This Danish Braid with Apple Filling is an amazing homemade pastry recipe with sautéed cinnamon apples baked inside.
Pastry recipes are definitely not usually my thing, and I have absolutely almost zero experience in making them. And I’m not even adept at braiding hair, let alone pastry. But I followed the directions obsessively for this Danish Braid from Sherry Yard’s The Secret of Baking– and all turned out great. I’m sharing my experience in making this deluxe, impressive pastry with you.
This is not an easy recipe. I’m just getting that out of the way right up front. There are many steps involved, and I’ve laid them out nicely for you in the recipe. But the outcome is super impressive, so if you’re up for the challenge then I suggest you try making a Danish Braid.
- active dry yeast
- whole milk
- white sugar
- orange zest
- ground cardamom
- vanilla extract
- one whole vanilla bean
- orange juice
- all purpose flour
- ground cinnamon
- lemon juice
How to make a Danish Braid with Apple Filling:
It’s helpful if you have a stand mixer to make this recipe. Prepare the dough as indicated in the recipe, chill the dough, and then it’s ready for rolling.
Look at the photos above for guidance. Roll the dough into a rectangle. Spread a mix of butter and flour over 2/3 of the dough. Then fold over the left side and then the right side. This is called, “completing a turn.” And you have now completed the 1st turn. Refrigerate the folded dough for 30 minutes.
Then roll out into a rectangle again. No butter is needed on the 2nd turn since butter has already been added. Fold in the same way again, and refrigerate for another 30 minutes. The 2nd turn is done.
Do this two more times– for a total of four turns. Now the pastry dough is ready to use for assembling the Danish Braid. That’s the most time-consuming part. It’s not hard… just time-consuming.
Prepare the apple filling. Sauté apples that have been tossed in sugar, cinnamon, vanilla bean seeds and lemon juice in butter until softened and caramelized. Let them cool.
Filling and braiding a Danish Braid:
Roll the ball of dough into a large rectangle. Cut strips along each side of the dough, leaving the middle intact. Spoon apple filling down the middle of the pastry. Tuck the end over, and then wrap the side strips one at a time in a braiding fashion until you reach the other end. Then fold the other end in too. Brush with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to let rise for two hours at room temperature.
Bake until golden brown.
This is definitely one of those challenges where you’re going to be really proud of the outcome (if you have a good outcome, that is- and I’m confident you will!) This Danish Braid with apple filling turns out to be a tender, flaky, buttery pastry with wonderful caramelized, cinnamony apples cooked inside.
When I made this Danish Braid, I plated it and brought it to the teachers at my son’s school for an end-of-the-year breakfast meeting. Suffice to say, they enjoyed it a lot! I snuck a slice for my kiddo, and then I begged for a sampling. He reluctantly gave me a bite. I felt that the orange zest in the dough worked really well with the apples. All was delicious! It’s the perfect recipe to make ahead for the holidays (freezing instructions are in the recipe below).
Yes, it’s all definitely a lot of work making this Danish braid. But if you’re up for a challenge, and you really love to bake and create… then this is a recipe for you to try. Remember I said before that making this sort of thing was not my specialty?? I did it though. Follow the directions carefully, and the photos should help. Good luck!
If you enjoy pastries, here are a few more recipes to try:
- Easy Apple Turnovers
- Maple Apple Tartlets
- Apple Cinnamon Strudel
- Candy Cane Coffee Cake
- Cinnamon Twist Pastries
Danish Braid with Apple Filling
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- ½ cup whole milk
- ⅓ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 medium orange, (finely zested)
- ¾ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
- ½ whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3¼ cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- 4 medium Fuji (or other variety), peeled and cored and cut into ¼-inch pieces
- ½ cup granulated white sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ whole vanilla bean, split and scraped
- ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 large egg
- 1 large egg yolk
PREPARE THE DOUGH:
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and milk and use the paddle attachment to mix on low speed. Slowly add the sugar, orange zest, cardamom, vanilla extract, vanilla seeds, eggs, and orange juice. Mix well. Change to the dough hook and add the salt with the flour, 1 cup at a time, increasing the speed to medium as the flour is incorporated. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until smooth. You may need to add a little more flour if it is sticky. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
MAKE BUTTER BLOCK:
- In the stand mixer bowl, combine the butter and flour and use the paddle attachment to beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and the paddle and then beat for 1 minute more, or until smooth and lump free. Set aside to keep at room temperature.
WORK BUTTER INTO THE DOUGH (1st turn):
- After the dough has chilled 30 minutes, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough into a rectangle approximately 18 x 13 inches and ¼-inch thick. The dough may be sticky, so keep dusting it lightly with flour. Spread the butter block evenly over the center and right thirds of the dough. Fold the left edge of the dough to the right, covering half of the butter. Fold the right third of the rectangle over the center third. The first turn has now been completed. Mark the dough by poking it with your finger to keep track of your turns, or use a sticky and keep a tally. Place the dough on a baking sheet, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
WORKING THE DOUGH (2nd turn):
- Place the dough lengthwise on a floured work surface. The open ends should be to your right and left. Roll the dough into another approximately 13x18-inch, ¼-inch-thick rectangle. Again, fold the left third of the rectangle over the center third and the right third over the center third. No additional butter will be added as it is already in the dough. The second turn has now been completed. Refrigerate the dough for 30 minutes.
WORKING THE DOUGH (3rd and 4th turns):
- Roll out the dough, turn, and refrigerate the dough two more times, for a total of four single turns. Make sure you are keeping track of your turns. Refrigerate the dough after the final turn for at least 5 hours or overnight. The Danish dough is now ready to be used. If you will not be using the dough within 24 hours, freeze it. To do this, roll the dough out to about 1 inch in thickness, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze. Defrost the dough slowly in the refrigerator for easiest handling. Danish dough will keep in the freezer for up to 1 month.
PREPARE THE APPLE FILLING:
- Toss all ingredients except butter in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat until slightly nutty in color, about 6 to 8 minutes. Then add the apple mixture and saute until apples are softened and caramelized, 10 to 15 minutes. If you’ve chosen Fujis, the apples will be caramelized, but have still retained their shape. Pour the cooked apples onto a baking sheet to cool completely before forming the braid. (If making ahead, cool to room temperature, seal, and refrigerate.) They will cool faster when spread in a thin layer over the surface of the sheet. After they have cooled, the filling can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
ASSEMBLE THE BRAID:
- Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll the Danish Dough into a 15x20-inch rectangle, ¼-inch thick. If the dough seems elastic and shrinks back when rolled, let it rest for a few minutes, then roll again. Place the dough on the baking sheet.
- Along one long side of the pastry make parallel, 5-inch-long cuts with a knife or rolling pastry wheel, each about 1 inch apart. Repeat on the opposite side, making sure to line up the cuts with those you’ve already made. Spoon the apple filling down the center of the rectangle. Starting with the top and bottom flaps, fold the top flap down over the filling to cover. Next, fold the bottom flap up to cover filling. This helps keep the braid neat and helps to hold in the filling. Now begin folding the cut side strips of dough over the filling, alternating first left, then right, left, right, until finished. Trim any excess dough and tuck in the ends. Whisk together one whole egg and yolk in a bowl and with a pastry brush, lightly brush over the braid.
PROOF AND BAKE THE BRAID:
- Spray nonstick spray onto a piece of plastic wrap, and place over the braid. Proof (let rise) at room temperature or, if possible, in a controlled 90 degree F environment for about 2 hours, or until doubled in volume and light to the touch. Near the end of proofing, preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan so that the side of the braid previously in the back of the oven is now in the front. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and bake about 15 to 20 minutes more, or until golden brown. Cool and serve the braid either still warm from the oven or at room temperature. The cooled braid can be wrapped airtight and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or freeze for 1 month.
- Leftover apple filling can be used as an ice cream topping, for muffins, cheesecake, or other pastries.