- Skill Level: Moderate
- Cost: Inexpensive
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Can be made ahead of time.
This large braid is easier and quicker than forming individual Danish pastries. Though the beautifully woven top of the pastry looks complicated, it is not difficult to do.
The walnut filling for the braid is particularly Viennese. If you wish, substitute another filling listed in the Variations at the end of the recipe. Poppy seed is my favorite.
1. To make the filling, place the walnut pieces in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse 5 or 6 times at 1-second intervals. Remove ¼ cup of the chopped walnuts and set aside for finishing the braid. Continue to pulse the remaining walnuts until they are finely ground, but not pasty. Combine the milk, sugar, and butter in a heavy nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the ground walnuts and breadcrumbs and cook, stirring constantly, until the filling thickens, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and cinnamon, and scrape the filling into a bowl to cool.
2. Lightly flour the work surface and the dough and roll the dough into a ½-inch square. Slide the dough onto the prepared cookie sheet, cover it with plastic wrap, and refrigerate it until the filling has cooled to room temperature.
3. Remove the pan of dough from the refrigerator. Mark but don’t cut the chilled dough into 3 sections, each 4 inches wide and 12 inches long. Slash through the 2 outermost sections diagonally downward at ½-inch intervals. Spread the cooled filling over the center (unslashed) section. Fold the slashes one at a time over the center filled section, alternating a strip of dough from first one side then the other. Cover with a dry towel or plastic wrap and allow the braid to rise at room temperature until the braid puffs slightly, up to 30 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and preheat to 400 degrees.
5. Paint the braid with the egg wash. Draw the brush against the rim of the bowl to remove excess wash, to avoid having the egg wash puddle under the braid. Sprinkle the braid with the reserved chopped walnuts. Bake the braid for about 20 minutes, until it is well risen and a deep golden color.
6. Slide the braid, still on the paper, onto a rack to cool.
7. To make the icing, combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Stir With a wooden spoon until smooth and place over low heat, stirring constantly, until the icing is warm, about 110 degrees. Drizzle the icing from the end of a metal spoon into the braid in an irregular pattern. Slide the braid off the paper onto a platter or cuttling board.
DANISH PECAN OR HAZELNUT BRAID: Substitute pecan pieces or toasted, skinned hazelnuts for the walnuts in the filling, above.
DANISH POPPY-SEED BRAID: Substitute poppy-see filling (page 428), for the walnut filling, above Sprinkle the egg-washed braid with poppy seeds before baking. Omit the cinnamon from the icing.
DANISH ALMOND BRAID: Use the filling for Brioche Suisse (page 395), with or without the raisins or currants, instead of the walnut filling, above. Sprinkle the egg-washed braid with sliced almonds. Omit the cinnamon from the icing.
Serving: Serve for breakfast, brunch, or tea or as dessert with a light lunch or late supper.
Storage: Keep the braid loosely covered at room temperature on the day it is baked. For longer storage, do not ice the braid. Wrap it tightly in plastic wrap after it has cooled. Refrigerate for several days or freeze. Reheat the braid at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes, then cool and apply the icing.
Hint for Success: If the dough begins to soften and become sticky while you are rolling it or forming the braid, slide it onto a cookie sheet and refrigerate for 10 minutes, or un it is firm again.
Nutritional information does not include Danish Pastry Dough . For nutritional information on Danish Pastry Dough, please follow the link above.