When you think of danish, you probably think of buttery pastries made with many layers of tender dough and filled with anything from sweet cream cheese to fresh fruit to nuts. A danish is definitely a decadent way to start off the day, but it is also fairly time consuming to make the dough from scratch if you want to bake your own. This Quick and Easy Braided Cherry Danish offers a simpler, more streamlined alternative to traditional danishes. The dough is still buttery and rich, but it contains no yeast and can be ready to put into the oven only minutes after getting out your ingredients.
This danish reminds me of the Quick and Easy Cinnamon Bun Bread that I’ve made several times because of the way it translates a usually time-consuming recipe into a much simpler one. This recipe was based on one that I saw on the Smucker’s website that calls for Bisquick as a base for the pastry. My dough doesn’t use any baking mixes and is just as easy to make. The dough is made with butter and cream cheese, both of which are cut into a mixture of flour, salt, leaveners and sugar before milk is added to form a dough. You can get a very flaky dough by leaving the butter and cream cheese in fairly large chunks when you cut them into the flour mixture. The pastry, once baked, will be heavier than a danish dough made in the traditional way and a bit more biscuit-like. That said, it is still a light, very tender and very tasty base for a much-less-time-consuming danish with a great buttery flavor that is a perfect canvas for all kinds of fillings.
I filled my danish dough with all natural cherry preserves that had lots of cherries in them. You can use any kind of preserves you like, but I definitely recommend using something with juicy pieces of whole fruits and being generous when you spread it onto the dough. The more filling you use, the more flavorful your danish will be. Good quality preserves are the easiest choice, but you can make your own filling by cooking fresh fruit with sugar (like making a pie filling) until thick on the stovetop and using that as your filling, too.
This danish is excellent when it is freshly made, when the top of the pastry is slightly crisp and the filling is still slightly warm from the oven. It can be baked a day in advance, but the pastry is at its peak that first day. Fortunately, since it is so easy to make, this is the perfect dish to throw together on a weekend morning for a homemade pastry to enjoy with your coffee.
Quick and Easy Braided Cherry Danish
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 cup butter, cold
3-oz cream cheese, cold
3/4 cup milk
1 cup good quality cherry preserves (or other flavor)
2 tbsp milk or cream, for topping
2-3 tbsp coarse sugar, for topping
Preheat oven to 400F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, salt, cream of tartar, baking powder and sugar.
Cut butter and cream cheese into several large pieces and add to flour mixture. Rub butter and cheese into the dough as you would for making pie crust. Do not over-incorporate butter for best results. Mixture should resemble very coarse sand, with most of the butter and cream cheese broken down into pieces the size of large peas (or slightly larger). Stir in milk.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead lightly 10 to 12 times until dough comes together and is smooth. Dough should be soft and easy to handle.
Roll dough into a rectangle that is approximately 12” x 8”. Transfer to prepared baking sheet.
Spread jam lengthwise down center third of the dough, making a fairly thick layer. Using a sharp knife or a pair of kitchen shears make diagonal 1-inch cuts at 1-inch on each of the long sides of the dough. Fold strips over filling.
Brush dough with 2 tbsp milk or cream and sprinkle with coarse sugar.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet or on a wire rack for at least 20 minutes before serving.