A couple of years ago my husband and I attended a week-long seminar at the John C. Campbell Folk School in beautiful Brasstown, North Carolina. The school is based on the Danish design of a “Folkehøjskole” which is a non-competitive setup and emphasizing on teaching practical skills. They offer classes in anything from Clay to Dance to Knitting to Music to Woodworking, and so much more. Your days at the Folk School are filled with many activities from sunrise to sunset, but although busy it is also relaxing and the school is set in an incredibly peaceful environment. Joe took Blacksmithing and I took Scandinavian Baking. The baking class was taught by Kim Hendrickson who was full of useful baking/cooking tips and who had answers to all of my 101 questions about yeast and baking techniques. It was a week filled with baking delicious treats, some of which I was familiar with and some which were new to me. I hope that Joe and I can one day go back to the Folk School for more classes for we had such a wonderful time there and we got to meet so many interesting people.
I have known Wienerbrød my entire life but I had never attempted to make it until my Folk School stay. Wienerbrød is a Danish specialty and outside of Denmark it is referred to as a “Danish”, but believe me, it is nothing like the Danish that you pick up at your local 7/11. Wienerbrød comes in many different shapes and with numerous types of fillings. There are two ways to make this dough, that I know of. The traditional way is to roll out the yeast dough, cover parts of it with thinly sliced butter, fold into numerous layers, roll out and repeat folding and rolling. This process of rolling and folding the dough with the butter is what gives the pastry a crisp and flaky texture. The second method is the “quick” method where flour and butter is combined in a food processor and pulsed until the butter is the size of kidney beans. You still have to roll and fold the dough several times and so I’m not really sure it’s any quicker, but the dough turns out perfectly. Wienerbrød is a time-consuming pastry to make but the outcome is super delicious and so if you decided to make it, I am confident that you won’t regret it. Please enjoy.
Update: This recipe makes 2 braids. You can easily freeze half of the dough for later use. Wrap dough in cling wrap, then wax or parchment paper and finally a freezer bag. When ready to use defrost in refrigeator.
Makes 2 pastry braids.
3 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cold unsalted butter
2 packages active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
1/2 cup warm water (105 – 115 degrees Fahrenheit)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
seedless raspberry preserves
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons water
pearl sugar, for topping
sliced almonds, optional, for topping
1 cup powdered sugar
2-3 teaspoons warm milk
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Place flour into bowl of food processor with steel blade. Cut butter into 1/4 inch slices and add to flour. Pulse flour and butter until the butter id the size of kidney beans.
In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the cream, cardamom, salt, eggs and sugar. Using a rubber spatula, turn the flour/butter mixture into the liquid and carefully mix just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours, overnight or up to 4 days.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, dust with flour. Roll out dough to make a 16 to 20 inch square. Fold dough into thirds, rotate dough a quarter of turn and fold into thirds again, making a small square. Turn over dough. Repeat rolling and folding another two times (making it a total 3 times of rolling and folding). Ending with a small square, wrap dough and chill for 30 minutes or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Divide the chilled dough into two parts. Roll each part into a 6 x 12 inch rectangle. (If not making both braids at the same time, wrap the second half of dough and place in refrigerator until ready to roll out).
Spread filling down the length of center of each rectangle. Cut slanting strips at 3/4 inch intervals along both sides towards to center. Fold strips over the filling in a criss-cross manner. Place both braids onto baking sheets and let dough rise for 15-30 minutes until pastry appears puffy. It will not double in size. Lightly beat the egg and water for the glaze. Once dough has been allowed to rise, brush the pastry with the glaze. sprinkle with pearl sugar and/or almonds.
Bake 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. To make icing, mix together powdered sugar, warm milk and almond extract. Drizzle icing on top and let set before cutting. Enjoy!
Source: Kim Hendrickson at J. C. Campbell Folk School