Truth be told, I've been eating apple cinnamon danish braid for three days now. I wanted to perfect this dessert before I shared my successes and failures. On my first attempt, you could say that I acted a bit overzealous. Instead of saving half of my dough for a rainy day, I made one giant danish pasty. I filled it will apples to the brim, until they were spilling out everywhere. I was left with a juicy mess, and a half-baked piece of pastry, although what was salvaged still tasted good. When I started this recipe, I hadn't the slightest inclination on how to pull it together. On my first attempt, I neither browned my butter, nor cooked my apples. I was left with a giant pastry filed with crunchy apples (not the texture I was looking for). Without cooking the apples, they didn't have a chance to boil off the excess juices, which after baking, added to the soggy mess. I made the glaze too runny, and let me just say, I was feeling discouraged.
Luckily, my second attempt was magical and the third spectacular, and in the end, I was quite pleased with my results. I'd been planning to make a Danish pastry for years. Last week, I had been perusing the local grocer, during some well deserved spare time. Hunger pangs left me feeling uneasy, and I soon found myself heading towards the bakery. Funny enough, hunger pangs in the grocery store always subconsciously send me directly to the bakery. This is where I found a mouth watering Danish braid. At that moment I knew I had to replicate it at home.
I made my away around the store in a hunger pang coma trying to round up my ingredients, while grabbing a fair share of frivolous items on the way. When I say frivolous, I'm not talking about one giant box of goldfish crackers, or a weeks supply of kinder surprise eggs. And when I say round up my ingredients, I meant that I grabbed a few apples. I had my mind set on adapting a recipe from the Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan book, because I figured that my lack of Danish pastry experience would be balanced out with the guidance from a baking master. You will need 2 days to complete this recipe. The first day is all about the pastry. You will need to proof some yeast. Mix in some milk, sugar, salt, and eggs. Cut some butter into some flour, and then mix everything together. Next you will need to roll out the dough. Roll it into a long rectangle, and have some flour on hand to prevent the dough from sticking. Once you have your rectangle, fold it like a letter. Place the letter short side facing up. Roll it out again, and repeat the process a total of three times. Cut it in half, wrap in Saran, and place in the fridge overnight.
Day 2 - pour yourself a cup of coffee, then slice some apples, brown some butter, cook the apples in the butter with flour, cinnamon, and sugar until nice and soft. Let the mixture cool, have a shower, read some news. Do what you do best. Then, grab your piece of pastry and roll it out into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Next you will need to clean it up and make it look fancy. Cut some braid strips and then braid that pastry like you mean it - this is the fun part. Put it in the oven and bake. Once it's baked, mix up some sugar glaze, drizzle it on top and sprinkle some powdered sugar. Eat your Danish pastry warm with a slice of cheddar cheese, because really, it's the only way.
APPLE CINNAMON DANISH BRAID
yields 1 danish braid with leftover dough
2 1/4 tsp or 1 pack of dry active yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg white + 1 tsp water
2 tbsp butter
4 apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 - 2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
powdered sugar for dusting
1. In a medium bowl, add the yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and warm water. Let the yeast rest until it proofs (5 minutes).
2. Once the yeast has proofed, add the egg, milk, sugar, and salt. Stir with a whisk, and set to the side.
3. Place the flour and cubed butter into a large bowl. With a pastry blender or a food processor, combine until the butter is in tiny pieces.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the flour and combine until the dough comes together. Place the dough onto a floured work surface and shape into a square. Roll the dough into a rectangle 9 x 13 inches. Fold the dough lengthwise into thirds (similar to folding a letter to fit into an envelope). Roll the dough into a rectangle again, and then again fold into thirds. Repeat this process a total of 3 times. Cut the dough in half, wrap each piece in Saran wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
5. In a large pot on low, heat 2 tbsp of butter until it begins to foam. In a small bowl combine the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Add the sliced apples and the sugar cinnamon mixture to the pot and toss. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated and the apples are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes.
6. Preheat the oven to 400 ºF.
7. Remove one piece of dough from the fridge, and save the other for a rainy day (dough can last in the fridge for up to 5 days and in the freezer for 3 months). On a floured piece of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Place the apples down the middle of the dough. With the dough laid in front of you vertically, the smaller 9 " end facing you, make 1” diagonal cuts down the left and right sides of the dough (imagine you are making a Christmas tree). Once you have reached the bottom, cut away two triangle pieces, so that the dough now has a tree trunk. Starting at the top, fold the top of the dough over the apples. Then fold each strip over the apples, alternating from left to right.
8. Gently lift the parchment paper with the braid on top, and place onto a baking sheet. Brush the top of the pastry with an egg wash (one egg white and a tsp of water). Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until brown on top.
9. In a small bowl, whisk the icing sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and vanilla until you get a desired consistency. Add a tbsp more milk if the icing is too thick. It should be pourable, but not so thin that it drips off of the pastry. Drizzle over the top of the braid and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.