Savory Cheese - Olive Puff Pastry Braid (savory "Danish")

This is a puff pastry dough (Danish dough) with a savory filling.  The dough recipe comes from King Arthur Flour 's baking school.  My husband and I took a Danish baking class in January (a visit to Vermont in January that had nothing to do with skiing!) The class was lots of fun and although I may not choose to make Danish frequently, it's definitely something that can be made for "special occasions" and with a variety of unusual fillings. 

This dough has a goodly amount of butter. It was explained that "European style" butter, with a slightly higher fat content and slightly lower water content is preferable. At some point I'm going to try to create a non-dairy version, but in the meantime, here is the recipe as taught at KAF. 

Danish dough is a laminated dough, meaning that butter is worked into the dough in layers. The dough in the photo has over 75 layers - a process that will take several hours. That's the scary news, the good news is that you can prepare laminated dough and freeze it for later use. This is NOT rocket science, it's time consuming. 

Step 1: Make the yeast dough, chill a minimum of 5 hours or overnight. 
Step 2: "Lock" the butter into the rested dough, roll fold and turn 3 times. Rest time between each set of roll, fold, turn is 30 or more minutes a(either chilled or in a chilly room). After the third set of folds, chill and rest for 6 hours up to overnight (Allow 20-30 minutes to come to room temperature when you are ready to use it.)
Step 3: Shaping and filling danish. Let rest 1-3 hours. Fill, egg wash 
Step 4:  Bake at 400 degrees for approximately 20-25 minutes. Optional wash with melted apple jelly or strained apricot jam. 

-Electric mixer (you can choose to stretch and fold by hand)
-A flat surface to roll out the dough. Marble, because it is cold, is the best, but any flat surface can work. Try to work quickly in a cooler room so that the butter doesn't melt
-Baking sheet, parchment paper 
-Scale, measuring cups, spoons, flexible dough scraper, bench knife (or sharp knife)
-mixing bowls 


This recipe will make 8 large individual Danish, 12 small Danish or 2 Danish braids.  Photos displayed show the procedure for forming a Danish braid. 

Basic Dough ("le detrempe") 
9 oz all purpose flour 
1 oz sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast 
1 egg
2 oz milk
2 oz water 
(my variation: 1/2 tsp lemon or orange zest, optional) 

Butter: 4 oz unsalted butter 

jam, sweetened cream cheese, farmer cheese/sour cream, etc.

Filling pictured:  8 oz farmers cheese, 4 oz full fat unflavored yogurt, 1/2 c chopped pimento stuffed olives and 1/4 c very finely diced scallion (mostly green portion). 

Egg wash

Make the basic dough (le detrempe).
Step ONE:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients
  2. Combine the liquid ingredients and stir to combine.  Add a bit more water IF you need it to create a cohesive dough
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for about a minute. Or combine in a stand mixer and combine for a minute or so at low speed.  This dough will NOT be smooth.  Place the dough in a plastic bag, or a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 5 hours or up to 10 or 12 hours. 
Step TWO (Locking in butter and laminating)
  1. Take a 4 oz piece of cold butter and let it soften a bit at room temperature (NOT too soft - you should be able to just make a slight indentation with your finger. 
  2. Place on a clean surface, pound down with a rolling pin, it should be pliable. Using the straight side of a bench scraper or knife, push into a 5 inch square. Slide a blade underneath the butter and let rest on a piece of waxed paper while you attend to the dough. 
  3. Remove the chilled dough and on a lightly floured board, roll out into a six inch square. Brush away any loose flour. Place the butter square at an angle (like a diamond shape on the square of dough). 
  4. Starting at any corner of the dough, pull and stretch toward the middle of the piece of butter. Repeat with the adjacent corner, pinching and sealing the edges of the dough, so that you are "sealing in the butter."  Repeat 3x so that you have a square of dough that resembles and envelope with a center of sealed butter. 
  5. With the butter locked in, roll the dough out to a rectangle, approximately 8x16.  Fold the upper 1/3 of the dough down toward the center and then fold the bottom 1/3 up toward the center. The piece will be a layered piece of dough, about 1/3  Turn so that the folded edges are to the right and the smooth edge to the left. At this point you've made the first of three folds. Cover or slip into the plastic bag and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes (up to several hours).  The rolling out and folding process is repeated two more times.  This process is called LAMINATING the dough (creating butter-flour layers). 

             6.  The dough should rest for several hours before you proceed with making the pastry. You c
                   can double wrap and freeze the dough at this point.

Step Three: prepare the filling.
            1. You can use a number of different fillings. The filling pictured is a combination of
                 8 oz farmer cheese , 4 oz full fat unflavored yogurt, 1/2 c chopped pimento stuffed
                 olives and 1/4 c finely diced scallions (use more green parts than white). Mix well.
             2. Other filling ideas:  lemon curd  or lemon curd mixed with flavored cream cheese (12 oz
                 cream cheese, 2-3 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla or lemon extract, mix well), good
                 quality preserves, sweet- Sephardic style harsoset ( see our haroset filling )

Step Four: braiding

  1. Dust your work surface with a bit of flour. Working with cold (but not frozen) dough, roll out a 8x16 rectangle. Brush away any excess flour. 
  2. Divide the dough vertically along the length - forming two 4x16 pieces of dough.  
  3. To form the braid: Along the length of the dough, lightly mark the piece into thirds. Cut strips emanating from the inside border of the right or left third, out to the edge of the dough. You are essentially cutting "ribbons of dough along the right and left thirds. 

  4. Spread a thin layer of filling along the center third An bring a thin strip of the dough over the edge of the cheese and fold over the top ribbon at an angle. Press into place. 

5. Continue folding over the ribbons of dough, by alternating sides and pressing the edges onto the dough. 

6. Continue until the bottom strip, folding a thin strip up to enclose the cheese and tucking the last ribbon of dough.  Move the braided loaf to a parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat for 2nd loaf. 

7. Cover and let rise in a draft free place for 1- 1.5 hours. Rising time varies, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. The dough will look puffy when risen, although it will not double in bulk. Preheat the oven, 400 degrees. 

8. Egg wash: 1 whole egg, 1 Tbsp water, pinch salt (optional). Lightly spread egg wash over the dough. You can sprinkle with a non-melting sugar.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, rotating the pan after 10-12 minutes.  The pastry should look well cooked, not pale brown. 

9. Remove from the oven and cool. You can optionally brush with water-thinned apple jelly to create a shiny "skin" on the pastry. 

Baked pastries can be double wrapped and kept in the freezer for a month or two. 

Other delicious yeast-dough pastry on this blog include: Walnut- Maple Rugelach and  Yeast Hamantachen .  Happy Dessert Eating. 


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