Daring Bakers Challenge for June: Danish Braids

June 29, 2008

My second Daring Bakers Challenge is another first for me – Danish braids.  Made from a yeasted butter-laminated dough, Danish braids can be filled with sweet or savory fillings, and I opted to make one of each.  (Actually, I ended up making three kinds of braids since I like to make more work for myself).  The actual dough-making process was not terribly difficult, although it did require several hours for rolling and allowing the dough to rise.  What made this into an all-day affair was my savory braid, which had about 100 ingredients, but was well worth the time and effort.


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.

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 2 large braids

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 .  (Now I rolled this out to about 30 X 40 and cut it into 3 rectangular pieces, 2 equal sizes and one larger than the others).   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 sideof 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 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.


The Fillings

And now for the fun part:  the fillings.  My first choice was fairly simple – a strawberry cream cheese filling with sliced almonds on top.  The recipe below is more than double what I needed for my small braid but would be perfect amount if I had simply halved the dough recipe.


Sweet Cream Cheese for Danish Filling

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 egg yolk
1/2  C. sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Beat all ingredients until fluffy. 

The strawberries were picked earlier this month by my children and a friend at a local farm.  I made a basic jam out of them and used that on top of the sweetened cream cheese.

I topped the braid with an egg wash and sprinkled with sliced almonds.


IMG_9685I filled my second braid with a sour cherry filling with cherries picked from my kind and generous neighbors’ backyard.  Sour cherries are mouth-puckeringly sour but when sweetened with just the right amount of sugar, they bake into the most deliciously tart filling.  The struesel masked my oddly anatomical braid while simultaneously adding sweetness.  This recipe uses a large amount of corn starch in order to make the filling as thick as possible to discourage a runny or exploding braid.

Sour Cherry Danish Filling

2 C. sour cherries, rinsed and pitted
1/4 C. sugar
2-3 Tbs. corn starch

Bring all three ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan while whisking frequently.  Simmer at medium high for 2 minutes then let cool completely.

Streusel Topping

1/2 C. all purpose flour
3 Tbs. (packed) golden brown sugar
2 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
pinch of salt
1/4 C. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Mix first 5 ingredients in bowl. Add melted butter and vanilla; rub in with fingertips until small clumps form.

I tried to get fancy with my sour cherry braid, but it ended up looking like a grotesque vertebrae lying on my counter.  That was quickly remedied by struesel topping.

Homemade danishes and coffee – does it get any better than this?


IMG_9770And for my pièce de résistance – a unique combination of sweet and savory in one dish, b’stilla.  B’stilla (also called pastilla or bsteeya) is a traditional Moroccon pie made with pigeon, although more commonly with chicken, almond sugar and phyllo, topped with powdered sugar.  I modified this recipe to fill a single braid, although this could be doubled to fill two braids or a phyllo pie (the traditional way to serve it).

The ras el hanout (translation:  “top of the shop”) has the potential to be a bank-breaking proposal.  If you have the great luck to live near an Indian grocery store like me, however, 90% of the spices listed below are incredibly inexpensive (like $1.99 for 8 oz. of coriander seeds).  The aroma of the chicken cooking in that amazing blend of spices will make you finally truly comprehend your lessons back in the fifth grade about the spice trade and how it become the driving force among  European nations, inciting wars and building empires.  One bite of this B’stilla and you’ll nod in understanding.

B’Stilla Filling (adapted from Gourmet)

For the almond sugar:
1/4 C. blanched whole almonds, toasted and cooled
1½ Tbs. sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon

For the filling:
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
2 tablespoons hot water
1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cups)
2 garlic cloves, cut into thin strips
3/4 stick unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 lb. chicken leg quarters ( about 2)
3/4 C chicken broth
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley leaves
1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, or to taste
powdered sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
2 teaspoons ground ras el hanout

For the ras el hanout: (Moroccan spice blend)
1/4 tsp. aniseed
1 tsp. fennel seeds
4 whole allspice berries
seeds from 4 cardamom pods (or 1/2 tsp. ground cardamom)
4 whole cloves
8 whole black peppercorns
1 stick cinnamon, broken in half
1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds
1/4 tsp. cumin
a pinch dried red pepper flakes
a pinch ground mace
1/2 Tbs. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

To make the ras el hanout:
In a cleaned coffee grinder grind fine aniseed, fennel seeds, allspice berries, cardamom seeds, cloves, peppercorns, cinnamon stick, sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and red pepper flakes, In a small bowl stir together ground spice mixture, cumin, mace, ginger, and nutmeg until combine well. Ras el hanout may be stored in a tightly closed jar in a cool dark place up to 6 months. Makes about 2 tablespoons.


To make the almond sugar:
In a food processor grind fine almonds, granulated sugar, and cinnamon. Almond sugar may be made 1 day ahead and kept covered in a cool dark place.

To make the filling:
In a small bowl combine saffron with hot water and let stand 10 minutes.

In a heavy 4-quart pot sauté onion and garlic in 3 tablespoons butter over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to moderate and add ginger, ras el hanout, and pepper. Cook mixture, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add chicken parts, broth, and saffron mixture and simmer, covered, turning the chicken once, until chicken is very tender and cooked through, about 25 minutes. Let chicken stand in cooking liquid off heat 30 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate, reserving cooking liquid and solids, and, when cool enough to handle, shred chicken, discarding skin and bones.

Measure reserved cooking liquid and solids and if necessary boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1 cup. Reduce heat to moderate and add eggs in a stream, whisking. Cook mixture, stirring, until eggs are set, about 3 minutes. Remove kettle from heat and pour egg mixture into a coarse sieve set over a bowl. Let mixture drain undisturbed 10 minutes before discarding liquid. Transfer egg mixture to a bowl. Stir in chicken, parsley, coriander, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste and chill. Filling may be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled, covered.

After cutting diagonal 1″ strips along each side, spoon almond sugar over the middle section of the dough.  Place chicken mixture on top of the almond sugar and close braid.  Apply egg wash and complete proofing and cook as per recipe above.  Allow to cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar.  I made a stencil of a palm tree since it fit the long nature of the braid.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

No need to say “Open Sesame.”  This braid will disappear in seconds.



72 Responses to “Daring Bakers Challenge for June: Danish Braids”

  1. madcapCupcake Says:

    Your danish braids turned out absolutely stunning!! – They look so delicious – I particularly love the idea of sour cherry, yum! And, as usual, beautiful, elegant photos – always enjoy reading your posts, very inspiring 🙂

  2. amelia Says:

    haha! I like the way you braided your sour cherry braid, even if it does look disturbingly like a vertibrate ;P Great job, reeeeally nice photos too =D

  3. Ally Says:

    Wow, Incredible! The B’Stilla filling sounds fantastic. And I’m on the lookout for some sour cherries. Your braids look so professional, I’m very impressed!

  4. Tartelette Says:

    How you made me miss my grandma’s pastilla! I think I ended up making one braid a week this month and the recipe is staying among my favorites! Gorgeous job!

  5. Michelle Says:

    I’m absolutely speechless. What an incredible job!!

  6. zorra Says:

    Wow, you are a pro! Wonderful braids!

  7. coco Says:

    Your Braids Danish Braids look marvelous! Especially like your savoury version

  8. enza Says:

    although I can’t see your shots on my pc at work (yes is sunday and I’m working) I had fun reading all your post and your a special person.
    I’ll add you on my blogroll!

  9. Molly W Says:

    I was sure that you were a complete expert at making danishes. Your braids are fabulous. And thank you for all the details on how you did yours.

  10. bunny Says:

    all i can say is WOW!!! your braids are fantastic!!

  11. grace Says:

    i’d eat your “grotesque vertebrae” as is, but a streusel topping adds deliciousness on top of deliciousness. really nicely done!

  12. Robyn Says:

    Your braids look gorgeous!!! I really love the one with the palm tree. What is it with those of us doing cherry braids having them look anatomical?!?!

  13. Lorrie Says:

    beautiful and creative braids! Absolutely delicious looking!

  14. megan Says:

    Simply stunning! I would of never thought to that palm tree and your vertebrae, I mean you cherry braid is a delight just to look at. Wish I would of done a strusel.

  15. Rigby Says:

    Your braids look wonderful! I’m especially interested in the one with the savory filling….may have to try that sometime!

  16. Mom Quixote Says:

    Yours are so perfect! I wish I had been able to roll my dough into an actual rectangle!

    I especially love what you did with the powdered sugar. Delish.

  17. Landa Says:

    Gorgeous braids. Perfection!

  18. I have no words! I love all your braids, I love your post, I love your pictures and I defenetly love that strussel topping!

  19. BC Says:

    They look absolutely perfect!

  20. bonnie baker Says:

    i love the palm tree.

  21. The B’stilla sounds fantastic, have bookmarked this to make for sure. Your braids look wonderful!!!

  22. Ann Says:

    Absolutely amazing! Love, love, LOVE your B’Stilla filling!

  23. Maura Says:

    They look beautiful and so, so delicious!

  24. rainbowbrown Says:

    My oh my. You do beautiful work. What lovely variation!

  25. Jen Yu Says:

    Great job on your braids! They are stunning and I love your savory braid (I did one savory too – we need more!) as well as the twisty style you did on the other braid. Awesome 🙂

  26. Marija Says:

    Actually, the one with the sour cherry filling looks great to me 🙂

  27. Carmella Says:

    Awesome work on your braids and all of the fillings. I have to try the B’stilla soon! I love Moroccan dishes, but never had that before.

  28. Rebecca Says:

    You take fantastic photos, but your Danish braids? Even better. I absolutely love the Moroccan B’stilla braid.

  29. Whoa, unbelievable. Great work, as usual.

  30. All I can say is WOW! Your braids are so beautiful!! I love the fillings you chose as well…and your photos are amazing!

  31. brilynn Says:

    Just gorgeous! Well done!

  32. Angela Says:

    Wow, what amazing fillings! The B’stilla really intrigues me… will have to bookmark and try it out sometime.

  33. Judy Says:

    Incredible. Your braids are just beautiful!!!

  34. GOOD GRIEF this is one of the most remarkable posts for this daring bakers edition i’ve seen! would love to put up on tastespotting…but ack! the photo wasn’t cropped prettily! would you mind resubmitting your post, and if you can, the photo already cropped to 250 square?

    whichever picture is up to you (naturally), but i LOVE the picture of the cherry braid that is unbaked (even though you called it a “vertebrae” – ha!)

    looking forward to seeing this post on TasteSpotting!

  35. Leslie Says:

    my my my..your braids look stunning!!!

  36. Lori Says:

    Love the palm tree and all of your pics. Very beautiful! Love the kids picking the strawberries!

  37. dove Says:

    B’stilla. Oh my word. Now that’s daring, deary! Lovely lovely work.

  38. Amber Says:

    Wow, your braids are amazing and perfect looking! Job well done!

  39. Kevin Says:

    Your braids look amazing! I like that savoury one.

  40. great job, particularly the savory one.

  41. Mrs Ergül Says:

    wow! 3 braids gotta be lots of work! i love the one with the stencil!

  42. Mary Says:

    Bisteeya–genius! I think that will be next on my list. And I love the twists and crumb topping on the cherrie. Stunning.

  43. LINZIE Says:

    Love the artistic part. I will soon make an appointment to come over your house and you can feed me!

    BTW, She’s wearing a mixed line w/ the sunglasses. LOL just kidding!

  44. I never would have though of the vertebrae connection. I am just thinking how creative your are! Who would have ever thought of the palm tree!? I did my first challenge this month!

  45. Rosa Says:

    Wow, fantastic! I love your great choice of fillings! Really delicious and perfect looking! You are an adventurous baker…



  46. Aparna Says:

    Your braids have to be amongst the most beautiful I have seen so far. You are so creative even with the fillings.
    I especially liked the second braid that you smothered with streusel.:)

  47. A&N Says:

    Absolutely jaw-dropping stuff! You surely are one daring baker 🙂 Congrats on the fulfillment of this looooong project! The results look absolutely scrumptious 😀

  48. Liliana Says:

    Your braids look absolutely scrumptious! What a wonderful job you did!

  49. Tanya Says:

    Your braids are really beautiful. I actually really like the “vertebrae” looking braid.

  50. CookiePie Says:

    Beautiful braids!! B’stilla is one of my favorite dishes, and don’t even get me started about sour cherries! Congrats on some really lovely, delicious Daring Baking!!

  51. sarah Says:

    i added this one to my favorites on tastespotting 😉

  52. marye Says:

    Incredible assortment! LOL! You did a great job, love
    the streusel.

  53. Cakespy Says:

    You made me laugh aloud with your “because I like to make more work for myself”. They all look gorgeous–a trinity of deliciousness!

  54. pork recipe Says:

    WoW, all of the above bread are simply a big temptation to me here, it’s just like seducing me here with this word, “Eat me, I’m delicious”.

    Thanks for the fantastic tips and I will surely keep myself busy in this weekend with the recipe…

  55. morgana Says:

    Amazing, your danish braid look so perfect…

  56. Shaw Girl Says:

    Your braids are amazing! And you really covered the gamut for fillings: from sweet to sour (cherries) to savory! I tip my hat off to you!

  57. These look insanely delicious! And I love your step by step photos.

  58. Claire Says:

    Your braids are gorgeous! That crumb topping looks fantastic.

  59. Amelia Says:

    Wonderful filling combinations! Beautiful pictures of those fabulous braids!

  60. Lauren Says:

    Yum!! I love all of the fillings.

  61. Katie B. Says:

    A crumble topping!!! WICKED GENIUS!!!

  62. Celine Says:

    Amazing job! Your realisations are wonderful. Cherry + cheese filling look so yummy, the strudel what a great idea and the B’stilla ( love Morrocan B’astilla) what a genius idea.
    Beautiful pictures , great presentation , great personal filling you are a great Daring Baker and great leader, we all should rely on realisation like yours you provide great inspiration. Bravo!

  63. Chantal Says:

    Ouh cool, how’d u do the twisty thingy without it bustin out durin bakin?

  64. Laurie Says:

    Absolutely fabulous job! I love the fancy braid turns with the sour cherry and the savory danish looks so yummy! Next time I will definitely make a savory pastry too! 🙂

  65. Candace Says:

    I love all three fillings! Sounds delicious, and looks lovely. LOL at your vertebrae comment!

  66. belle Says:

    absolutely fantastic!
    You’re inspiring.
    The fillings look delicious, and I never thought of adding a crumble on top. I”m a bit one dimensional in my food creativity. Good thing I have foodies to go to that inspire me 🙂

  67. Garrett Says:

    Your braids are so picture perfect! Wonderful job!

  68. Andrea Says:

    Oh my goodness, I think I’m in love with that savory braid! The spice combination sounds heavenly.

  69. lauren Says:

    i can’t believe that you made so many different fillings! the powdered sugar stenciling looks great!

  70. Shari Says:

    I love the stencil on the braid! And I happen to love your twisty braid! Great job!!
    Shari@Whisk: a food blog

  71. Vera Says:

    So beautiful! The palm tree stencil is such a stylish touch!

  72. Gabi Says:

    Lovely braids- very creative with the fillings!!

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