This gluten free strawberry Danish braid is a truly beautiful thing, and one that I know you can master. If you've made light and flaky gluten free biscuits, then you can make gluten free Danish dough. If you haven't made gluten free biscuits, then we really should talk. Mastering the simple principles(yes, simple!) of pastry-making may seem overwhelming if working with pastry is unfamiliar, but I'm here and we're going to do it together. Like we've done everything else since the very beginning. When I started out baking gluten free 100 years ago (okay, 10 years ago but still), there were bean flour blends (ew) and pretty much nothing else was familiar. And look how far we've come. Tomorrow is the publication date of Gluten Free Classic Snacks. Inside that very special cookbook are gluten free copycat recipes for Kit Kats and Whoppers. If we can do that now, then we can do this.
If you've made the braided and stuffed gluten free pizza, the shape and method are almost the same. But, as always when working with pastry, the ingredients must be kept cold. Danish dough is a bit of a contradiction, though, as it's yeasted. Yeast needs warmth to rise fully, but we keep everything cold cold cold until 30 minutes before baking when we cover the Danish and allow it to proof. It will swell, but not double, and then will continue its flaking and puffing and general awesomeness in the oven.
The rewards for this labor of love are many, as you can see for yourself. If you've been missing real, honest-to-goodness flaky Danish, then this is the recipe for you. If they can make it with gluten, we can make it without. The promise lives!
Gluten Free Strawberry Danish Braid
1 recipe Gluten Free Croissant Dough, with more flour for sprinkling as directed in the croissant recipe
For the Filling
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
1 egg (any size) at room temperature, beaten
1/4 cup (50 g) granulated sugar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup seedless strawberry jam
1/2 pound fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced 1/8-inch thick
Egg wash (1 egg + 1 tablespoon water, beaten)
Coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
For the Glaze
1 cup (115 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk (any kind), plus more by the 1/4 teaspoonful if necessary
Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper, and set it aside. Prepare the gluten free Croissant dough through Step 5 (before shaping). Cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the filling. The dough may be made up to 3 days ahead of time and kept wrapped tightly in the refrigerator until ready to use. I do not recommend freezing yeasted dough.
Make the filling. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, place the cream cheese and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Add the egg, granulated sugar, salt and vanilla, and beat again on medium-high speed until smooth (about another 2 minutes). Set the filling aside.
Prepare the Danish dough. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it and place it on a piece of unbleached parchment sprinkled lightly with flour. Sprinkle the top lightly with more flour and roll the dough into a rectangle about 13-inches x 17-inches, and trim it down to a neat 12-inch x 16-inch rectangle. Transfer the dough to the parchment-lined baking sheet (remove the parchment from the baking sheet if it makes it easier to maneuver). Using a sharp knife, pizza wheel or pastry wheel, cut a 3 1/2-inch x 1 1/2-inch rectangle out of each of the 4 corners of the dough rectangle. This will allow you to wrap the ends of the braid securely around the filling. Position the dough rectangle so that one 12-inch side is facing your body as you work. Beginning about 1-inch from the top of each flap on the left and right-hand sides of the rectangle, cut 8 approximately 1-inch strips in those flaps. The filling will be placed in the center third of the rectangle, from the top to the bottom of the dough, as shown in the step-by-step photos above. If you have removed the parchment paper from the baking sheet to work on it, return it to the baking sheet now.
Assemble and proof the braid. First, spread the cream cheese filling in an even layer down the center panel of the dough using a small offset spatula or butter knife. Cover with the strawberry jam, similarly spread in an even layer. Cover the layer of jam with the sliced strawberries in an interlocking pattern to minimize the spaces in between the slices. To braid the Danish, start at the end closest to you. Pull the flap taught over the filling. (Only the flaps on the ends will be pulled taut. The rest of the braid should be much looser, allowing room for expansion in the oven.) Alternating sides, braid the 8 strips on each side of the rectangle over the filling, angling the strips slightly. Do not pull the strips taut. Stop braiding when you have reached the top two strips (one on each side) and the top flap. Pull the top flap taut up and over the end of the filling, and cover gently with the remaining two strips. Brush the entire surface of the Danish generously with the egg wash. Scatter the optional coarse sugar on the top of the braid and cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap. Place in a warm, draft-free location for 30 minutes. The dough will swell, but we are not looking for doubling.
Bake. Uncover the Danish and place it in the center of the preheated oven. Bake until golden brown all over (about 15 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes.
Make the glaze while the Danish is cooling. In a small bowl, place the confectioners’ sugar and 1 tablespoon of milk. Mix well, until a thick paste forms. Add more milk by the 1/4-teaspoon, mixing to combine well, until the glaze falls off the spoon slowly, in a thick but pourable glaze. Add milk very slowly, as it is much easier to thin, than to thicken, the glaze. If you do thin the glaze too much, add more confectioners’ sugar a teaspoon at a time to thicken it. Drizzle the glaze in zigzag patterns all over the top of the cooled Danish. Slice and serve.