June 29, 2008

Danish Braid

I just loved June's Daring Bakers Challenge!

This month Kelly of Sass & Veracity, and Ben of What’s Cookin’? gave us the task of making Danish braids. Danish dough is very similar to puff pastry dough but is sweetened and yeasted. Kelly and Ben chose “Danish Braid” from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking for our base recipe. We were given our choice for fillings and they could be sweet or savory.

The first time I made the braid (image to the right) I kept the eggs in the recipe but used substitutes for the dairy ingredients. I kept the orange/vanilla/cardamom flavor for the dough and filled the braid with raspberry filling. I made my braid a little smaller and used the extra dough for a few rhubarb-vanilla knots. It worked so well and was so easy, I wanted to make it again.

The second time (top image) I used my dairy=free substitutes but also removed the eggs from the dough recipe. I liked this dough even more! The resulting braid was flavorful and extremely flaky. My husband John asked for a Tofutti cream cheese filling since his favorite danishes are the cheese ones. I made a few plain "cheese" knots and a blackberry/"cheese" braid. Despite my dislike for Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese I really liked it in the danishes.

Making a laminated dough was a new thing for me. It was a little scary at first but with a little extra chilling I had no trouble at all. I'm ready to try and conquer dairy-free croissants now! I plan on using this Danish dough again for special breakfasts. It really brought back memories of Knudsen's Bakery in Detroit where my parents would take me to pick up fresh pastries.

Here is my version of the recipe:
Danish Braid, my vegan version
This is the variation I made that me and my family liked the best. I made a few shortcuts in the directions. The brands I used are: Silk Enhanced soy milk and Earth Balance in the tub (not whipped).
Makes 1 braid

For the dough
½ ounce (1 ½ teaspoons) active dry yeast
½ cup soy milk
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
seeds from ¼ of a vanilla bean
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt

For the margarine innards (buerrage)
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cold margarine
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

For the Tofutti cheese filling, double for all cheese
1/2 cup Tofutti Better than cream cheese
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
seeds from 1/4 vanilla bean

For the berry filling
1 cup berries, frozen works fine
1/2 cup sugar
the empty vanilla pods

Dough Directions:
  1. Dump the first six ingredients in a stand mixer bowl and stir with a spoon or whisk.
  2. With the dough hook on the mixer add the flour and salt in three stages. Mix with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic, approximately 4-5 minutes.
  3. Dust the ball of dough lightly with flour and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  4. When the time is up for the dough to chill, beat the margarine and flour together until just combined. You may need to scrape the bowl once if you use your mixer for this.
  5. Take the dough out of the freezer and roll it into ~12 x 8 inch rectangle.
  6. Spread the margarine over the right two thirds of the dough.
  7. Flip the clear left third over the middle third and then top that fold with the right third.
  8. Place the folded dough on a lightly floured tray and dust the top with a little flour cover with plastic wrap and chill for 45 minutes. (This is turn #1)
  9. When the time is up remove the dough and place it on a lightly floured surface with the folded side towards you.
  10. Roll the dough out to a 12 x 8 rectangle. Fold the left third towards the center and then the right third on top. (This is turn #2)
  11. Chill the dough again for 45 minutes and repeat the roll and fold. (Turn #3)
  12. Chill the dough again for 45 minutes and repeat the roll and fold. (Final turn, #4)
  13. Cover the dough well and chill overnight (The original recipe says to chill at least 4 hours and to freeze the dough if you are not going to use it within the next 24 hours.)
Filling Directions:
(It's best to do this while you are waiting for one of your turns to chill so that you can chill the filling and let the flavors marry.)

For the Tofutti cheese filling
Mix the ingredients together well and store in the refrigerator in a covered container.

For the berry filling

  • Add the three ingredients to a large microwavable bowl.
  • Cook in the microwave for ~10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Watch to make sure it isn't boiling over.
  • If you'd like the filling seedless strain the seeds out with a fine mesh sieve. Otherwise you can chill the berry filling and remove the vanilla pod before spreading on the dough
Baking Directions:
  1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it into a 13 x 8 inch rectangle.
  2. Make diagonal, parallel cuts on the long sides, this will form parallel strips on each side. Cut in only a third of the way on each side leaving the center uncut. See an image here.
  3. Spread your berry filling on the uncut center third. Dollop the Tofutti cheese filling in the center of the berry filling.
  4. Begin the braiding by tucking under the uncut end a little. Then pull over one strip over the center towards the opposite side. Repeat with a strip on the opposite side. Alternate and repeat until the center is covered with braided strips.
  5. Carefully transfer the braid to a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap that has been sprayed lightly with spray oil.
  6. Allow to rise: 2 1/2-3 hours at 70 degrees F; 2-2 1/2 hours at 75 degrees; 1 1/2-2 hours at 80 degrees; 1 to 1 1/2 hours at 85 degrees; or 1 hour at 90 degrees.
  7. When there is a half hour to go for your rise preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  8. Carefully remove the plastic wrap from the braid and place in the 400 degree oven. Bake for 10 minutes.
  9. Drop the temperature to 350 degrees F and rotate the pan 180 degrees. Bake an additional 12-20 minutes.
  10. Remove the braid from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Decorate with powdered sugar glaze if desired.
  11. Slice and serve.

*Please visit Sass & Veracity or What’s Cookin’? if you'd like to see the complete original recipe. You can see even more beautiful braids by checking out the Daring Bakers Blogroll. Be sure to scroll down to visit the other alternative bakers. The gluten-free bakers had to be especially creative this month and deserve a lot of credit for their efforts. You can also visit us at the Daring Bakers Kitchen where we have forums open to everyone. And watch this great Julia Child hosted Danish braid video. It was a lot of help to me.