Cherry-Almond Danish

December  6, 2012
4 Ratings
Photo by James Ransom
  • Makes 1 large or 2 small danishes
Author Notes

Once a year, at Christmas, my mother would make a morning danish. Her cherry almond twist had a buttery, downy crumb and layers of almond and cherry filling. The recipe came from a 1965 clipping in a magazine called "The American Home." It's remarkably easy to make. The dough, with its larding of butter and milk, is soft and easy to manage. And if you don't feel like kneading, then don't. Just cover the dough and let it proof overnight in the fridge.

I made a tweak to the recipe, because in the 47 years since the recipe was published, some improvements have been made to our food system -- also we've come to our senses. No longer do you need to speckle the dough with those abominable red candied cherries. We now have tart and sweet dried cherries -- and I took them and plumped them with some hot rum, and subbed them in.

When it comes time to shape the dough, don't stress. This dough is the most easy-going danish you'll ever meet. Flatten it with a rolling pin. Spread the almond filling on top, leaving an inch border on the side you want to use to seal the dough log. Dot it with the rum-cherries, and roll it up. Take your two rolls and twist them, like a twist-tie. Child's play!

In the version above, I forgot that I was supposed to make two twists with the dough, so instead I produced a mammoth loaf. It was a pretty impressive sight, the Mcmansion of danishes! It's also faster to make just one, but if you want to have a loaf for your family and a loaf to give away, then split the dough and make two twists. Do what you feel like, it's Christmas! —Amanda Hesser

What You'll Need
  • Basic Yeast Dough
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105° to 115° F.)
  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 5 to 5 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • Cherry-Almond Filling
  • 2/3 cup dried cherries
  • 1/4 cup rum (or other dark spirit)
  • 2 egg whites
  • one 7-ounce tube almond paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/4 cup sliced, blanched almonds
  • Sugar, for sprinkling
  1. Basic Yeast Dough
  2. The day before baking the twist: pour the milk in a small saucepan and place the pan over medium heat. When bubbles begin to form around the edges and the milk steams, remove it from the heat and let it cool to lukewarm. Measure ¼ cup lukewarm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, or a large mixing bowl; sprinkle in the yeast; stir to dissolve.
  3. Add the lukewarm milk, sugar, salt, eggs, and 1 cup flour, and blend. Mix in the butter. Beat in 2 cups of flour until the mixture is smooth. Add enough remaining flour to make a very soft dough. Knead in the mixer with the dough hook, or turn dough out onto a work surface dusted with flour and knead 3 to 4 minutes to until dough is soft and velvety and little blisters appear just under the surface. Put into large well-greased bowl; turn dough over to bring greased side up. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  4. The next day: punch the dough down (it will be quite stiff from chilling); let rise again, this time at room temperature, 60 to 90 minutes or until almost doubled. Meanwhile, proceed with the instructions for the filling.
  1. Cherry-Almond Filling
  2. While the dough rises, prepare the cherry almond filling: put the cherries, rum, and ¼ cup water in a small sauce pan. Bring to a simmer, cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and let cool.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the egg whites until foamy; crumble in the almond paste. Pulse until all the lumps are blended in. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and the butter. Set aside.
  4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut into 2 equal pieces (4 pieces if you're making 2 twists). Roll each piece out to a 6x15-inch rectangle. Spread each rectangle with half the almond-paste mixture; dot each with half the cherries (drained of the cooking syrup). Roll each piece up from the long side, jelly-roll fashion. Pinch the edges well to seal the seam to help keep the filling inside the dough. Put the two filled rolls side by side, seams down; twist one roll over the other forming a fat rope shape. Pinch the ends of the twist to seal, and tuck under any unsightly parts!
  5. Place the twist on the prepared baking sheet. Beat the egg yolk with 2 tablespoons water; brush this on top of the twist. Scatter the almonds over the twist; sprinkle with sugar. Cover; let rise until almost doubled in bulk, about 40 minutes. Bake until browned and cooked through, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pan 180-degrees halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. Let cool before eating, if you have the inner strength.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Suhyun Yun
    Suhyun Yun
  • AntoniaJames
  • Wulffmom
  • Maryjane May Molinari
    Maryjane May Molinari
  • DessertByCandy
Amanda Hesser

Recipe by: Amanda Hesser

Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.

35 Reviews

Julie M. April 17, 2020
I'm not a huge fan of rum; does it have a very rummy taste?
What other dark spirits do you think would work well in this?
How do you think bourbon would do?
Mrs B. December 28, 2018
Simply sublime, two days out, toasted. I made this twisting four strands into two smaller loaves, rather than two to make one large one; one might not be able to toast slices from the larger single loaf. Also, may I respectfully recommend increasing the cherries when making two loaves. When I made this recipe twisting one loaf, the quantity of cherries called for seemed right, but with two, one might have liked a few more cherries in each loaf.
Amanda H. December 29, 2018
Great tip -- and thank you for suggesting it. More cherries for all!
Beverly November 13, 2016
Can the dough be partially baked and frozen for later use?
Amanda H. November 13, 2016
I haven't tried it. You can fully bake it and then freeze the loaf (well wrapped).
Suhyun Y. December 30, 2014
Can I subtitute dried cherries into other dried fruits?
Amanda H. December 30, 2014
AntoniaJames December 29, 2014
Excellent recipe - perfect for celebrating good times with family this time of year.

My notes:

I mixed the dough using a much simpler process, taking advantage of the convenience of "instant" (also known as "rapid rise" yeast), which I use exclusively for my artisanal loaves. Instant yeast is just like active dry yeast, except that it does not have the coating on it that makes it necessary to soften active dry yeast before mixing into the flour. It does not cause the dough to rise any more quickly than active dry yeast.

For the dough, I mixed all of the wet ingredients (but not the butter) together to blend, then added about half the flour and stirred it well to make a thick batter. I stirred in the rest of the flour to make a shaggy dough, which I then let rest for about 30 minutes. (I sifted 585 grams of flour directly into the mixing bowl. That's 15 grams more than the 114 ounces per cup that my Food52 friends on the Hotline advised was the correct ratio.)

Then I worked in the butter, about a tablespoon at a time, with the dough hook on my mixer. With all of those "extra" ingredients in the dough (eggs, sugar, milk), you get better gluten development and a better rise if you hold off on adding the fat until after the first rest.

The dough was sticky, and seemed like it could use more flour, but I resisted the temptation. I was glad later that I did. By the end of the first rise, the dough was luscious and easy to handle.

For the filling, I used homemade almond paste, which tends to be much less dry than the commercial product. Next time, I'll only add one egg white to the filling.

The dough rose magnificently and the single twist produced one of the most inviting celebration breads I've ever made. That said, I plan to make two twists next time, as the single large one was a bit too large, even when positioned on the diagonal, for my half sheet pan.

The instructions would benefit from including guidance on the appropriate dimensions for the rectangles of rolled dough when dividing it into fourths for two twists.

My family made short work of this. I plan to make this again next Christmas, if not sooner!

Thanks again for this great recipe. ;o)

P.S. I baked this the night before. It tasted great in the morning. Santa helped himself to a goodly chunk of it on Christmas Eve; he commented that he thought it tasted better in the morning - suggesting that perhaps the filling settles into the baked dough overnight. Either way, it was outstanding.
Amanda H. December 29, 2014
Wow, AJ! Thanks so much for the detailed notes!
Sharon December 26, 2014
Do you think it is possible to hold the assembled twist overnight, and bake in the morning? Or is this still good on day 2?
Amanda H. December 26, 2014
I think you can do this if you put them, assembled, in the fridge. You can also bake the twist the night before and serve it the next day. I did this last night and served the twist this morning and it worked well.
Michelle November 27, 2013
I pitched the unrisen dough and tried again. This time I used a lot less flour - closer to 4 cups than 5.5.
Amanda H. November 27, 2013
Glad you tried again -- the amount of flour can vary depending on the humidity where you live, as well as how you measure it. In an ideal world, we'd all weigh our flour rather than using cups but ... we don't! I dip-and-sweep measure my flour so it may also be that you have more flour per cup than I do.
AntoniaJames December 11, 2014
Amanda, the next time you make this, would you be so kind as to weigh the flour and post the amount, for those of us who prefer to use a scale? Thank you.
I'll be making two of these on Christmas Eve - one for us and the other as the perfect holiday treat to give some dear friends - who are from Denmark! ;o)
Michelle November 27, 2013
I ended up on day 2 with a brick of dough so solid that it was like modeling clay. Is this right? And, my yeast was good (tested it).
mbierlich December 21, 2014
I have just encountered the same issue after removing the dough from the fridge after leaving it overnight to proof. Any thoughts on what went wrong?
Amanda H. December 27, 2014
Hi Michelle and mbierlich, when you take the dough out of the fridge, it's very firm because it has butter in it, but it should soften as it warms up (and will be very soft once it's fully risen). I just adjusted the recipe to make this clear; also to note that the second rising should happen at room temperature. Let me know how yours turned out!
Karla January 15, 2016
I had the same issue too. Followed directions put the dough in fridge and it didn't rise at all. Left it out to rise and nothing happened. Any ideas what went wrong? I'd love to try again.
Amanda H. January 16, 2016
I'm puzzled by this. One thought would be to let it rise a little before putting it in the fridge to make sure the yeast activates. I'm sorry you've had trouble.
Wulffmom May 11, 2013
So delicious! I plumped the cherries with water so mixed them with cherry jam. I made one roll and braided the other like this : My mothers day gift to myself! Thank you for the recipe. fun, easy, and a true treat!
Amanda H. May 12, 2013
Very pleased to see your comment -- and thank you for directing people to another interesting way of braiding. Very cool!
imryan23 December 15, 2015
The first year I tried twisting the loaf per above instructions. My results were tasty, though not pretty. Last year I braided following Wulffmom link. Easy to do and results were beautiful.
Paulaob May 8, 2013
I saw a comment about using cherry jam instead of dried cherries. I happen to have a jar of cherry preserves I would like to use. How much would use on each piece and would you spread it over almond filling? Thanks.
Amanda H. May 8, 2013
I would use a half cup total.
Maryjane M. May 8, 2013
Could you let me know how I could change the recipe to be gluten free? It looks to good to pass up.
Amanda H. May 8, 2013
I'm not sure -- I hope someone who's knowledgeable about gluten-free baking will weigh in.
DessertByCandy May 2, 2013
Taste & presentation outweighs the very little effort it requires. Mine baked up to about the length of a half-sheet pan. Quite a sight. Enriched dough was soft (I added a touch of cardamom) and complemented the filling well. Nothing squished out.
Amanda H. May 2, 2013
I appreciate your comment -- because I know it looks complicated so it's hard to convince some that it isn't. You've validated my claim! And I'm happy to hear you liked it.
Kari2011 January 3, 2013
I made this over Christmas. It was well liked by everyone. Bread was really tender. Thanks for sharing this recipe.
Amanda H. May 2, 2013
Thanks for giving it a try!
M. W. December 12, 2012
Made this a couple days ago, only had vanilla rum on hand, still came out great!
Amanda H. May 2, 2013
Glad it worked out!
Angela December 9, 2012
we always have waffles on Christmas morning. but you had me at "dot it with rum-cherries"!
EmilyMcKenna December 7, 2012
This sounds delicious. Do you think it'd work with cherry jam?
Amanda H. May 2, 2013
Emily, somehow I missed the comments on this recipe. Yes, it would definitely work with cherry jam!