I have more kitchen tools than anybody should ever possibly need, and yet every year when Mister makes my Christmas list for his parents he manages to come up with something else that I’ve been ogling. This year, among other things (ravioli mold! Yay!) they got me something that I didn’t even know existed.
I had mentioned to Mister during one of our many discussions on the details of our someday house that I wanted a dedicated baking center with an inset marble counter for rolling out butter doughs. So imagine my surprise when on Christmas I was handed an extremely heavy box containing this:
A marble pastry board! My in-laws ROCK! I didn’t know you could just plop a piece of marble on top of your counter and go to town. Seems obvious now, but apparently I’d missed that page in the Williams-Sonoma catalog. Dreams of puff pastry and croissants started dancing through my head. I’ve made puff pastry before, but the only available place to roll out dough in my kitchen (Just say no to tile counters!) happens to be the cheap laminate right above my dishwasher. Which means that I can’t wash dishes while my dough is chilling and resting since it’ll make the counter hot. Very annoying. But now the problem is solved! I can put my pastry board on top of the tile on my island, and it provides a wonderfully smooth, cold place to roll delicate buttery layers to my hearts content.
So I ran to my Google reader and searched for “flaky goodness”. (yes really…these are the kinds of search terms I use when I need inspiration) and the very first result was this delicious looking Spiced Apple Danish Braid from Annie’s Eats. I had starred it when I first read it, and it’s obvious why: Fruit, cream cheese, flaky layers, beautiful presentation…what’s not to love?
I did make some changes though. I’ve got a ton of homemade jam hanging around (future posts, I promise) so I wanted to see if I could use that as the filling. I also wanted to eliminate the multiple glazes, to cut down on the sweetness and work a tad. And it worked! I also stretched out the resting/chilling over several days, not really intentionally, but everything seemed to come out just dandy anyway. This makes the recipe really flexible with timing, even though it has a lot of steps. Perfect for prepping ahead of time and just assembling in the morning when you have overnight guests or friends coming over for brunch or breakfast.
I don’t have pictures of the actual process – so if you need a visual explanation of how this comes together I highly recommend checking out Annie’s blog. I’ll be as clear as I can though.
Blueberry Cream Cheese Danish Braid
For the dough:
- 1.5 cups flour, plus extra for rolling
- 1.5 tsp. yeast (instant or active dry. See instructions.)
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup milk (Annie calls for whole. I only had skim, so I added a splash of cream)
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
- 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 4 oz. cream cheese, room temp
- 2 tsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp milk
- 2 tbsp. powdered sugar
- 1 cup blueberry jam (or any flavor that you like. Use one with lots of fruity chunks though)
For the glaze:
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 4 Tbsp demerara sugar (or turbinado, muscavado, “raw” or decorative sanding sugar. Anything with nice big crystals)
If you are using active dry yeast: Warm the milk slightly. (I like to nuke it in my glass measuring cup for ~15 seconds. Test it like you would a baby’s bottle. If feels hot, it’s too hot. You want just warm.) Mix in a sprinkle of the ¼ c. of sugar and then scatter the yeast over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until frothy.
If you are using instant yeast, skip the above.
Combine 1¼ cups of the flour in the bowl of your mixer with the (remaining) sugar, and salt, milk+yeast combo (or just milk and yeast separately if using instant) and egg. Mix with the paddle attachment till just combined, then switch to the dough hook and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes. (The dough will be sticky but it should be mostly clearing the sides of the bowl even if it’s still sticking to the bottom. If not, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)
Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and with floured hands pat it into a square. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Now…this part is totally cheating. It worked though.
In a clean mixer bowl, combine the chunks of cold butter with one tablespoon of flour. Toss lightly to combine, and then mix ON LOW with the paddle attachment until the flour is incorporated. You do not want to whip the butter at all, or let it get very mushy. Just smash in the flour. Scrape the butter+flour paste out of the bowl onto a piece of plastic wrap and using the plastic to help you, form it into a 5” square of even thickness. Wrap it well and chill for at least 1 hour.
Roll out the dough to a 9” square on a well floured and cool work surface. (i.e. not your counter directly above a running dishwasher). Place the square of butter (unwrapped) diagonally on the square of dough and wrap the corners of dough into the center to cover the butter. (like I said…check out Annie’s blog for photo instructions) Pinch the seams together, and then press your rolling pin into the dough starting in the center and working toward the outside to get everything a little more workable. Gently roll the dough out into an 11” square, flouring as needed to stop it from sticking. (all rolling from here on out should be gentle. This is not pizza dough. Have a light hand.)
Fold the square of dough into thirds toward the center, like a business letter. (i.e. fold the top third down over the middle. Fold the bottom third up over the top.) Turn the dough 90 degrees, roll it back out and fold again. This is two “turns”. Wrap the dough well in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours. Then repeat this process. (roll out, fold, turn. Roll out, fold, chill)
This final chilling period should be at least 4 hours, but I left mine for 2 days. It was fine. Just wrap it really well so it doesn’t dry out.
When it’s almost done chilling, make the filling.
Combine the softened cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice and milk in a mixer and beat beat beat till light and fluffy. Scrape down and beat some more.
On a well floured piece of parchment paper, roll the dough out to a 14” square. Smear the cream cheese evenly over the center third. Spread the jam evenly over the cream cheese. Don’t worry about making it pretty, you won’t see it, just get it on there.
So now you have a square of dough with a long rectangle of naked dough on the left and right sides, and filling in the middle. With a pizza cutter or a knife cut the naked dough into ~ 3/4” strips diagonally in opposite directions. The left side should be cut heading down and the to the left, and the right side cut heading down and to the right. You are essentially cutting a dough fringe for the center filling section. Does this make any sense? Just go look at the pictures…
Fold the strips over the center, alternating sides, to achieve the braided look.
Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm spot to proof for 30 minutes. It won’t rise much, but will look a little puffy. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees while it’s proofing.
After it’s done proofing, combine an egg with 1 Tbsp of milk and beat well. Brush the danish gently with the egg-milk wash. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and transfer to a baking sheet.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown, turning the sheet halfway through.
Let cool to room temp and slice to serve. Mmmm…flaky goodness indeed.
On another note:
Yes – I’ve been MIA. Sorry! I have resolved to get back into regular blogging. You wouldn’t believe the backlog of I’ve got. There are just folders and folders of crappy pictures of delicious food to share. You can’t wait, right?