Are These Danishes or Doughnuts? Whatever, We Want 'Em!

March 31, 2017

I’m a big fan of repurposing some of my favorite recipes and mixing them up to make new ones. One such workhorse is brioche dough. On a weekend morning, it could be cinnamon rolls. But it could also be babka, rolls, or even fried into some epic doughnuts. This recipe is a new favorite remix—individual pastries lightly sweetened and topped with thinly sliced apples. I cut the apples a bit like Hasselback potatoes, so they’re still connected at the base. As they bake in the oven, they open up a bit, blooming into a beautiful, breakfast-ready danishes.

Photo by James Ransom

Want to try it out? Here's what you need to know:

Mixing + Handling

Brioche is an enriched, yeasted dough; “enriched” means it contains ingredients like eggs, milk, and butter. Because brioche is awesome, it contains all three. On top of that, I add some spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg) for that winning combination of comfort plus warmth.

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Enrichments give the dough everything we love about it: its soft texture, buttery flavor, and golden brown color post-baking. It also makes the dough really, really soft. I mean, the stuff is almost 50% butter! This is amazing once it’s time to eat, but can be difficult to work with. We need to mix it to full or “intense” gluten development in order for it to be strong enough to manipulate into different shapes—rounds, squares, doughnuts—anything! Rather than using a ton of flour to keep the dough from sticking while you roll it out—which will make dough too tough—I suggest working with when it is as cold as possible.

Photo by James Ransom

This means I have to mix my brioche dough the day before I want to bake the Danish. I let it have its first rise at room temperature, then transfer it to the refrigerator to rest and chill overnight. The flavor of the dough will also benefit from a night of sleeping in the fridge. (For more on slowing down and speeding up yeast rise times, check this out.) This overnight rise also means you don’t have to use room temperature eggs or warm milk—you can use all ingredients straight from the refrigerator, easy peasy. If you have trouble handling the dough, you can also work in batches, rolling out and cutting a portion of the dough (I usually work with about half at a time), and keeping the rest chilled while you work.

Photo by James Ransom

Shaping the Dough

Other than the softness of the dough, shaping the Danish couldn’t be easier—just roll the dough out to about 1/2 inch of thickness, and cut it into rounds using a 3-inch cookie cutter or the rim of a glass. As you cut out the circles, transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving at least 1 inch between each piece. You can re-roll the scraps of dough once, but if you re-roll too many times, the dough will start to get tougher. I usually opt to refrigerate the scraps and later fry them in a few inches of hot oil to make scrappy doughnuts. Just toss in cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar and nom away.

When all the dough is cut out, cover the pieces with greased plastic wrap—or give it a quick coating with nonstick spray, like I do—and let the pieces rise until they’re noticeably puffy. Because the dough is cold from the fridge, this may take awhile, from 45 minutes to an hour.

Photo by James Ransom

Preparing the Topping

While the dough rises, prepare the topping. Peel the apples; Honeycrisps are my favorite. Cut them into quarters, then cut away the core from each piece at an angle, leaving a flat surface (see photo for reference). Thinly slice each piece of apple, but not fully – like for hasselback potatoes. Cut the apple 3/4 of the way through, allowing the pieces to separate at the top but stay together at the base.


Just before the brioche pieces are done rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F). Brush the surface of each piece with an egg wash. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over the surface of each piece of dough. Place a prepared sliced apple quarter in the center of each brioche. Sprinkle dark brown sugar evenly over the surface of each apple – don’t be afraid to nudge it into the grooves between the slices of apple. Place a small pat of butter (about ½ teaspoon) on top of each apple.

Photo by James Ransom


Bake the brioche until the apples are tender (about 17 to 22 minutes), and the brioche is golden brown. The sugar on the brioche will crackle a bit on the surface. For some apples, the sugar will melt a little and make them soft, others will stay firm and get a bit crunchy. Both are delicious. Let the brioche cool at least 10 minutes before serving. They are seriously amazing if you eat them warm.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

I always have three kinds of hot sauce in my purse. I have a soft spot for making people their favorite dessert, especially if it's wrapped in a pastry crust. My newest cookbook, Savory Baking, came out in Fall of 2022 - is full of recipes to translate a love of baking into recipes for breakfast, dinner, and everything in between!

1 Comment

Lynn S. April 2, 2017
Can the dough be made in advance and frozen before rising? If so, for how long?