Pastries chronicles: Chocolate Danish Braid

The first item that I decided to bake with the Danish dough is Chocolate Danish braid in which the dough encases a chocolate streusel filling in a lattice-topped braid. It may look complicated but it isn’t since the more complex part lies with the dough. Once the dough is made and chilled, the following steps are easy. You need half of the Danish dough prepared earlier.

I have high hopes for this but I must be honest with you, the turnout is a sheer disappointment. Midway through the baking, when I opened the oven door to check, my heart dropped a few levels. I was mortified. My goodness! It looked terrible!

The filling has oozed out during baking (and that’s why you need a rimmed sheet pan) and the braid had expanded and broken away. Hell broke loose! Maybe I shouldn’t have used up all the filling and should have folded each strip all the way to the opposite side. Nevertheless, here’s how I did it.

500g Danish pastry

For the filling
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 large egg white

1 large egg beaten with 1 tbsp water
Sliced (flaked) almonds

Prepare the Danish pastry and refrigerate to chill as directed. Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper.

To make the filling, in a bowl, combine the granulated sugar, flour, butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon and mix with your fingers until fine crumbs form. Stir in the egg white with a wooden spoon until blended.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into a rectangle about 14 inches long, 9 inches wide and 1/4 inch thick. Spread the filling down the centre third of the rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal strips 1 1/4 inch (3cm) wide down the outside of the pastry on both sides of the filling, cutting almost through to the filling. Cut off the first and last strip on both sides so that a flap is formed at the top and bottom.

Fold the flaps over onto the filling. Starting at the top, fold the strips over the filling alternately from each side at an angle. When you get to the end, tuck the overhang of the last few strips underneath the braid to form a seal. Using a wide metal spatula, carefully transfer the pastry to the prepared pan. Be careful as you transfer! The dough is soft by now. Place in a warm, draft-free spot, cover loosely with a kitchen towel, and let the braid rise until doubled in size, 30-40min. As you can see from the above pictures, it’s very amateurish workmanship.

Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 425F.

Lightly brush the braid with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with sliced almonds.

Bake the pastry for 15 minutes. Reduce the heat to 375F and continue baking until golden brown and puffed, 15-20min longer. Check the braid during baking and if it turns brown early, cover loosely with aluminium foil. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer the braid to the rack and let cool completely.

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