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Danish Custard/Apple Plaits

This rich yeast dough has become a timeless classic, baked and enjoyed all over the world! The plait at the top has a custard filling and the plait at the bottom has an apple filling. They are equally delicious!

Danish Pastry
1 x 8 g or 10 g sachet instant yeast
3 cups (750 ml) Standard grade (cake) flour
¼ cup (60 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) salt
1 cup (250 ml) milk, very mildly lukewarm
3 eggs
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence
± 1 cup (250 ml) extra flour
250 g butter

Custard Filling (see the recipe for an apple filling below)
3 cups (750 ml) milk
pinch salt
¼ cup (60 ml) Standard grade (cake) flour
¼ cup (60 ml) custard powder
1/3 cup (75 ml) cornflour
½ cup (125 ml) extra milk
3 eggs
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla essence
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
sugar to sprinkle over the custard

Quick Icing Glaze
1 cup (250 ml) icing sugar
± 3 Tbsp (45 ml) brandy or milk

±½ cup (125 ml) smooth apricot jam
±½ cup (125 ml) flaked almonds, lightly toasted (5 min / 160°C)
red or red and green glacé cherries

  1. Mix the yeast with the 3 cups (750 ml) flour. Add the salt, sugar, milk, eggs and vanilla and beat well. Add sufficient of the extra flour to form a soft, slightly sticky dough and knead on a floured surface for about 5 minutes only until smooth and slightly elastic.
  2. Cut the butter into six slices and sprinkle with flour. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to a rectangle (30 x 20 cm) and place three slices of butter, crosswise in the center. Fold the dough from the one shorter side over the slices and place the remaining three slices on top of the folded dough. Fold over the remaining dough from the other side to cover the butter..
  3. Turn the folded dough 90° and roll out to a rectangle of the same size as previously. Fold in the edges from both of the shorter sides to meet in the center and fold once more to close like a book. Turn the dough 90°. Repeat the rolling and folding 3 times more until the dough has been rolled and folded about 4 times. Streaks of butter will still be visible.
  4. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and refrigerate at least 3 – 4 or up to 6 -8 hours before shaping and baking. The dough should have risen to about 1½ times original size. Roll out, shape and fill the pastries according to the instructions given below.
  5. To make the custard, heat the milk to boiling point. Combine the salt, cake flour, custard powder and cornflour and mix to a smooth paste with the extra milk. Stir a little of the hot milk into the mixture, return to the saucepan and bring to boil over moderate heat, stirring with a whisk until the mixture thickens. Boil gently for 2 minutes.
  6. Beat the eggs well and beat in 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the hot mixture. Return to the saucepan and cook over moderate heat, stirring until the mixture starts to boil. Boil gently for about 3 min more, stirring until eggs have cooked and thickened the custard.
  7. Add vanilla and sugar and beat well. Sprinkle lightly with sugar to prevent a skin and cool to room temperature before using.
  8. When ready to shape the plaits, divide the pastry into 3 portions and roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface to a neat rectangle about 1½ cm thick and about 20 x 30 cm.
  9. Lightly and without cutting through the pastry, draw three lines with a sharp pointed knife down the length of the rectangle to mark the pastry into quarters. Cut the outer marked portions herring-bone style into about 1½ cm wide strips. Spoon 1/3 of the filling onto the center portion – not closer than 2 cm from the marked lines of the side strips to ensure that the filling does not leak out.
  10. Fold over about 2 cm dough at both ends over the filling. Fold in the strips, alternating from each side in such a way that the sides will be formed by uncut dough and the strips will cover the filling completely to form a plait with enclosed filling. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.
  11. Lift the plaits carefully onto greased baking trays of a suitable size and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or up to two hours.
  12. Preheat the oven to 190°C when almost ready to bake. Place the chilled pastries into the oven and bake 5 minutes. Reduce heat to 170°C and bake about 20 – 25 minutes more or until golden and firm. Cover loosely with foil to prevent over-browning if necessary.
  13. To complete the pastries, heat the apricot jam gently in a small saucepan on top of the stove or in the microwave oven on MEDIUM for about 30 seconds. Brush over the warm pastries. and allow to cool.
  14. To make the glaze, mix the icing sugar with enough of the brandy or milk to form a smooth glaze which will drizzle readily over the completed pastries.
  15. Drizzle icing glaze over the top and sprinkle with toasted flaked almonds and small chips of cherries. Slice and serve or refrigerate until required or up to two days.

The custard may also be cooked in the microwave on High. Follow the same steps as described above and remove from the microwave and beat with a whisk in between each step. Cook until bubbly and thickened and complete step 3.

Apple Filling  
410 g tin unsweetenend pie apples
15 ml sugar
2 ml ground cinnamon
15 ml raisins and/or sultanas (optional)
Mix the apple with the rest of the ingredients and use the apple filling as a substitute for the custard filling.

Recipe by Carolié de Koster from Art Of Cooking page 854.