The cooking world was a buzz recently with everyone celebrating the memory of Julia Child and her 100th birthday. Even this past weekend the movie, Julie and Julia was showing on t.v. so inspiration for a new post connected to the high pitched giggling princess of the kitchen was not hard to find. After flicking through Baking With Julia, I wondered why I hadn’t picked it up in a long time. It has so many recipes which I’m dying to try. This Boca Negra cake which I made a few weeks ago was amazing and will always be my go-to chocolate cake but I really wanted something yeasty so I planned to make a batch of croissant dough.
Well the dough took almost two days to nurture, rolling, folding, relaxing, it felt good and smelled just how it should but I later realized after shaping them that I messed up on the yeast quantity (hand smacks head and frantically shakes fist at dough) I turned some into traditional croissants and also made a bunch of pain au chocolate, they both tasted strangely good but they looked like my kids had made them in an easy bake oven which would have been awesome for them, but not what I had planned.
Fast forward to this danish pastry braid dough. It’s easier to make and takes less babying than the croissant dough and it’s quicker. The ingredients are simple as with most yeast recipes but the skill comes into play with the rolling and handling of the dough. My best advice is to always have bucket loads of flour on hand and use it liberally to make sure your dough doesn’t stick when your rolling it out, and not to worry too much about trying to get that perfectly sized, symmetrical pastry. It’s dough and it kinda has a mind of it’s own, your just there to help it along and give it a good send off in the oven. I was going to make individual pastries but ended up making a shaped braid filled with apricot preserves and vanilla pastry cream. It looks harder than it really is and you could switch up the filling to suit your own tastes. Blueberry, raspberry or almond could all be used as a fillings, going savory is also an option, using an artichoke or spinach dip in the center and omitting the sugar on top. I used store bought preserves and you’ll also notice my cream is grainy, that’s what happens when your forced to stop stirring your pastry cream (never stop stirring) and chase a 2 year old with a marker around the house before he tags a wall! I only used half of the dough for this braid so I’ll be back with the rest of it very soon, croissant revenge is also on my bucket list!
Recipe for Danish pastry dough from Baking With Julia, contributing baker, Beatrice Ojakangas
Prep Time- 24 hours
1/4 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
8 ounces unsalted cold butter
Extra flour to prevent sticking
Pour the water into a bowl. Sprinkle the dried yeast on top of it and gently swirl until mixed through.
Add the milk, egg, sugar and salt and whisk to mix, set aside.
In a food processor combine the flour and cut up butter and pulse gently until the butter has been broken down into about half an inch. The butter must stay visible to make the pastry be flaky and layered.
Empty the flour mixture into the wet bowl and gently mix through with a spatula until well combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Rolling and folding the dough:
Flour a cool work surface and dump the dough onto it. Roughly shape the dough into a square. Sprinkle flour and roll the dough into a 16 inch square. Fold the dough in thirds and turn it so that the folded closed side is to your left.
Roll the dough out again to 10 x 24 inches. Remember to use the flour! Fold the dough into thirds again. Turn it so that the closed side is on your left again.
Roll it into a 20 inch square and fold it again into thirds like a brochure. Roll the dough into a rectangle 10 x 24 and fold it in thirds again.
Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about 30 minutes. The dough is now ready to be rolled and shaped for pastries. It can be kept in the fridge for 4 days sealed in plastic or frozen for 1 month.
Sugar for sprinkling, I find the best to be raw or turbinado sugar which keeps it’s crunchy texture
Nuts to garnish, I used chopped pecans
3 Tablespoons cold coffee
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Roll the dough into a rectangle, 10 inch wide and 16 inch long. Lift onto a sheet of parchment paper. Spread the fruit down the center of the strip of dough.
Top with the vanilla cream, spreading evenly. Using a sharp knife cut angled lines down each side of the pastry, about 12 on each side.
Fold the strips alternately on each side to create a braid pattern, tucking in each piece of dough into the other side. Once all of the dough has been folded over, level each side with your hand making sure it’s nice and even.
Glaze the braid with the egg white and sprinkle liberally with some sugar and chopped nuts. Cover with a light towel and let rest for about 35-40 minutes. It should get puffy but not dramatically bigger. (Cooks Tip, Its hot here in California so I like to give any yeast product a little time in the car. It acts as a great proof box)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and when the danish is ready, using the parchment paper, slide the danish onto a baking tray. Place it in the oven and bake until golden, about 15-20 minutes.
Make the coffee glaze by mixing the cold coffee with the powdered sugar. Drizzle the icing over the braid and serve warm in slices.
Put all ingredients except for the vanilla into a small pot. Bring to a gentle boil stirring frerquntly. The mixture will thicken very fast so don’t stop whisking. Once the cream has thickened cook for a further minute.
Transfer the cream to a sieve and push the cream through it. Cover with plastic making sure the plastic is sitting on top of the cream. Set aside in the fridge until ready to use.