Danish Braid with Gala Apples

Pastry scares me a little. I’ve never had anyone teach me about pastry making, so all I know has been gleaned from the most amazing library of our time. The Internet. I’ve seen these beautiful braids scattered all over blogs on the net filled with blueberries, lemon, apricots, cherries, apples and cream cheese. Savoury versions stuffed to the brim with feta, olives, ricotta, mushrooms, tomatoes and exotic cheeses. I’ve lusted after them, I admit it. But I’ve been too scared to make one.

Yesterday I took the plunge into the world of laminated yeasted dough for the first time. We were having some friends over for lunch and I decided it was the perfect opportunity. Yes I know .. silly idea really, trying something for the first time with guests coming over, but I figured they would be too polite to say it was rubbish if things did not work out so well. Plus I had a Peanut Butter pie lurking in the fridge as a backup if my efforts were a complete failure.

Having made croissant dough before was a huge help. It was not quite so terrifying knowing the procedure for turning and folding, making a butter block and twiddling your thumbs waiting for the next rolling, folding moment. The instructions always seem long, but it’s one of those things that always sounds harder than it is I think.

Want to see how the braid turned out?

Not bad even if I do say so myself!

Danish Braid with Gala Apples

This recipe is from the Daring Bakers June 2008 Challenge, originally from Sherry Yard’s “The Secrets of Baking.” I referred to several websites for this, but spent the most time on Rosa’s Yummy Yums.

DANISH DOUGH

Makes 2-1/2 pounds dough

Ingredients for the Dough/Dtrempe
  • 1 Ounce (30g) Fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 Cup Whole milk
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 2 Large eggs (~57-60g), chilled
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh orange juice
  • 3-1/4 Cups All-purpose flour
  • 1 Tsp Salt
Ingredients for the Butter Block/Beurrage
  • 1/2 Pound/240g) Cold unsalted butter
  • 1/4 Cup All-purpose flour

Dough/Dtrempe

  1. (Without a standing mixer) Combine yeast and milk in a bowl with a hand mixer on low speed or a whisk.
  2. Add sugar, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice and mix well.
  3. Sift flour and salt on your working surface or into a bowl and make a well in the centre.
  4. Pour the liquid in the middle of the well.
  5. With your fingertips, mix the liquid and the flour starting from the middle of the fountain, slowly working towards the edges. You can use a knife if you are mixing in a bowl, this works well too.
  6. When the ingredients have been incorporated start kneading the dough with the heel of your hands until it becomes smooth and easy to work with, around 5 to 7 minutes (You might need to add more flour if the dough is sticky - I ended up adding roughly another 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup of flour).
  7. Transfer dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap.
  8. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Butter Block/Beurrage

  1. Combine butter and flour in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. (I used a food processor and it was fine.)
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free.
  3. Set aside at room temperature.
  4. After the detrempe has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
  5. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and inch thick (The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour).
  6. Spread the butter evenly over the centre and right thirds of the dough.
  7. Fold the left edge of the detrempe to the right, covering half of the butter.
  8. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the centre third (The first turn has now been completed).
  9. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally.
  10. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  11. Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface (The open ends should be to your right and left).
  12. Roll the dough into another approximately 13 x 18 inch, -inch-thick rectangle.
  13. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the centre third and the right third over the centre third (No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough).
  14. (The second turn has now been completed) Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
  15. Roll out, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns.
  16. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight.

Your dough is now ready to be used. This makes enough for two large braids.

APPLE FILLING

Makes enough for two braids or one generously filled braid.

Ingredients
  • 6 large Gala or other apples, peeled, cored, and cut into -inch pieces
  • 1/2 Cup Sugar
  • 1 Tsp Ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 Vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh lemon juice
  • 4 Tbs Unsalted butter

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl except the butter. Melt the butter in a pan until lightly golden, then add all the other ingredients. Cook for roughly 10-15 minutes until the apples start to caramelise. Cool completely before use. You can make the filling well in advance and just store in the fridge.

Once the butter cools it will look slightly lumpy, don’t worry though this will soon turn into a sticky sweet sauce once the Danish Braid is cooked.

To make the Braid

Makes enough for 2 large braids

  • 1 Recipe Danish Dough
  • 2 Cups Apple filling, jam, or preserves
Ingredients for the egg wash
  • 1 Large egg
  • 1 Large egg yolk

For the Danish Braid

  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, inch thick (If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again).
  2. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
  3. Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart.
  4. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those youve already made. I found a long measuring tape useful for this.
  5. Spoon the filling down the centre of the rectangle.
  6. Starting with the top and bottom flaps, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover.
  7. Next, fold the bottom flap up to cover filling (This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling).
  8. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished.
  9. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends.
  10. Whisk together the whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly coat the braid.

Proofing and Baking

  1. Spray non stick spray 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 200 C (400 F). Position a rack in the centre 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 180C (350 F), and bake about 15-20 minutes more, or until golden brown.
  4. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature.

I chose to glaze mine and sprinkle a few almonds over the top, however the almonds were applied after baking, they would most likely have been better applied on to the egg wash and just before baking.

I still have a little dough left over which I’ve tucked into the freezer for a rainy day. It’s quite time consuming making one of these, but it was worth the effort. Each time I do something like this, pastry becomes a little less scary.