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Dough You Love Me: A Laminated Pastry Dough FAQ and a Daring Bakers Challenge

Danish Pastry Time

It's late June, and high time for another Daring Bakers Challenge. This month's challenge? A Danish Braid. What, never heard of Danish Braid? Well, neither had we, but let us tell you, it's one doozy of a recipe (check it out here), prominently featuring laminated dough--a component which can strike fear into the hearts of even accomplished bakers. OK, to be fair though, perhaps it's not so much difficult as it is time consuming and trying on one's patience, what with its multiple between-step chillings and wait periods. However, rather than using these lag times to say, watch Law & Order or to read In Touch Weekly we instead took it upon ourselves to become better acquainted with the world of laminated doughs--here's a bit of what we learned:


You say that Danish Dough is a laminated dough. What precisely does that mean?
According to Baking911.com, "Laminated Dough" is made by encasing butter in dough, and taking it through a series of folds, rolling and turns to produce layers of butter in between sheets of dough. The leavening in these doughs is mainly derived from the steam generated by the moisture from the butter--the laminated fat traps water vapor and carbon dioxide formed during baking, and as steam expands in the oven, it lifts and separates the individual layers.

One of the more famous types of laminated dough is Puff Pastry (which makes mille-fueilles), which rises solely on the steam and has a bit more butter; however, Danish dough, its close laminated cousin, gets an added lift (literally) from yeast.


Additionally, as smart and cute Cakespy reader E-Dizzle clarifies:

There are three basic laminated doughs: Puff pastry has no yeast, and is used to make yummy things like palmiers, cheese twists and any sort of super-flaky tart or crust. The dough itself isn't sweet, so it can be used for sweet or savory pastries.


Croissant dough and danish dough are very similar, both containing yeast. But croissant doughs are considered very "lean" (crazy, I know) because the detrempe (which I just call "the doughy bit") has only flour, salt, water and yeast. Danish dough, however, is considered "rich" because it contains eggs and dairy, and sometimes sugar.

In the recipe, there's a term called "détrempe". What is that?
We think we figured it out though: détrempe refers to the dough part of the pastry, before the second part, the "beurrage"--the butter part--is added, which is what "laminates" it (in shiny buttery deliciousness).
Croissants at Belle Epicurean at their stand in the University MarketHello, Carbohydrates!
So...in layman's terms, what is the difference between Danish Dough and Puff Pastry (two of the laminated doughs cited above)?
Puff Pastry has more butter and no yeast--the resulting pastry is flaky and melt-in-your-mouth buttery. Danish dough contains yeast, which we find gives it a slightly chewier and less flaky texture.


Carbohydrates!If they were to have a faceoff, which would win--puff pastry or danish dough?
Really, would you ask us to choose between a flaky puff pastry or a delicious Danish? Apples and oranges, we tell you. Surely here's enough room in the world for all sorts of dough. Vive le carbohydrate!

What are some examples of pastries made with Danish Dough?
Well, the Danish, naturally--but pinwheels, envelopes and turnovers are frequently made using this type of dough. Also, though not always, a lot of kolache recipes call for a Danish-y dough.

Kolaches, Great Harvest Bread, Ballard, SeattleWhoa, sidebar: what's a kolache?
According to Wikipedia, Kolache (also spelled kolace, kolach, or kolacky, from the Czech and Slovak plural koláče) are a type of pastry consisting of fillings ranging from fruits to cheeses inside a bread roll. Originally only a sweet dessert from Central Europe, they have become popular in parts of the United States (strangely, they seem to have a big concentration in the American midwest, with kolache havens occurring in Oklahoma and Texas, which both boast annual Kolache festivals; however, Montgomery MN cites itself as the "Kolacky Capital of the World". Fighting words, anyone?). A picture of a kolache we found in Seattle at the Great Harvest Bread Company's Ballard location, is pictured left.


Can puff pastry and Danish Dough be used interchangeably?Columbia City Bakery Fruit and Cream Danish

We can't say for sure since we haven't tried, and really there would be nothing wrong with the flavor combinations per se--in fact, we've even seen Danish that has had the distinct look of puff pastry (see left, photo of a cream-and-fruit Danish from the Columbia City Bakery in Seattle). Will we be making this leap in the future though? Don't look out for it--our fear of ruining a delicious recipe is too great. Though perhaps this just means we're pastry prudes who badly need to take a walk on the wild side.


Why does it take so long to make my own dough?

Well, they say that Rome wasn't built in a day, and similarly, good Danish Dough must not be rushed. While the waiting periods (a half hour here to chill, another half hour there) may seem fussy, we advise that you wait it out--the taste of your baked goods will reward you at the end. And plus, all of those waiting periods leave you so much time to find cool stuff on the internet or even to drop by the nearest bakery to pick up an appetizer sweet.
Why are so many laminated doughs braided, slit or otherwise disfigured on top?
Though this can add visual appeal, it is mainly to let excess steam out while baking.
...speaking of which, shouldn't you be checking on your Danish braid about now?
#$%! Be right back.

Pastry Time!
(Several moments pass; we return to our questioning, with the slightest bit of sugary glaze and fruit filling still clinging around the corners of our mouths--see left).

It's clear your mind is on other things now. So...where can I learn more about laminated doughs?
Well, we recently saw a great show by Alton Brown explaining all about Puff Pastry (and boy is he cute!), or you could also turn to puffpastry.com, a site operated by Pepperidge Farms which has recipes, forums and information on laminated doughs; for more information on all things laminated dough (both Puff Pastry and Danish Dough), also visit baking911.com!
Postscript: The chewing resumes, the light dims, and yes--our spies realize that really and truly, homemade Danish Dough--especially when filled with fresh preserves (we chose cherry)--is a thing of beauty.


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Reader Comments (57)

Wasn't it just the most fabulous tasting stuff?! And did you not LOVE the scent in your kitchen while it was baking? I'm a little embarrassed to admit how quickly we (mostly me) ate ours.

Love the look of your braid, btw... the sugar on top is just gorgeous.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterAnn

wow... super flaky! it almost looks like puff pastry it is so flaky... Gorgeous!!!!

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterAran

beautiful and slightly scary danish.
alton brown is a cutie.

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterbonnie

Thanks for all the background info - I was not curious enough to find out all of this for myself, soappreciate your insights. Great looking braid too - cherry preserves filling sounds devine.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterCakelaw

I dough love your dough! I dough love your post as well!

Great post. I never really knew what Danish dough involved. As a kid I spent summers in northern Wisconsin at camp - Each Sunday morning we all got exactly one fresh homemade Danish. It must have been a specialty of the camp cook. It was indescribably delicious and even more precious because each of us just got one.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi A

Informative and clever as usual! I love the sugary crust you added to your Danish.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterDana McCauley

a challenge!

June 29 | Unregistered Commentermoonrat

I love your post and your Danish looks great!

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterRobyn

mmm...appetizer sweet.
That's one wicked looking cherry danish.

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterrainbowbrown

Thanks for the breakdown. Thats why I felt something was off. Im more famialiar to puff pasrty without yeast.Great post as usual you guys and your braids look scrumptious.

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterglamah16

Oh my God! I love fresh puff pastry sooo much. That first picture looks amazing! Yum! :-)

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterZen Chef

Awww..what a cute picture at the top of your post! Your braid looks lovely..great job.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterTanya

Vive le carbohydrate indeed! And thanks for the advanced education in all things laminate. Great job with June's challenge.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterDolores

You know, it wasn't until I had served the braid that I realized I was making a pastry. I honestly thought I was making a "bread." I think had I read your article beforehand I would have been more delicate with my dough. Jessie, you did a great job! I love how light & flaky yours looks.

Yes, if I have a taste-off between the apple pie & apple danish braid, then you will be my guest of honor at the judging - wouldn't have it any other way!

xoxox Amy

Yours looks so beautiful. But not nearly as hilarious as my first attempt, which looks like a psychotic made it while underwater. Wearing a pith helmet.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterBMoreSweet

Wonderful danish and great interview!

June 29 | Unregistered Commenterbreadchick

Very informative and truely a thing of beauty! Interview was great!

Hi! I've been seeing your art all over the foodie sites - but had no idea you were a DB! Glad I dropped in - that's the scariest looking delicious danish I've seen! (you are too funny.)

that is an awesomely flaky dough! poor little cupcakes are about to be gobbled up by the danish!

I always learn something when I read your blog entries!!

Your danish looks amazing!! I love the choice of cherries as a filling. Oh, and tell those poor cuppies not to be frightened! Mr. Danish won't eat them....

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterVegan_Noodle

Great post! Your danish looks so flaky and even! I have to be the fact A-hole, though, and point out that while danish dough does indeed make, uh, danishes, puff dough does NOT make croissants.

There are three basic laminated doughs: Puff pastry has no yeast, and is used to make yummy things like palmiers, cheese twists and any sort of super-flaky tart or crust. The dough itself isn't sweet, so it can be used for sweet or savory pastries.

Croissant dough and danish dough are very similar, both containing yeast. But croissant doughs are considered very "lean" (crazy, I know) because the detrempe (which I just call "the doughy bit") has only flour, salt, water and yeast. Danish dough, however, is considered "rich" because it contains eggs and dairy, and sometimes sugar.

All the doughs are time-consuming, but the yeasted ones can be a bit harder to roll out, because they tend to bounce back. And puff actually gets a few more "turns" (or folds) than the other two, making even thinner, flakier layers. Of course, the thing they all have in common is that they're delicious. Fatty, but delicious.

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterE-Dizzle

I had to laugh when I saw, through your blog and others, that this month's daring bakers thingy was danish dough/danish-like pastries. I can't tell you how many millions of these I made while in culinary school! We mostly used croissant dough, which is very similar, and you can do the same things with it, and the danish dough was a bit tougher to work with since it had a higher butter content. I learned to love a good danish/pain au chocolate/bear claw/etc. while in school, but nowadays I don't have anyone to bake them for and I certainly am not going to make them for myself!

E-Dizzle: Thanks, I edited that! xo

June 29 | Unregistered CommenterCakespy

you win for best front picture. delish. and good FAQ

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