight and keep it frozen for 1 month; thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator. Before shaping the final pastry, make your fillings.

To Make the Cream Cheese Filling:
Mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until soft and creamy. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, egg yolk, and salt and mix until completely combined. Set aside until ready to use.

To Make the Pumpkin Cheesecake Filling:
Mix together the cream cheese and powdered sugar until creamy and completely combined. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, vanilla, and maple syrup. Stir until combined. Stir in the pumpkin and egg yolk. Set aside until ready to use.

To Shape and Bake the Danish Braid:
Remove your chilled dough from the fridge and divide in two even pieces. Return one piece to the fridge while making and baking the first braid. Roll the dough into a rectangle measuring 10 x 16 inches on a lightly floured surface. Transfer the rectangle of dough to a piece of parchment paper. Spread the cream cheese filling down the center of the pastry. Top with the cherry preserves. Cut slanting strips at 3/4 inch intervals along both sides up toward the center using a small, sharp knife. Brush one side of the pastry with egg wash (make the egg wash by beating the reserved egg white with a fork until frothy). Fold strips over filling in a crisscross manner, being sure to lay the strips with the egg wash on top so that the wash will help seal the braid. Transfer the piece of parchment paper with the shaped braid to a baking sheet. Brush the entire braid with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Cover with a kitchen towel and let the pastry rise at room temperature until puffy, about 30 minutes (the pastry will not double).

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees with a rack in the center position.

After the pastry has risen, bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

While the first pastry bakes, shape the second pastry as directed above, only filling the braid with the pumpkin cheesecake cream cheese. Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with coarse sugar, and set aside to rise as directed above. Bake as directed above. Allow to cool on a wire rack before drizzling with the maple glaze (recipe below). Serve warm!

To Make the Maple Glaze:
Whisk together the melted butter, brown sugar, maple syrup, and milk in a medium microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds, then remove and whisk again. Repeat 30 seconds in microwave and whisk until smooth. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, whisking until smooth. Adjust consistency as desired with additional splashes of milk or powdered sugar. Drizzle over pumpkin danish.


  1. That is some wonderfully flaky dough - well done! I love how many interesting fillings you did.

  2. Two beautiful braids! Love your filling options!

  3. Cream cheese is just great for danish braids!

  4. Great looking braids. I loved this recipe too. I couldn't believe how easy it was....and I almost didn't make it! But boy am I glad I did! I will definitely be making it again. In fact, tonight I am using the other half of the dough to make single pastries. :)
    I am still shocked that it was so easy to get such a lovely product. Glad you loved it too!

  5. Gorgeous! I really like both of your filling choices.

  6. Awesome that you used the pumpkin filling, and thanks for giving us the recipe. I have to try that one. I too loved this recipe.

  7. The pumpkin combo sounds awesome! Glad to hear that this is your favorite recipe to date :)

  8. Your dough is so flakey and gorgeous and your fillings sound yummy! Want.

  9. Beautiful! I love the cherry one. This is a great rcipe for jams in the fridge.

  10. Beautiful! We considered cherry too, but alas, couldn't find a jar of jam in the fridge.

  11. I like the look of the cherry danish, even though your strands separated; and cherry sounds so delicious! This was a tasty and fairly easy recipe. I plan on using the extra dough to make pinwheels - they are so fun and cute.