Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid

Danish has long been a favorite breakfast treat of mine, though I rarely indulge in it.  In fact, when presented with an assortment of doughnuts and Danish, I’m bound to choose the danish nearly every time as long as it has a yummy filling.  But I’m also of the school of thought that if you’re going to eat something with that many calories it had better taste amazing, which is why I often find myself disappointed by the Danish served at some coffee houses, etc.  They may look appealing but if the filling is the only good thing about it, why bother?

Thankfully Baking Illustrated brings us this recipe and it is spot on – flaky, buttery pastry, rich filling, and a glaze that helps keep the whole thing moist when all is said and done.  The spiced apples were my own addition and so perfect for fall.  After the dough is made and all the turns are complete, it can be stored in the refrigerator overnight (or maybe longer, but that’s as long as I tried.)  So, this could make for a really impressive breakfast treat if you have company visiting.  Once the dough is made, and fillings can be made in advance too, all that remains is to assemble and bake.  I am looking forward to trying this as individual Danish and with all sorts of fillings.  This was my first time working with a butter square and it was much easier than I would have expected.  I’m glad to have tried this because I’m sure croissants aren’t far off now 🙂

Spiced Apple Cream Cheese Danish Braid
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For the Danish dough:
1½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
1½ tsp. instant yeast*
¼ cup sugar
¾ tsp. salt
1/3 cup whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

For the butter square:
12 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into 1 tablespoon pieces
1 tbsp. all-purpose flour

For the cream cheese filling:
4 oz. cream cheese, softened
¼ tsp. finely grated lemon zest
2 tbsp. sugar

For the apple filling:
1 tbsp. butter
2 medium apples, peeled and sliced thin (I used Granny Smith)
2 tbsp. sugar
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

For the glaze:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. milk, plus more as needed

For the drizzle:
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tbsp. milk, plus more as needed

*Instant yeast = rapid rise yeast = bread machine yeast

To make the dough, combine 1¼ cups of the flour in a bowl with the yeast, sugar, and salt.  Place the milk and egg in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook.  With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and knead until a smooth ball of dough forms, about 7-8 minutes.  (The dough should be sticky but if more dough sticks to the bowl than the dough hook, add the remaining ¼ cup flour, 1 tablespoon at a time as needed.)  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

To make the butter square, toss together the butter pieces and flour on a clean work surface.

Smear the butter back and forth using a bench scraper against the work surface…

until they have combined into a smooth homogenous mixture.

Wrap the butter mixture in plastic wrap and use the edges of the plastic to form it into a 5-inch square.  Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour.  Lay the chilled dough on the work surface and roll into a 9-inch square.

Place the butter square diagonally on top the dough and remove the plastic wrap.

Fold the corners of dough over the butter so that they meet in the middle of the butter square.  Pinch the ends of the dough together to seal.

Using a rolling pin , tap the dough from the center outward until the butter begins to soften and become malleable.

Gently roll the dough into an 11-inch square, re-flouring the work surface as necessary to prevent sticking.

Fold the outside edges of the dough in toward the center in thirds, one overlapping the other, like a business letter.

Repeat this process folding the other direction to make a square.  (This completes two turns.)

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Roll the dough into an 11-inch square once more and repeat the two turns as before (business letter, then square).

Wrap in plastic wrap again and chill once more for at least 4 hours.  (At this point the dough can be refrigerated overnight).

To make the cream cheese filling, combine the cream cheese, lemon zest and sugar in a small bowl.  Mix well until smooth and blended.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

To make the apple filling, melt the butter in a large skillet or saucepan over medium heat.  Combine the apple slices, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and toss well to combine.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the apples are tender, about 15-18 minutes.  Let cool before using.

When you are ready to shape and bake the danish, preheat the oven to 400˚ F.

On a large, very well floured sheet of parchment paper roll the chilled dough into a 14-inch square.  (I’m very serious about flouring the work surface.  Trust me on this – you can brush off excess flour but if you don’t use enough, you’ll experience a lot of difficulty.  I speak from experience.)

Spread the cream cheese filling evenly down the middle third of the dough.

Lay the apples over the top of the cream cheese mixture.

Using a pizza cutter or a paring knife, cut the outer thirds of dough into ¾-inch strips so that the cuts are diagonal to the filling.

Alternating sides, fold the strips of dough over the filling, crisscrossing the strips over the center, until the entire Danish is braided.  (This is where you will be cursing everything if you didn’t use enough flour.  See the sticky dough?  It got even worse.  Good news though – you won’t even notice this after baking, so don’t throw in the towel just because of sticky dough.)

Transfer the braid, still on the parchment, to a baking sheet.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap and rise at room temperature until slightly puffy (it will not double), about 30 minutes.

Bake until the braid is golden brown, 22-26 minutes, rotating halfway through baking.

To make the glaze, combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to thin the glaze.  Transfer to a cooking rack and brush with the glaze while still hot.  Cool to room temperature.

To make the drizzle, combine the confectioners’ sugar and milk in a small bowl and whisk until smooth.  Add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time as needed to make it a drizzle-able consistency.  Drizzle over the finished braid.  Slice crosswise and serve.

Yummy flaky goodness.

Source: Baking Illustrated

78 Responses

  1. Thanks for the great pictures! I was always a little nervous about making these but with this tutorial I can’t wait to try it!

  2. yum and as ever, you make it look so easy to produce something that looks so professional.

  3. Gorgeous! And what a perfect treat for guests…they’d never leave if we served them this!

  4. Oh my goodness. This is soooo extensive!! When I saw the list of ingredients, I almost stopped reading! But I’m glad I didn’t – the pictures you provided are so helpful. Some weekend when I am feeling super ambitious, I will make this 🙂

  5. This reminds me so much of my grandpa – danishes were his favorite breakfast treat. I miss my grandpa and grandma a lot. He would have loved this spiced apple cream cheese danish – it looks amazing! I’ll be making this soon.

  6. This recipe looks too tasty, but I was wondering- do you think it would work to have fully assembled and ready for the final rise and refrigerate over night?

    • No, I think the dough would get soggy that way. If that worked, I think the cookbook would have mentioned it because they are normally very good about noting such make-ahead steps.

  7. I love your blog! I was just wondering if this freezes well (to take out over the holidays)? At what step would I put it in the freezer? Thank you so much for all the wonderful recipes. Made your pizza dough last night and it passed the 8 and 10 year old test! Yummy!

    • I don’t know, I haven’t tried freezing it. I think you could probably freeze the dough at the same point where I refrigerated overnight.

  8. This looks wonderful! I never tried to make Danishes because I always thought it was difficult, but your tutorial makes it look so easy! I have to make these soon!

  9. That is absolutely gorgeous!!

  10. These danish are wonderful…great explanation!!TY

    P.S. from today if you want you will find an english version to my recipes on my blog!!!xoxoxoxo ciao Flavia

  11. Oooh, that looks good. I’ve never tried making pastry dough like this, but maybe I’ll give it a try now. The pictures were very helpful!

  12. Nothing beats a great danish! Fantastic photos and instructions, so easy to follow 🙂

  13. This looks fantastic. I haven’t had a good danish in forever.

  14. this looks so delicious! brings back memories of entenmann’s growing up, but obviously this would take that to a completely different level!

  15. That was a great step by step picture tutorial! Love the final result! Bet it tasted even more delicious from all the hardwork you put into it!

  16. I cannot wait to make this!! You really do the absolute best tutorial posts, nothing is left to question!

  17. THANKS for the excellent step by step tutorial in how to make this dessert – much appreciated 🙂

  18. This is just gorgeous! The tutorial is really helpful too!

  19. Looks so good and I think even I can make it, thanks to your wonderful instructions and pictures. Thanks so much Annie 🙂

  20. Wow!! That looks amazing! Thank you for posting the step by step pictures… that helps so much. I will definitely be making this!

  21. oh wow, this looks amazing! i’m with you- i don’t want to eat something that only tastes so-so. maybe i’ll make this for christmas breakfast! 🙂

  22. This looks amazing! I had no idea danish required a butter square either. I’ve never tried making danish before, but will have to try. It looks like a process, but definitely one that’s worth it!!! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  23. I am sure it is as tasty as it is beautiful. Thank you!
    In the off chance I would still be intimidated to make the dough….what type of dough would I buy?

    • I have no idea, I don’t usually use any sort of refrigerated or frozen dough. Honestly I would probably just buy one from a bakery because making the dough itself is what makes it great. Making the filling with a premade dough wouldn’t have a result worth spending time on, in my opinion.

  24. So glad you picked this one. I’ve had a KA Flour recipe for lemon braid bookmarked forever, but was a bit intimidated. I love your raspberry cream cheese coffee cake, but this is the variation (a danish) that I really want for it. Thankd goodness for the pics, this looks fun and totally do-able. I will score major points with the danish loving inlaws, a very good thing indeed! Thank you!!

  25. Annie this looks amazing. Yum! You did a great job with the pics demonstrating all the different steps. I was just reading a croissant recipe and now with your great pics I may attempt them as well.

  26. You make even the difficult things looks so easy and so pretty!! I have to agree that the list of ingredients scared me but your pictures are motivating me to try this for Thanksgiving morning.

  27. This looks fantastic! I need to work up some courage before I attempt the butter square though 😉 Great recipe!

  28. This looks like an extremely long process, but the finished product looks very much worth the effort!!

  29. wow, this is so impressive! it looks wonderful! making this is a little intimidating, but the step-by-step pictures will definitely help. thanks!

  30. Where did you get the measuring mat that you use to shape and cut your pastry? Some that I’ve found are either not big enough or they are silicone and I can’t cut on them… and, well, for me it’s kind of essential. My wood table could would really appreciate it.

  31. Gorgeous, Annie!

  32. This is definitely being added to my bucket list….Looks great!! And I think I will try peach.

  33. Every word in the title of this recipe makes me drool!

  34. Wow, Annie, this looks wonderful. It reminds me of the best apple danish I ever had in Solvang, CA, a little Dutch town north of Los Angeles. I definitely would love to try and replicate that experience with this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  35. I hope who ever enjoyed eating this appreciated all the work you put into it! It looks delish:o)

  36. Like you, I have been a huge sucker for anything Danish in the morning! I will most definitely have to try this.

  37. That looks delicious! I so wish I could have a bite right now, yum!

  38. This is a absolutely gorgeous dessert! I love the tutorial pictures – pastries intimate me, but you make them seem very manageable. Thank you so much for this one!

  39. holy lord annie, you have such patience!! i would have given up after step ] 2342390542390453! lol GREAT GREAT GREAT job! this looks perfect!

  40. Gorgeous photos! This looks absolutely delightful!

  41. Yum! While I never really eat Danish, this may just change me over. Besides, since it contains apples, it’s instantly healthy, right? 🙂 Funny you mention croissants, as I have been thinking about trying those. Thanks for taking the time to show the details with the pictures. It makes it less overwhelming.

  42. This looks so deeeeee-licious. Making puff pastry (etc.) seems so daunting but once I saw the apples go on and the braids come together – completely special. This is on a whole other level than coffee house danishes. Gorgeous!

  43. Wow, they look amazing. I hope I make them one day. The recipe is saved in my bookmarks.

  44. oh god you are killing me

  45. This looks so perfect!

  46. I think I just died and went to heaven when I read your blog. 🙂

  47. Looks wonderful!! What is the little tool with the 2 rotary cutters on it called, and if you know where can one acquire it?


  48. Agreed with the comment above. You’re killing me with all the amazing photos of your amazing food♥ I might have to make them and eat it all myself!!


  49. This may be IMO the yummiest looking food you have posted yet!!

  50. OMG that looks so delicious!

  51. This looks incredible! I can’t believe how much work you put into this! I’m sure it was totally worth it though!

  52. I’m glad you did a picture tutorial for this one. At first I thought it was just the recipe and I was like “ahh, how will I do this??” Great photos and instruction.

  53. WOW!!! Annie you always amaze me! How do I become a follower on your blog…am I blind…I don’t see the follower section? Maybe you are so big and famous now, you just don’t keep track! Thanks for teaching me so much over the last year. I actually just posted about your wonderful blog on mine!

  54. You make it look so easy! It must be the most delicious thing on earth!

  55. Laminated doughs are a labor of love, but so worth it! Very similar to croissant prep:) Your danish turned out beautifully!

  56. holy cow. this is immaculate!! i’m always so scared to try these out… but with those step by step instructions I might give it a whirl. Looks fabulous!

  57. First, wow that looks YUMMY! I love danishes but I agree, I tend to be disappointed in the taste, so this will definitely be tried here.

    Second, this is what I really love about your blog – not only have I learned of some incredibly good recipes, I’m also learning techniques that I would have probably never seen – and therefore never tried for myself.

  58. after closer look at your pictures it looks like you do NOT cut on your mat. I looked online and saw that it was silicone, yes? Would you prefer one that you could cut & roll on?

    • I do cut on my mat, only with my pastry cutter, but with this recipe you have to do the cutting and shaping on the parchment since it transfers directly to the baking sheet.

  59. WOW! Thanks for all the pictures on this post!! SO helpful, I will definitely refer back to this. Now I just need to find a way to keep the boys busy so I can attempt this on my own…

  60. OMG really!!! lol this looks amazing! My husband loves danishes I will definitely have to give this one a try.

  61. what a great blog entry Annie, up there with your butterfly cupcakes for detail and beauty of pictures. I can only imagine how delicious this was to eat!

  62. Hello, Christmas morning breakfast! Thank you so much!

  63. Wow. What a labor of love. But in that final picture, it looks worth it!

  64. Oh My!! This looks beyond delicious!!! I’m so totally on board with your comment about if you are going to eat the calories it better be worth it and this DEFINITELY looks worth the calories!!

  65. YUM! As I’ve moved to Denmark, I feel obligated to make this Danish! Oh no… 😉

  66. Thanks for posting this. We just had this for breakfast – a lot of work to make but so worth the effort. Think I will make it when my in-laws are here (should impress them).

    I will say – I am a dietitian – and I had to ask my husband half way through, “How many calories do you think are in this?” (Ahh – the buttery and flaky crust!) He looked at me and said, “All of them.” I asked, “You mean – all that we need in a day?” He said, “No. I mean all the calories that exist are in this danish. People all over the world will be feasting and starving – because this danish sucked all the calories out of everything.” LOL! I just had to laugh and I had to share! Thanks for posting this recipe and thanks for raising my cholesterol levels! It was very good!

  67. You make it look so easy Annie!! Looks delicious!

  68. I just wanted to say THANK YOU for posting this recipe! The pictures made it so simple. I made the dough last night and served it this morning for our Thanksgiving breakfast amidst much praise.
    I’ve already blogged about it so check it out if you get a chance!

  69. That’s positively gorgeous. I bet it tastes amazing 🙂

  70. Thanks for sharing this recipe! I made a shortcut version for Thanksgiving (using puff pastry) and it was delicous! Someday when I have some time I’ll have to try out the full version!

  71. These were great, and relatively simple to assemble. I snuck a bite after glazing, but before adding the drizzle and thought it was perfect. After adding the drizzle, I found it far too sweet. Next time I make it, I will only use the glaze, and omit the drizzle. I ended up with a lot of leftover glaze and drizzle, so next time i will also halve the glaze recipe, or make two braids. Thanks for the helpful pictures.

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