daring bakers: danish pastries


after last month’s disastrous daring baker’s challenge i was a little nervous to see what june would hold for me. i was hoping we wouldn’t be making cakes again and quite fancied something involving yeast and dough. hurrah, the universe smiled on me – danish pastries! or to be more specific, danish braid.

i love danish pastries, both sweet and savoury, and regularly indulge so this challenge, chosen by kelly of sass & veracity and ben of what’s cookin’?, was a great choice and i was really excited about finding out what exactly is involved in making these pastries.

so, how did i get on?

the dough:

danish pastries require you to make a laminated dough. this is a layered dough which has layers of butter sandwiched between layers of dough. we were instructed to make an orange and cardamom flavoured sweet dough which came together easily enough, although i did need to add extra flour to get a workable consistency.

this flavoured dough (the detrempe) is chilled briefly, rolled out and spread with the beurrage (the butter block). the task then is a simple matter of folding the dough, leaving it to rest, rolling it out and then repeating the folding and resting process. this was easy for me but my heart went out to fellow daring bakers in warmer climes who struggled as their butter oozed out from the pastry (if this happens to you tidy things up as much as possible and put it back in the fridge to allow the butter to solidify a bit).

the filling:

i decided to make two different types of danish pastries. the danish braid was filled with the apple and cinnamon filling which kelly and ben suggested. i also wanted to try and replicate a heavenly pastry that i ate at konditor & cook – a pear filling* was topped with slices of spicy crispy chorizo.


assembling the pastries:

this was a bit fiddly. i split the dough into four and used two quarters to make apple-filled braids. making the braids itself was easy enough but transferring them onto the baking tray was a little more tricky – assembling the pastry on a silicone mat which the braids can be baked on would avoid this. the more simple pear and chorizo pastries were very easy.


the final verdict:

would i have tried this recipe if it hadn't been part of the daring bakers challenge? no. i’m not brilliant at making pastry (my hands aren’t cool enough!) and the thought of a many layered flaky pastry like this would have been quite intimidating.

would i try this recipe again in the future? yes. the braids were lovely and i really liked the apple filling. however, the dough was too strongly flavoured to work with my pear and chorizo flavour combination i’d like to try them again with a more neutrally flavoured dough. i’d also use it to try out some of the fabulous savoury pastries which my fellow daring bakers created. i think this dough would be great for empanadas.

visit the daring bakers blogroll to see how everyone else got on.

danish braid from sherry yard’s the secrets of baking (makes enough pastries for 8-12 people)

for the dough (detrempe)

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

zest of 1 orange

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom (seeds from c15 pods)

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 large eggs, chilled

1/4 cup fresh orange juice

3 1/4 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon salt

for the butter block (beurrage)

220g cold unsalted butter

1/4 cup plain flour


combine the yeast and milk in a bowl, mix together using a whisk. add the sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla, eggs and orange juice and mix well. sift half of the flour and salt into the bowl and using your hand as a whisk, with your fingers spread out, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the bowl, slowly working towards the edges. as they begin to combine add the rest of the flour. when the ingredients have been incorporated put the mix onto a floured work surface and knead the dough until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5-7 minutes. you might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky (you can add this while it is still in the bowl and as you knead it). place the dough in the fridge to chill.

butter block:

using a food processor, combine the butter and flour by mixing on medium speed for 1 minute. scrape down the sides of the bowl and then mix for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. set aside at room temperature.

after the detrempe has chilled for 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. roll it into a rectangle approximately ¼ inch thick. the dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. spread the butter evenly over the centre 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. place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in clingfilm and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

place the chilled dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. the open ends should be to your right and left. roll the dough into another 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 is added). the second turn has now been completed. refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.

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 clingfilm, and freeze. defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.

apple filling - makes enough for two braids (half the dough mix)

4 apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch pieces

1/2 cup golden caster sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon vanilla paste

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

toss all ingredients except the butter in a large bowl. melt the butter over a medium heat until it is slightly nutty in colour, about 6-8 minutes. add the apple mixture and sauté until the apples are softened and caramelized, 10-15 minutes. 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). after cooling, the filling can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

danish braid - makes enough for 4 two-person braids

1 recipe danish dough (see above)

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

for the egg wash, 1 large egg, beaten

line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

on a lightly floured surface, roll a quarter (or half if you’d like a bigger braid) of the danish dough into a ¼ inch thick rectangle that is a. 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.

along one long side of the pastry make parallel cuts from the edge of the pastry to the centre third, each about 15mm apart. repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made. you will end up with a piece of dough that has the centre third intact but with parallel cuts along each edge.

spoon your filling down the center of the rectangle (on the uncut strip). 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. lightly coat the braid with the egg wash.

proofing and baking

cover the braid with clingfilm and proof at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. near the end of proofing, preheat the oven to 200c. place the braid in the centre of the oven and bake for 7 minutes (10 if you are making a larger braid), 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 180c and bake for about 10-15 minutes (15-20 if you are making a larger braid) 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 fridge for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.

* i poached some pear slices in a little water with a bay leaf added. i didn’t bother with sugar as the pastry was already sweet.