Danish Braid       

1/2 recipe Danish Pastry
1 recipe Apricot, Prune, or Fresh Berry Jam Filling
1 recipe Confectioner's Cream or Almond Filling
1 large egg white, beaten
Pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes, for sprinkling
Sliced unblanched or chopped blanched almonds, for garnish (optional)

2 to 3 tsp. cold strong coffee
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

Roll chilled Danish dough on lightly floured surface to a 10" x 16" rectangle. Lift on to a parchment lined half sheet pan.

Spread some of the fruit filling down the middle third of the dough. Top with some of the cream or almond filling.
Note: you may not need the entire amount of either filling

Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut 12 to 14 slanting lines down each side, angling cuts from the center to the edge and cutting strips about 3/4 inch wide.

Fold strips of pastry into the center, crisscrossing the filling by alternating strips from each side. Lightly press ends to seal and run your hands along the sides of the pastry to straighten.

Brush with egg white, sprinkle with sugar and almonds. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, until it looks and feels puffy; it will not double.

Preheat oven to 400F. Bake in center of oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Transfer to baking rake and make glaze.

Stir coffee and confectioners' sugar together to produce a smooth shiny glaze. Spoon glaze into a zipper-lock plastic bag, seal top and snip corner with scissors to create a pastry bag. Squeeze squiggles of glaze over pastry and allow to set. Serve.

Danish Pastry dough:
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup milk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz.) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices

Pour water into a large bowl, sprinkle over yeast and let soften for a minute.

Add milk, egg, sugar and salt. Whisk to mix. Set aside.

Put flour into food processor, add butter and pulse (8-10 times) until butter is cut into pieces 1/2 inch diameter - no smaller.

Empty contents of food processor into the bowl with the yeast mixture. Very gently turn the mixture over with a rubber spatula until the dry ingredients are moistened. Butter must remain in discrete pieces.

Cover bowl and refrigerate overnight (or up to 4 days)

Lightly flour work surface, turn the dough out and lightly flour the dough. Pat into a rough square.

Note: If at anytime the dough becomes too soft, cover with plastic and chill.

Roll out to 16" x 16". Fold in thirds like a business letter and turn so that the closed fold is on your left.

Roll again to 10" x 24". Fold in thirds again, turn so the closed fold is on your left.

Roll into a 20" x 20" square. Fold the square in thirds and turn so that the closed fold is on your left.

Roll into a 10" x 20' rectangle, fold in thirds again.

Wrap dough in plastic and chill at least 30 minutes (up to 2 days)

Dough can be frozen for 1 month. Thaw in refrigerator overnight.
Makes 2 lb. dough.

Apricot Filling:
1 cup (packed) dried apricots
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

Put apricots, water and sugar into a saucepan. Heat and simmer until apricots are soft, plumped and have absorbed most of the liquid. (Can be done in a Microwave).

Puree in food processor, transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice and almond extract.

Scrape filling into a small container and cool to room temperature.

Seal container and chill. Will keep refrigerated for two weeks.
Makes 1 1/3 cups.

Fresh Berry Jam Filling:
2 cups fresh berries, crushed
1 cup sugar
1 to 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Stir berries and sugar together in saucepan. Cook on low, stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed and filling is glossy. (Can be done in microwave)

Stir in lemon juice.

Scrape filling into a small container and cool to room temperature.

Seal container and chill. Will keep refrigerated for 1 week.
Makes 2 cups.

Prune Filling:
1 cup pitted prunes, packed
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (optional)

Put prunes, water and sugar into a saucepan. Heat and simmer until prunes are soft, plumped and have absorbed most of the liquid. (Can be done in a microwave).

Puree in food processor, transfer to a bowl and stir in lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon

Scrape filling into a small container and cool to room temperature.

Seal container and chill. Will keep refrigerated for two weeks.
Makes 1 1/3 cups.

Confectioner's Cream Filling:
1 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 1/2 Tbs. cornstarch
2 Tbs. sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

Whisk half and half, cornstarch and sugar together in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens slightly.

Whisk yolk and vanilla together in a small bowl, whisk a little of the hot liquid into yolk mixture to temper. Pour yolk mixture into boiled mixture and cook, simmering and stirring for 30 seconds.

Scrape into bowl and cover with plastic against the surface to prevent skin from forming.

Chill. Can be kept refrigerated for 3 days.
Makes 1 cup.

Almond Filling:
1 cup blanched almonds
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
2 Tbs. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1 large egg white, lightly beaten

Put almonds, sugar and butter into food processor. Process until almonds are finely ground, scraping bowl as necessary.

Add almond extract and 2 Tbs. of the beaten egg white. Process until mixed.

Store in airtight container in the refrigerator until needed (up to 1 week). Bring to room temperature before using.
Makes 1 cup.

"Baking with Julia" Beatrice Ojakangas