I’m beginning to think I have a serious weakness for breakfast pastries. If I indulged at breakfast as often as I’d like to…well, let’s just say restraint can be a good thing. Sometimes a splurge is absolutely essential, especially when faced with a freshly baked Danish. This sweet yeasted bread is a bit of a cheat on the classic laminated Danish pastry, but every bit as delicious thanks to the tender cream cheese dough that rolls out like a dream.
Fresh Bing cherries take the spotlight here, topping a layer of almond paste for one irresistible filling. Drizzled with sweet Amaretto glaze, the only accompaniment this braid needs is freshly brewed coffee.
If you’ve never baked a Danish braid, now is the time. Red Star Yeast is the answer to all bread baking anxiety, and this braid is extremely straightforward to assemble. Best of all, you can prepare it the night before and bake it in the morning – for a moment, you too might be tempted to open a bakery.
- 6 Tbsp (90 g) low fat milk
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 package Red Star PLATINUM Yeast
- 2 Tbsp (17 g) flour
- 1/4 cup (48 g) sugar
- 4 oz (113 g) reduced fat cream cheese, softened
- 3 Tbsp (42 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups (315 g) flour, divided
- 2 cups (312 g) Bing cherries, pitted and quartered
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp Amaretto
- 2 Tbsp (28 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 4 oz (112 g) almond paste, cubed
- 1/4 cup (48 g) sugar
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1/2 cup (60 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 1/2 Tbsp (7 g) unsalted butter, melted
- 1 Tbsp milk
- 1 tsp Amaretto
- For the sponge, heat milk in a microwave-safe measuring cup for 45 seconds to 1 minute, until very warm (120-130°F). Whisk together warm milk, sugar, yeast, and flour in a medium bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand 15 minutes.
- For the dough, combine sugar, cream cheese, butter, salt, vanilla, egg, and sponge in a large mixer bowl; beat at medium speed for 1 minute until combined. Add 2 cups (280 g) flour and mix in at low speed until a soft dough forms, about 2 to 3 minutes. Switch out the flat beater for a dough hook, and knead dough for 4 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding remaining 1/4 cup (35 g) of flour 1 tablespoon at a time to prevent dough from sticking. The dough is ready when it feels tacky but doesn't stick to your fingers.
- Place dough in a large bowl coated with nonstick spray and cover with plastic. Let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 50 minutes. To check if dough has doubled, lightly flour two fingers and press them down into center of dough. If indentations remain, dough has risen enough.
- While the dough rises, prepare the filling. Combine cherries, sugar, and Amaretto in a medium bowl. Let stand 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Place cherries and their juices in a heavy saucepan over medium heat; cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until cherries have softened and mixture has thickened. Remove cherries from heat and cool to room temperature. Combine butter, almond paste, and sugar in a food processor and pulse for 1 minute until combined.
- Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and dust lightly with flour. Gently punch down dough and roll out into a 12 x 15-inch rectangle on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle almond paste mixture down the center of the dough, leaving a 4-inch border on each side and a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Spoon cherries over almond paste mixture. Use a sharp knife or kitchen shears to cut 15 1-inch strips on both sides of dough (be careful not to cut parchment paper).
- Remove the four corner strips and fold top border down over filling. Work from top to bottom and fold strips over filling, alternating strips diagonally (begin by folding over the top left strip, then fold the top right strip, then a left strip, and so on). When all the strips are folded over filling, fold up the bottom border and press to seal. Cover braid loosely with plastic and let rise 25 minutes. (Prepare ahead: After braid rests, cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before baking).
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush braid with milk and bake until golden, 19 to 20 minutes. Cool braid on a wire rack. For the glaze, whisk together powdered sugar, salt, melted butter, milk, and Amaretto in a small bowl. Drizzle glaze over braid; let set before serving.
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Disclosure: I was compensated by Red Star Yeast for the development of this recipe. All opinions expressed are my own.