Growing up, a favorite Christmas tradition was Danish Coffee Cake. Every year we would make these not-too-sweet treats and give them to teachers and friends. Most importantly, we would save 2 or 3 to have on hand for Christmas morning. No one was allowed to peak at the tree or open presents until we ate breakfast. (Which struck me as cruel and unusual punishment at the time. What?!?!?! I had to wait even longer to open presents!!?!?!) And breakfast was always this Danish Coffee Cake.
I've started the tradition with my kids, and Robert has been a wonderful sous-chef the past two years!
See that cookbook open on the butcher block? That's my mom's cookbook. Her version of this recipe can be found on page 162.
Danish Coffee Cake
2 packages rapid rise Yeast
1/2 cup warm Water
1 1/2 cups Whole Milk
1/2 cup coconut Sugar
2 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Shortening
7-7 1/2 cups Flour
1 stick of Butter
Sift 6 cups of the Flour, Sugar, and Salt together in a large bowl.
Add the Yeast
In a small saucepan, heat the Milk, Water, and Shortening until very warm (about 120-130 degrees). I know it's right when I can dip a finger into the mixture and leave it there for a few seconds without it being uncomfortable hot.
Pour the liquid mixture into the flour mixture and mix thoroughly.
In a small bowl, beat the Eggs.
Pour the Eggs into the large bowl and incorporate.
Start adding small amounts of Flour until the dough is ready for kneading. In other words, not too sticky to knead easily.
Lightly flour your workspace and continue to knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a large, thick rectangle.
Melt the Butter, and - using a pastry brush - paint the dough. Robert loved this part!
Fold the dough in half, then roll out into another big, thick rectangle. Paint with more butter.
Continue this paint/fold/roll until all of the butter is gone.
Roll up the dough in a ball, cover, and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces.
Roll one piece into a long rectangle about 1/2 inch thick and 5 inches wide.
Cut into three long strips.
Braid the three long strands of dough, then pinch the top and bottom securely.
Repeat the braiding for the remaining 2 pieces of dough.
Place the braided dough on cookie sheets and cover. Let them rise until double in size. (The time needed will vary, but it takes me about an hour).
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 350 degrees.
When the dough is ready, bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
Put wax or parchment paper under cooling racks and transfer the Coffee Cakes to the racks to cool.
Let them cool before icing or decorating - which is totally optional, btw.
Icing and Decorating
1 cup+ Almond Slivers (If you like really nutty Coffee Cake, use more!)
1 lb. Confectioner's Sugar
1 tsp Almond Extract
Dash of Salt
Whole Milk as Needed
Lightly toast the Almond Slivers in a pan on medium heat. Keep a close watch as these can burn quickly.
In a bowl, sift the Confectioner's Sugar until no clumps remain.
Add the Almond Extract and Salt.
Slowly pour the Milk in as needed, mixing the sugar with the milk completely before adding another small amount of Milk. Continue as necessary until you have a thick Icing.
Using a spoon, drizzle the icing on top of the Coffee Cakes. Be generous! Then sprinkle with the toasted Almonds right away so the icing will cool and the Almonds will be secure. (The wax paper should catch any excess drizzle for quick clean-up!)
I like to slice and warm the Coffee Cake right before serving.
I remember we used to add Maraschino cherries to our Coffee Cake as well. As an 8 year old, I thought that was the most exciting thing ever. As an adult, I leave them out, but if you love 'em, add 'em!