Of course I took out my favorite cookbook and read over the recipe a few times before attempting – you really have to be prepared for all those folds. I wouldn’t say this recipe is hard, just time consuming. You have to make the dough, refrigerate, add the butter, refrigerate, fold, refrigerate, fold, refrigerate, fold, refrigerate, shape, refrigerate, bake. That’s a lot of steps! Making this dough basically takes all afternoon. Luckily, you can make it one day, then shape the actual danishes the next for breakfast. Or you can freeze the dough – I love to freeze things – and use it for your next Sunday brunch party.
My cookbook actually had a few recipes to use with this dough, and I’ll be sharing two of those with you. One is a braided danish coffee cake and the other regular cheese danishes. They actually use the same filling but are shaped differently – either in individual danishes or one braided cake for a few people to share. Of course you can make bear claws, cheesy twists, or a bunch of other things with this dough, but I’ll stick to my favorites (they’re so much like cheesecake!).
Don’t be intimidated by all the ingredients and steps. It’s not as hard as it seems and the results are definitely worth it!
- 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to 110 degrees
- 1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
- 4 teaspoons yeast (or 1 tablespoon instant yeast)
- 2 cold large eggs
- 3/4 cup cold whole milk
- 3 1/2 cups (17 1/2 ounces) flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (I skipped this because I didn’t have it)
- 3 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup flour
1. Put the warm milk in a small ball or measuring cup and whisk in the 1 teaspoon of sugar. Add the yeast and let sit 5-10 minutes, until the yeast bubbles.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, the eggs, and the cold milk.
3. Then, whisk in the yeast mixture.
4. Combine the flour, salt, and cardamom.
5. Switch to the dough hook. Add the flour mixture to the mixing bowl and mix on low for 1 1/2 – 2 minutes, until the dough forms a rough mass.
6. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead 3-5 times, until the dough just comes together.
7. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.
8. Start the butter block: toss the butter with the flour and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
9. Clean your stand mixer bowl. With the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for 1 – 2 minutes, until it forms a smooth mass. Scrape onto plastic wrap and refrigerate.
10. On a lightly floured work surface, roll the dough into a 15×12 inch rectangle, with the short side parallel to the edge. Make sure the sides are straight and the corners are sharp.
11. Visually divide the dough into 3 equal 5-inch portions. Mark them lightly with a knife if necessary. Spread the butter onto the top two portions with your fingers, leaving a 1/2 inch border at the edges.
12. First turn: make a letter fold: fold the empty third up onto the middle, then the top third down on top of that. Roll your rolling pin across the top 3 or 4 times to seal the seams. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
13. Roll the dough into a 20×12 inch rectangle.
14. Second turn: make a book fold: fold the two short edges in towards the middle of the dough, leaving about a quarter of an inch in the middle. Fold one side over the other (just like folding a book). Roll your rolling pin across the top 3 or 4 times to seal the seams. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
15. Roll the dough into a 12×12 inch rectangle.
16. Third and final fold: make another letter fold. Roll your rolling pin across the top 3 or 4 times to seal the seams. The dough is now finished! Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours before cutting, shaping, and baking the dough. Or cut in half/quarters, wrap loosely in plastic, slip into a resealable plastic bah, and freeze for 4-6 weeks.
For the filling:
- 8 ounces cream cheese
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Cut the cream cheese into pieces and put in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar and mix until smooth, about 30 seconds.
2. Add the egg yolk and mix for another five seconds. (You’ll have to scrape the bowl)
3. Add the flour, lemon zest, and vanilla and mix another ten seconds.
4. Scrape down the bowl and make sure everything is mixed in.
1. Shape: Roll half the dough into a 12×16 inch rectangle and cut the dough into 12 equal 4×4 squares.
2. Spoon about a tablespoon of filling into the center of each square.
3. Spread the filling towards two opposite corners, making an oval. Fold the empty corner over the filling, then brush that edge with water. Fold the opposite edge over that and press down to seal.
4. Proof the dough: Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for about an hour, until doubled in size.
5. Bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
6. Refrigerate the dough for 10-14 minutes. This makes sure the butter is cold and yield a very flaky texture.
7. Bake for 14-16 minutes, until golden brown.
8. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the tops with some apricot jam that’s been thinned out and heated with some water.
To make 2 braided coffee cakes:
(These braided danishes are awesome for entertaining, especially when Julia and Michelle come over for Sunday brunch!)
1. Shape: Roll half the dough into a 16×12 rectangle and cut in half to form two 8×12 rectangles.
2. Working one half at a time: mark a 2-inch wide strip down the center of the dough, from top to bottom. This is where the filling will go. On either side of this area, making diagonal cuts through the dough, three inches long and one inch apart.
3. Using a silicone spatula, spread the filling down the center strip of the dough.
4. Braid the dough by crossing alternating strips of dough over the filling from the right and left, working from the top down. When you reach the bottom, press the dough to seal it, then tuck it under slightly. Repeat with the second half of the dough.
5. Proof: Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise about an hour, until doubled in size.
6. Bake: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
7. Refrigerate the dough for 10-15 minutes. This makes sure the butter is cold and yield a very flaky texture.
8. Bake for 12-14 minutes, until golden brown.
9. Transfer to a cooling rack and brush the tops with some apricot jam that’s been thinned out and heated with some water.
10. Serve by cutting slices with a serrated knife.