Homemade Pastry Dough (Shortcut Version)

This is a variation of classic Danish pastry dough. Instead of laminating the dough with separate layers of butter like we do with homemade croissants, we’re working the butter directly into the yeasted dough. We still get a wonderfully flaky and buttery layered pastry! From this dough you can create a pastry braid or individual breakfast pastries.

close-up photo of a pastry braid with raspberry filling

I’ve studied, tested, and retested plenty of homemade pastry dough the past month. (And I’ve gone through a few pounds of butter in the process!) The resulting dough is a quick-method to real Danish pastry. It’s an adaption of several trusted sources: Cooking IllustratedJoy of Cooking, and pastry master Beatrice Ojakangas. I mish-mashed all of the recipes I studied and made my own version of this flaky, buttery dough.

What is Danish Pastry?

Danish pastry is made from flour, yeast, milk, eggs, and copious amounts of butter. The texture is similar to croissant dough, but tastes sweeter (and has the addition of egg in the dough). Like croissants, typical Danish pastry dough is rolled out thinly, then folded with a layer of butter to form multiple layers.

This is a Shortcut Homemade Pastry Dough

This is a shortcut version– it’s not the traditional method of making real danish pastry. Here we are working the butter directly into the dough using a food processor. We’re still rolling it out and folding the dough, just as you do when you laminate dough with butter, but we’re not folding it up with a separate layer of butter. Does that make sense?

I use the term “shortcut” loosely. This dough still takes at least 5-6 hours total with 2 rounds of refrigeration. Pastries made from this dough are just as buttery, tender, and flaky. You could compare this to store-bought puff pastry, but it’s worlds better. Crispier, more buttery, flakier, and– of course– homemade.


What Can I Make With This Dough?

I stick to breakfast pastries like pastry braids and individual pastries. You’ll love my raspberry pastry braid (pictured above) and blueberry cream cheese pastry braid (pictured below).

blueberry cream cheese pastry braid

Overview: Homemade Pastry Dough Ingredients

This yeasted pastry dough comes together with 8 basic ingredients.

  1. Water: You need 2 liquids in this dough recipe: warm water and room temperature milk. Don’t use all water or all milk; this careful balance is key. Mix the warm water with yeast and some granulated sugar. Cover and wait until the top is a little foamy, as pictured below. (You will do this step no matter if you are using instant yeast or active-dry yeast.)
  2. Yeast: You can use active-dry or instant yeast. The instructions, amount, and recipe do not change– you will still do each of these exact steps regardless of which type you use.
  3. Granulated Sugar: Sugar sweetens this dough and feeds the yeast. Use 1 Tablespoon at first, then add the rest of the sugar when you whisk in the milk, egg, and salt.
  4. Whole Milk: Use room temperature milk, not warm milk. For best taste and texture, I strongly recommend whole milk.
  5. Egg: 1 egg tenderizes the dough. Don’t skip it!
  6. Salt: Adds flavor.
  7. All-Purpose Flour: You need flour in the dough, plus a generous amount for the rolling, folding, and shaping steps. It’s helpful to have plenty of extra flour on hand. I use A LOT of it when I’m rolling the dough and shaping the pastries.
  8. Cold Butter: Butter is the main ingredient in this dough recipe– you will work it directly into the flour, forming pea-sized crumbles. Just like when we make pie crust or biscuits, make sure the butter is extra cold. If the butter isn’t cold, the butter will melt, the dough will turn to semi-liquid, and you won’t have any layers or flakes in your pastry. The colder the butter (and dough), the better results.

Homemade Pastry Dough Success Tips

  • Use cold butter. If the butter isn’t cold, the dough will melt before it even hits the oven.
  • Expect some butter to leak as the pastries bake. That’s completely normal!
  • The dough must be sufficiently chilled whenever you are working with it. Because of all the refrigeration, this dough is a wonderful recipe to get started ahead of time. You can easily make this dough in 1 morning or over the course of 3 days.
  • The temperature of your ingredients is imperative to this pastry’s success. Make sure you take the time to warm the water and bring the milk to room temperature.
  • I do not recommend any substitutions in this carefully formulated dough, though a lower fat or nondairy milk works in a pinch.
  • Use a food processor for the butter/flour in step 3. If needed, a pastry cutter works in a pinch. (Affiliate links– any processor or pastry cutter works, but both linked options are what I own and love)
  • Read through the recipe, recipe notes, and see the visuals below. Take your time!

Do NOT be overwhelmed by all these steps. I break everything down into detail. Be sure to use the photos below this recipe as a visual guide.

Step-by-step photos below!

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close-up photo of a pastry braid with raspberry filling

Homemade Pastry Dough (Quick Method)

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 6 hours (includes chilling)
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours, 25 minutes
  • Yield: 2 braids, 6 servings each
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

This recipe yields 2 lbs of dough, which equals 2 pastry braids. 1 braid serves 5-6 people. If you don’t need that many tempting pastries around, freeze the second half of the dough for a later time. Make-ahead and freezing instructions included below.


Ingredients

Pastry Dough

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) warm water (between 100-110°F, 38-43°C)
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast (1 standard packet)*
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk, at room temperature (between 68–72°F, 20-22°C)
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (50ggranulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 14 Tablespoons (205g) unsalted butter, cold
  • 2 and 1/2 cups (315g) all-purpose flour (spoon & leveled), plus more for generously flouring hands, surface, and dough

Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tablespoons (30ml) whole milk

Instructions

  1. Preliminary note: To help guarantee success, I recommend reading through the recipe, watching the video tutorial, and reading the explanations below this recipe. (All answer many FAQs.) Do not use an electric mixer for this dough. It’s best if the dough is folded together with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula since it is so sticky. There is very minimal mixing required.
  2. Make the Pastry Dough: Whisk the warm water, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon (6g) of sugar together in a large bowl. Cover and allow to rest until foamy on top, about 5 minutes. If the surface doesn’t have bubbles on top or look foamy after 15 minutes (it should if the yeast isn’t expired), start over with a fresh packet of yeast. Whisk in remaining sugar, the milk, egg, and salt. Once these wet ingredients are mixed together, lightly cover and set the bowl aside as you work on the next step.
  3. Cut the cold butter into 1/4 inch slices and add to a food processor or blender. Top with 2 and 1/2 cups flour. Pulse the mixture 12-15 times, until butter is crumbled into pea-size bits. See photo below for a visual. Using a food processor or blender is best for this dough. Keeping that in mind, if you don’t have one, you can use a pastry cutter to work in the butter.
  4. Pour the flour mixture into the wet yeast mixture. Very gently fold everything together using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Fold *just until* the dry ingredients are moistened. The butter must remain in pieces and crumbles, which creates a flaky pastry. Turn the sticky dough out onto a large piece of plastic wrap, parchment paper, aluminum foil, or into any container you can tightly cover.
  5. 1st Refrigeration: Wrap the dough/cover up tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 48 hours.
  6. Roll & Fold: Take the dough out of the refrigerator to begin the “rolling and folding” process. If the dough sat for more than 4 hours, it may have slightly puffed up and that’s ok. (It will deflate as you shape it, which is also ok.) Very generously flour a work surface. The dough is very sticky, so make sure you have more flour nearby as you roll and fold. Using the palm of your hands, gently flatten the dough into a small square. Using a rolling pin, roll out into a 15×8 inch rectangle. When needed, flour the work surface and dough as you are rolling. Fold the dough into thirds as if it were a business letter. (See photos and video tutorial.) Turn it clockwise and roll it out into a 15 inch long rectangle again. Then, fold into thirds again. Turn it clockwise. You’ll repeat rolling and folding 1 more time for a total of 3 times.
  7. 2nd Refrigeration: Wrap up/seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours. You can also freeze the dough at this point. See freezing instructions.
  8. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Rimmed baking sheets are best because butter may leak from the dough as it bakes. If you don’t have rimmed baking sheets, when it’s time to preheat the oven, place another baking sheet on the oven rack below to catch any butter that may drip.
  9. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and cut it in half. Wrap 1 half up and keep refrigerated as you work with the first half. (You can freeze half of the dough at this point, use the freezing instructions below.)
  10. On a floured work surface, roll dough out into a 12×8 inch rectangle. You can roll out the dough on a lightly floured piece of parchment paper or lightly floured silicone baking mat instead because you will transfer the shaped dough to a lined baking sheet next.
  11. Using a sharp knife, cut off two corners of the dough (on one 8-inch side) and then two small triangles 3 inches apart from each other on the other end (the other 8-inch side). See visual below.
  12. Spread 1/2 of the filling (raspberry or cream cheese) down the length of the center of the strip, which should be about 3 inches wide. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter, cut 10 slanting strips (3/4 – 1 inch wide each) along both sides. Fold strips over dough, alternating each side to resemble a twist or a braid. Fold the bottom end up to seal the filling inside. Repeat with the second half of the dough and the rest of the filling. The braids may seem very narrow, but they puff up and out as they bake.
  13. Egg Wash: Whisk the egg wash ingredients together. Brush all over the dough.
  14. I strongly recommend refrigerating the shaped braids before baking for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour before baking. The braids tend to leak more butter and/or lose more shape if they haven’t chilled.
  15. Preheat oven to 400°F (204°C).
  16. Bake each braid for 18-22 minutes or until golden brown. Some butter may leak from the dough, that’s completely normal and expected. Feel free to remove the baking sheets from the oven halfway through baking and brush the dough with any of the leaking butter, then place back in the oven to finish baking. (That’s what I do!)
  17. Remove baked danish braids from the oven and cool for at least 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: Prepare the dough as instructed in steps 2-4. At this point the dough can be refrigerated up to 48 hours. You can also prepare the dough through step 6. At this point the dough can be refrigerated up to 24 hours. During or after this second chilling time, you could also freeze the dough for up to 1 month. (I don’t recommend freezing the dough before the rolling and folding step.) Thaw overnight in the refrigerator, then continue with step 8. You can also freeze the shaped and filled braids after shaping them in step 12. Thaw in the refrigerator, then continue with step 13.
  2. Temperature & Substitutions: The temperature of your ingredients is imperative to this pastry’s success. Make sure you take the time to warm the water and bring the milk to room temperature. Keep the butter in the refrigerator until you need it in step 3. I do not recommend any substitutions in this carefully formulated dough, though a lower fat or nondairy milk works in a pinch. For the egg wash, low fat or nondairy milks work, as do heavy cream or half-and-half.
  3. Yeast: You can use either active dry yeast or instant (quick rise) yeast. The instructions and amount are exactly the same no matter which you use. Reference my Baking with Yeast Guide for answers to common yeast FAQs.
  4. Halve the Recipe? I don’t recommend halving this dough recipe. Make the dough as written, then freeze half after step 9.
  5. Special Tools (affiliate links): Food Processor (I own and love this one), Pastry Cutter, Pastry Brush, Rolling Pin, Rimmed Baking Sheet
  6. Dough recipe adapted from Cooking IllustratedJoy of Cooking, and Beatrice Ojakangas

Keywords: homemade danish pastry dough, danish pastry dough

Step-By-Step Photos

Whisk the warm water, yeast, and 1 Tablespoon of sugar together. Cover and allow to rest until foamy/bubbly on top:

yeast mixture in glass bowl

Whisk in the rest of the sugar, the milk, egg, and salt. We’ll call these the wet ingredients:

wet ingredients for dough in glass bowl

You need a food processor blender for this recipe. If you have neither, use a pastry cutter to cut the cold butter into the flour. An electric mixer will not work for this step. You are looking for pea-size crumbles of flour coated butter. This step is only possible if the butter is cold.

butter and flour in food processor

Pour the butter/flour crumbles into the wet ingredients and fold it together using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula. It is very sticky. Since this dough is so sticky, I do not recommend using an electric mixer. It will create a huge mess! There is minimal mixing required anyway– we don’t want to overwork this dough.

sticky pastry dough

You’ll notice many bits of butter still visible in the dough– that’s a GOOD thing! Wrap the dough up tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 48 hours.

This is the 1st refrigeration.

homemade breakfast pastry dough

Shortcut Lamination

Now let’s do a variation of laminating aka rolling and folding dough and butter together. Remember when we made croissants and laminated the dough with a sheet of butter? The butter is IN this homemade pastry dough. So, instead, we’re just rolling and folding the dough itself. Roll it out into a 15×8 inch rectangle:

rolling and folding pastry dough

Fold it in thirds like a letter:

rolling and folding pastry dough

Turn it clockwise:

rolling and folding pastry dough

Then roll it out into a 15-inch rectangle again. Repeat the folding. Turn it clockwise again. Repeat rolling and folding 1 more time for a total of 3 times. Wrap the laminated dough up tightly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

This is the 2nd refrigeration. After this 2nd refrigeration, you can move on to shaping your dough based on what you’re making like individual danishes or pastry braids. The full written recipe above includes the steps you need to make a pastry braid. Here’s how to make individual breakfast pastries.

Shaping the Pastry Braid

Cut the dough in half.

This recipe yields 2 lbs of dough, which equals 2 braids. 1 braid serves 5-6 people. If you don’t need that many tempting pastries around, freeze the second half of the dough for a later time. All make-ahead and freezing instructions in the recipe above.

homemade laminated pastry dough

Work with only half the dough at once. Wrap half up and refrigerate until ready to use. Roll the half of dough into a 12×8 inch rectangle.

shaping pastry dough for a braid

Transfer to a lined baking pan. Using a sharp knife, cut off two corners of the dough (on one 8-inch side) and then two small triangles 3 inches apart from each other on the other end (the other 8-inch side):

shaping pastry dough for a braid

Spread 1/2 of the filling (raspberry or cream cheese) down the length of the center of the strip. Using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, or pizza cutter, cut 10 slanting strips along both sides.

shaping pastry dough for a braid

Fold strips over dough, alternating each side to resemble a twist or a braid. Fold the bottom end up to seal the filling inside. The braids may seem very narrow, but they puff up and out as they bake.

Brush the shaped dough with egg wash, which is a combination of 1 egg and milk. What is the purpose of an egg wash? It guarantees a shiny and crisp golden crust.

shaping pastry dough for a braid

To help guarantee the braids hold their shape, chill them in the refrigerator as the oven preheats and even up to 1 hour.

shaped pastry braid before baking

Bake until golden brown.

pastry braid after baking

35 Comments

  1. These turned out so beautiful. A new family favourite. Thank you.

    1. This is my tried and tested recipe when I need to take a baked treat into work (which is usually twice a month). I have used homemade apple, blueberry, and peach, but pineapple seems to be the favorite. Thanks so much for sharing the love with this recipe!

  2. Jonielle Soderstrom says:

    Haven’t made it yet but have had a 4 cheese and herb filling also. Any idea what the recipe for that filling would be or should I just experiment?

    1. That sounds delicious and also like a fun experiment! You can use any cheeses you wish and for the herbs I would start with chopped fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, and rosemary and some garlic!

  3. Making this for the first time tonight! My dough is resting in the fridge now awake the morning! I plan to use Caramel Apple Pie filling and Cream Cheese. I am so excited after reading all the comments and will update once we enjoy them tomorrow!

  4. Hi Sally,
    I used to buy these braids called “butter braids” from this little girl who has since moved. I loved to prepare them for Christmas morning, easy and delicious. My question is: can I prepare these in their entirety, then freeze with the filling and everything? If so, how would I prepare them for baking? The butter braids required a thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
    Thanks,
    Dawn

    1. Yes, absolutely! You can freeze the un-baked and assembled braids. Thaw them, then bake as directed. Or you can partially thaw the braids and just bake for a few extra minutes.

  5. So much easier than my Grandmother’s recipe. I made it with cherry filling mixed with small pieces of marzipan with almonds on top of the glaze. Everyone’s favorite. Now, have to make at least two recipes of dough before Christmas morning!
    Thank you,

  6. When you bake this, did you use convection setting?

    1. I bake on conventional. If using convection, reduce the oven temperature by 25 degrees F.

  7. Aelin Sallingboe Persson-Tryggedsson says:

    Uumm. I am a little confused, the recipe says danish pastry, but true danish pastry is rolled out with butter to form 27 flaky layers in the pastry when baked.. And you are blitzing the butter with flour which is not the way danish pastry is made.. I do not know what type of pastry this is but I know it is not danish pastry, here in Denmark it is rolled as I described above. I am sure it is delicious though!

    1. Hi Aelin! Thank you so much. As described, this is a shortcut version. We’re skipping the laminating process.

  8. Hi Sally,

    I tried to make these and they look beautiful, but it seemed they were undercooked even though I left them longer than the required time. Any idea what happened?

    1. Hi Cat! Under-cooked in the center of the braid? Try tenting it with foil and baking for even longer until it appears completely cooked through.

  9. Terri Casebier says:

    My 8 & 9 yr old daughters wanted to try this as their FIRST bread baking experience. So far, it has gone ok. I’ll let you know more after, but we will be doing the brown sugar cinnamon filling for at least 1 side. Idk yet about the other. Nervous and excited at the same time.

    Please add the filling to the list of ingredients. We got all of the listed ones and then realized we were missing the filling! But we are improvising based on the comments above thankfully. 🙂

  10. Hi!
    Your notes mention to avoid nondairy milk, however, I used flax milk and it worked perfectly. I’d say DEFINITELY avoid almond and other nut milks as they are very watery. Great recipe!

    1. I’m so glad you found a non-dairy alternative that works for you, Melissa!

  11. I’ve made this dough several times now, however, today I had something strange occur. During the bake, my butter melted out of the dough and on to the baking sheet. It’s never happened before and now I’m concerned I’ve done something wrong..

    My boyfriend lives these danishes for breakfast in the morning! Such a great grab and go meal.

  12. so good

  13. Just made a strawberry and custard version of this. Took it out of the oven and it looks (and smells)amazing. Just waiting for it to cool now. It was so easy to make. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. I was wondering if you could make individual pastries with this recipe?

  14. So good ! I love this recipe! I have made it many times and it always turns out. It’s a favorite in my house.

  15. I made this today and it turned out great! I took a chance making it for my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday, but the directions were clear and easy to follow. I’d like to know if this recipe is in one of your books so that I can purchase it. My mother-in-law loved the Danish! Thank you for sharing this recipe on your blog.

  16. OMG this turned out perfect! I made the blueberry one and one filled with almond paste and roasted pears. So delicious! Thanks for the easy-to-follow directions!

  17. Cathy Dobbin says:

    WOW! That’s my husband’s verdict after eating this apple, blueberry danish that I made this evening using your Danish pastry recipe. Thank you so much for the recipe Sally. I have never attempted Danish recipe before as I always thought it’s too hard. Your recipe is easy and taste absolutely delicious. Came out exactly as in your photo. Light and buttery and delicious. This will be my go to Danish recipe in future.

  18. This dough is very easy to make, thank you for the step by step instructions. I was a tad worried when first rolling it out as it seemed really crumbly but after a few envelope folds it all came together. I made a filling of almond paste and tart cherries and it was delicious. Half of the braid came apart in the oven, so visually it was not what I was hoping for, but the taste is *chefs kiss*. I’m not sure why the braid came undone—too much moisture with the filling? dough too thick?

  19. Hi Sally,
    What if i’m using instant dry yeast, should i still put the warm water in the dough mixture? Thank you!

    1. Hi Lyn, though it’s not necessary with instant yeast, I still do that step here.

  20. Just made this and it was fantastic! Thank you so much for the recipe and all of your clear notes and photos! I filled mine with cream cheese and home-made apple pie filling in one braid and bear claw filling in the other.

  21. Thanks for your quick reply Sally! Luckily this makes 2 braids, I made my second one much narrower as you suggested and maybe a little bit wider (7″) and it looks perfect!! My family is so impressed. Thanks for turning me into a baker!

  22. This recipe is amazing and so easy to follow! All the pictures are very helpful and detailed instructions help turn out a yummy danish!

  23. I made this dough twice, once as a traditional breakfast treat with fig jams, and pineapple, and second time in a more savory application of gruyere and prosciutto, and tapenade. Absolutely amazing dough!! My new go-to for all my potluck and hosting needs.

  24. I really have not been a baker until recently. The instructions were spot on. This came out just like the picture. It was delicious! I used black and red seedless raspberry preserves. I topped with a glaze. I will definitely make this again.

    1. I’m so happy you tried and enjoyed it, Donna!

  25. Love this recipe, super easy way to make pastry! I substitute non-dairy milk because that happens to just be what I have in my home and it works great. I also freeze and grate my butter into the flour. Thanks for always providing such great recipes and pointers!

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