A few weeks ago, I started seeing photos showing up in my various social networks that featured a delicious-looking and beautiful fruit braid. The titles of said photos threw around words like “easy,” “super fast,” and “flaky crust” and I got really excited. So I clicked.
And then I read the ingredient list, which prompted me to curse the author, my friend who shared it, and everyone else who has written recipes likes it. You see, it contained a certain little phrase that has become the bane of my kitchen existence since moving outside of the United States:
1 can Pillsbury Seamless Crescent Dough
Ugh! Some of my favorite boards on Pinterest are filled with mouth-watering recipes I can’t make because I cannot buy refrigerated dough (or anything like it) in the grocery stores near me. So each time you share a recipe with it, I want to pull my hair out!
But before I go bald, I decided to find a way to replicate that beautiful braid without everyone’s favorite shortcut. After searching pages and pages of recipes, I found a few to start from. Specifically, I wanted a braid that was more danish than bread. This means I needed to avoid using a traditional bread dough recipe (which the bulk of the fruit braid recipes use) and opt for a pastry dough instead. But, I don’t have a food processor. So I played around with some options and got this recipe to work with my Kitchen Aid mixer (which I lugged in my suitcase when I moved to Nicaragua!). The result is so yummy I had to double the recipe (who am I kidding, I just tripled it) to make a bunch of braids for Easter morning.
Braided Fruit Danish
Yield: Two braids
Time: Two hours, plus overnight in the fridge
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup milk, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups flour
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg white + 1 tsp water
Apple Filling Ingredients
2 tbsp butter
5 medium apples, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/4 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Berry Filling Ingredients
your favorite berries or jelly/jam
spreadable cream cheese
OPTIONAL: powdered sugar for dusting
1. PREPARE THE DOUGH: In a medium bowl, add the yeast, 1 tsp sugar, and warm water. Let the yeast rest for about five minutes, or until it proofs (i.e., gets foamy and frothy). While the yeast is proofing, put the flour and cubed butter into the bowl of your mixer (with whisk attachment) or food processor. Combine until the butter is in tiny pieces. After the yeast has proofed, add the egg, milk, sugar, and salt. Whisk together, add to the flour/butter bowl, and mix until a soft dough forms.
2. KNEAD THE DOUGH: Place the dough onto a floured work surface and shape into a cohesive dough ball before rolling into a rectangle roughly 9 by 13 inches. Next, start a process where you fold the dough into thirds along the long side (like folding a letter), then turn and fold into third again (this time along the other side). After the dough is all folded up, flip it over and roll it out into the 9 by 13 inch rectangle again. Repeat this process of folding and rolling a total of three times. Finally, cut the dough in half, wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap, and place in the fridge overnight.
3. PREPARE THE FILLING: The next morning, peel and slice the apples, placing them in a bowl when ready. Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a medium pot until it begins to foam. Add the sugar, flour, and cinnamon to the apples and toss to coat. Add the apple mixture to the pot with the butter. Cook until all the butter/sugar has thickened and the apples are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool for 30 minutes. (It is important to let the apples cool before placing them on the chilled dough, so don’t skip this step!) For the strawberry braid, remove the jelly and cream cheese from the fridge to come to room temperature.
4. PREHEAT THE OVEN: Preheat the oven to 400 ºF.
5. PREPARE THE APPLE BRAID: Remove one piece of dough from the fridge. Flour your baking mat or a piece of parchment paper and then place the dough in the center. Roll into a 9 x 13 inch rectangle. Turn the mat/paper so it is lying vertically in front of you. Next, pretend you are making a Christmas tree by cutting 1″ slits along the right and left thirds of the dough. Create a “trunk” at the bottom of the tree, and another one at the top. (Cut away two triangle pieces on each each. Those pieces are just extra dough that is not needed for the braid.) After you’ve finished the cuts, pour the apple mixture down the middle third (in the center of the “tree”). Start the braid at the top by folding over the top trunk, and then fold each strip over the apples, alternating side strips. About four strips before the bottom, fold the bottom trunk up over the filling, then finish braiding the remaining strips.
6. PREPARE THE BERRY BRAID: Repeat Step 5 up until the point where you add the filling. Use a knife and spread the cream cheese over the middle third of the dough. Add a layer of cream cheese that is thick enough so you can no longer see the dough in that space. Next, add a layer of jelly/jam that covers the cream cheese fully. Ultimately the amount you use is up to your personal taste, but consider the apple filling as a guideline. Braid the dough over the filling as outlined in the second half of Step 5.
7. BAKE THE BRAID: Gently lift the mat or parchment paper with each braid, and place onto baking sheets. Brush the top of each pastry with an egg wash and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until golden brown on top. Dust warm braid with powdered sugar. Serve warm or cool or even straight from the fridge (it’s great any way!).
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION: Print This
Note: Dough can be stored in the fridge for up to five days or the freezer for three months.
P.S. If you want the quick and easy version of this recipe — the one that calls for that can of stuff — here you go. But just know I might think slightly un-loving thoughts when you post a photo of your quick and easy braid and rave about the wonders of refrigerated dough. I’d say I’m above all that childishness, but I’m [still] not there yet… 😉