A week before Thanksgiving I called my mother looking for a Danish Pastry Ring recipe. I hadn’t seen her make it in years… like maybe 25… but the moment I said “do you remember that pastry wreath?” she knew exactly what I was talking about.
I asked her why she stopped making it and her response was “It was too much work. All of the rolling, folding and chilling and then repeat.” I won’t sugar coat it- this recipe is likely the most advanced, time consuming and technical of all the recipes I have on my site. We’ve recently added more step-by-step images to help you make this and feel confident in your abilities.
What's In This Article
Danish Pastry Wreath- A Family Tradition
Yea, I know, the blogger cliche of telling a personal story, but let me tell YOU how many personal stories I get about this recipe every single year around the holidays? Some have made me cry!
Few recipes will stand the test of time, but it seems that I am not the only one. I’ve received the most heartfelt messages about posting this who people who share the same nostalgia as me.
For those looking for a trip down memory lane, one reader, Melissa Combes, shared these with us. The original pages from McCalls Magazine!
Zwieback Cookies Substitution
Remember Zwieback cookies? The biscuits marketed for teething children? The ones that also tasted good enough for mom to snack on? Well Nabisco discontinued them. Another brand called Brandt makes them and calls them rusk.
I could not locate them, so needed to find a substitute. Overall, aim for a soft, moist cookie or cracker.
- Graham Crackers– this is what I ultimately used, but they are slightly drier than Zwieback, so I added a small amount of water to the almond paste mix.
- Nilla Wafers- Or vanilla wafers.
- Other vanilla teething biscuits
This coffee cake ring is made special through a process called laminating the dough. Simply put it means that the dough and butter is rolled out and layered on top of itself several times.
It creates super thin layers alternating dough and butter which gives the honeycomb interior structure- lightly and fluffy. It is the same process used for many pastries and also croissants.
It also what makes this a fairly lengthy process and advanced baking recipe.
I wish I could say the ingredient list was standard pantry essentials, but it is not. Head to the store! Please note this recipe makes two pastry rings. It can be divided, but honestly what are you going to do with just 4 ounces of almond paste and why go to all the trouble to just make one?
- Unsalted butter- I have to stress to use unsalted for this recipe. One of the trickiest parts is making sure the dough doesn’t dry out and salt does speed up that process. We also add salt to the dough. If you have to use salted butter, omit the additional salt.
- All-Purpose Flour– This recipe calls for a good amount and you’ll need more to flour the surface, which the recipe accounts for so the first rolling might be a fairly sticky dough. While I want you to flour liberally to prevent sticking, also brush off any extra as this can also lead to drier pastry. Use a dry pastry brush before wrapping and chilling.
- Whole milk– Yes, you need whole for this one, no swapping out reduced fat milk. The fats are essential to the puffing of the dough. The milk also needs to be scalded, which is the process of heating it slightly, but not to a boil, that reduces the water content and helps the yeast to bloom.
- Sugar- Plain white sugar for the dough!
- Coarse Kosher Salt– Coarse sea salt or Kosher salt gives the cleanest salt flavor. Because the dough has time to rise several times and the salt is added at a liquid stage, it is fine to use coarse. If opting for fine, reduce to 1/2 teaspoon.
- Dry Active Yeast- Make sure your yeast isn’t expired!
- Hot Water- Using the correct temperature of water is imperative to making yeast bloom. Too cold and it does nothing, too hot and it kills it. Aim for between 105°F-110°F using a digital thermometer. This can generally be obtained using hot tap water.
- Eggs– Help to bind and provide structure.
- Graham Crackers– We used 1 cup of graham cracker crumbs. These can be bought in a box already ground or grind your own. It takes about 6 full crackers (large with 4 quarters) plus 1-2 quarters to get the full cup.
- Almond Extract- This goes into the filling and we have increased the amount for more almond-y flavor. Vanilla extract can also be used.
- Almond Paste- Almond paste is made from ground almonds or almond meal (which is essentially super fine almonds) along with sugar, although it doesn’t have a super sweet flavor. It is thick and a little greasy, because almonds have their own oil. It can be found in the baking section in a tube or roll and usually pretty pricey because well, so are almonds! You can also make your own.
How to Make It
We are including lots of tips, tricks and images in this section because they are helpful. The printed version doesn’t go into this much detail and has half of the images. Please note that you can opt to not print any images- it does end up being about 3 pages long if you do, but some readers find them helpful and didn’t link when we took them all out.
Make the Dough
- In a medium bowl, beat butter and 1/4 cup flour until smooth, fluffy and butter lightens one shade. Adding a smaller amount of flour will help the butter keep its shape.
- Spritz a medium rimmed baking sheet and cover with wax paper or parchment paper. The moisture will help it stick while you spread out the butter mixture. Mark a 12×8 rectangle lightly with pencil or eyeball it. Fit butter mixture into this shape. I happen to have a baking sheet exactly this size, but otherwise do your best.
- Place in the refrigerator. It will need to chill for a minimum of 1 hour to re-firm to the typically butter texture, but it can go overnight if needed.
- Scald the milk and then reduce heat to low and stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Adding it too hot to the yeast will kill the yeast, so measure and make sure it has reduced to below 110°F.
- Place the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water (between 105°-110°F) in a large mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to bloom for about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooled milk mixture, eggs, and the remaining flour (3 3/4 cups). Beat until smooth, but don’t overmix. Overmixing leads to overworking the gluten which can results in dry pastry dough. The dough will be soft and sticky- this is normal and to account for several generous flourings and rollings. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes. Alternately, you can turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap and flatten with your palm. This helps to chill faster without losing moisture.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface, clean counter or rolling mat. Knead the dough a few times to improve elasticity. Flour the rolling pin and flatten into a 12×16 rectangle. Remove cold butter mixture from the refrigerator and set onto one half of the dough. It will look like an open book. Carefully pull up non-butter side of dough and cover (like you are closing a book). Press edges together with your fingers so it resembles a closed book.
- Continue generously flouring rolling surface to prevent sticking, if it does stick, use a pastry scraper to gently nudge it up. Rotate the dough to fit better on the rolling mat. Roll out again to a 16×8 rectangle. Fold this rectangle into thirds, pinching edges together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap to hold in moisture and chill for 1 hour. Remember, if there is excess flour on the dough, please brush it with a pastry brush to remove.
- Remove the dough and roll again to a 16×8 rectangle on a well-floured surface. Fold into thirds and chill again for 30 minutes. Roll out one more time, fold into thirds one more time, then wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Leave the plastic with a tiny bit of slack because the yeast will rise a bit.
Make the Filling
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, almond paste, water and almond extract in a bowl. If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend using it. Blend until smooth and soft, which can take up to 5-7 minutes. it will start off being hard and slapping the bowl, but as it warms, it will become more malleable. Set aside at room temperature until you are ready to use it. The filling can be made in advance and just covered and set aside until needed.
- Remove the dough and divide into two equal portions. Return one half to the refrigerator tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Roll the remaining dough into a 22×9 inch square on a floured surface. Cut dough lengthwise into 3 equal strips approximately 3 inches wide.
- Spread 1/3 cup of almond filling down the center of each strip. I found it easiest to roll into small worm like pieces instead of spread it- this prevents the dough from splitting.
- Fold over and pinch all edges together as best you can. You can even use a pastry with water to connect them if they are too floured to stick. We are trying to prevent them from popping open while rising or baking
Braid the Pastry
- Braid the three strips using a standard braiding technique.
- Gently form into a circle with a 6-inch diameter center, you can even put a 6 inch bowl in the center to help you measure. Pinch ends together so filling does not escape. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a slightly moistened towel and set aside to rise for 45 minutes. Do not overproof the dough! While it won’t hurt it in the long run, the wreath will be super big and the braids will start to split with filling escaping out.
- Continue with second set of dough.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Place the pastry ring, without moistened covering, into the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Every so often, spray a water bottle into the oven to create steam. If the top starts to brown too fast, place a leaf of aluminum foil gently over the top.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool fully.
Icing & Garnish
The topping is a standard powdered sugar glaze made from powdered sugar, milk and almond extract. The original recipe uses red candied cherries, but sometimes we switch it up and use green, a mix or even sliced almonds. The icing should be skipped, it is really the only sweet element to the recipe, however skip the cherries if you want to keep it more towards the savory spectrum.
- Whisk together the powdered sugar, almond extract and 3-4 tablespoons milk in a small bowl until it is a drizzling consistency and free of lumps.
- Drizzle over the cooled pastry rings.
- While the icing is still tacky, add cherries and/or almonds.
- You are now ready to enjoy this delicious creation and the product of all your hard work, so grab a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy.
Storage & Freezing
Leftovers can be stored at room temperature, but wrapped well in aluminum foil or plastic wrap. It is best enjoyed within 3 days of baking. I also like to warm it for just a few seconds in the microwave. It warms the butter and bring back its original glory.
This recipe makes two wreaths. Unless you plan on serving a crowd or selling them at a bake sale, you’ll likely want to freeze one.
You’ll also love these fruity breakfast and brunch ideas!
- Easy Apple Cream Cheese Strudel
- Peach and Cherry Cobbler
- Cherry Dumpling Casserole
- Honey Lime Fruit Salad
Danish Pastry Ring Recipe (Danish Pastry Wreath)
- 2 cups unsalted butter , softened
- 4 cups flour , divided, plus more for flouring work surface
- 3/4 cup whole milk
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 2 packets dry active yeast
- 1/2 cup hot water , between 105°F and 110°F
- 2 eggs , room temperature
- 1 cup plain graham cracker crumbs , approximately 6 large sheets
- 7 ounces almond paste
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon almond extract
- 3-4 tablespoons milk
- candied cherries or sliced almonds , for garnish and optional
Make the Dough:
- In a medium bowl, beat the butter and 1/4 cup flour until smooth, fluffy and butter lightens one shade.
- Spritz a medium rimmed baking sheet and cover with wax or parchment paper.
- Mark a 12×8 rectangle lightly with pencil and spread butter mixture into this shape. Place in the refrigerator. It will need to chill for a minimum of 1 hour to re-firm.
- Scald the milk by placing in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Allow it to simmer for 2-3 minutes (never to a boil) and then decrease heat to low and stir in the sugar and salt until dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
- Place the yeast and 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl. Allow the yeast to bloom for 10 minutes. Stir in the cooled milk mixture, eggs, and the remaining 3 3/4 cups flour. Beat until combined and smooth, but do not overmix. Dough will be soft and sticky. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Turn the dough out onto a well floured surface. Knead the dough with your hands a few times. Flour a rolling pin and flatten into a 12×16 rectangle. Remove cold butter mixture from the refrigerator and set onto one half of the dough. It will look like an open book. Carefully pull up non-butter side of dough and cover (like you are closing a book). Press edges together so it resembles a closed book.
- Continue to generously flouring rolling surface to prevent sticking. Rotate the dough so it fits better on the mat. Roll out the dough again to a 16×8 rectangle. Fold this rectangle into thirds, pinching edges together. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 1 hour.
- Remove dough and roll again to a 16×8 rectangle. Fold into thirds and chill again for 30 minutes. Roll out one more time, fold into thirds one more time, then wrap dough in plastic wrap with a little slack and refrigerate overnight.
Make the Filling:
- Combine the graham cracker crumbs, almond paste, water and almond extract in a bowl, blend until it is smooth and soft, which can take up to 5-7 minutes. Set aside at room temperature until ready to use. This will be used for both rings, so divide into two equal halves.
Stuff & Braid the Dough:
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Wrap and return one half to the refrigerator. Roll the remaining dough into a 22×9 inch square on a floured surface. Cut dough lengthwise into 3 equal strips, 3 inches wide.
- Measure out 1/3 cup and roll into ropes, placing down the center of each strip.
- Fold over and pinch all edges together. If the dough is too floured, use a pastry brush with water to make it stick together.
- Braid the strips using a general braiding technique. Gently form into a circle with a 6-inch diameter center. Pinch ends together to connect.
- Place the ring on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, cover with a slightly moistened towel and set aside to rise for 45 minutes. Continue with second set of dough.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the pastry, without moistened covering, for 30 minutes. Every so often, spray a water bottle into the oven to create steam. If the top starts to brown too fast, place a leaf of aluminum foil over the top. Also consider rotating throughout baking to evenly brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
Drizzle & Garnish:
- Whisk the powdered sugar, almond extract and half of the milk in a small bowl. Add remaining milk in small volumes until it is a drizzling consistency. Drizzle over cooled pastry.
- While the icing is still tacky, decorate with candied cherries and/or sliced almonds.
- If you've tried this recipe, please come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings!
My Mom made this recipe when I was a kid and we continued to make it as a Christmas tradition every year for the past 50+ years. For a substitute for the zwieback, I found that Brioche toast from Trader Joe’s works great.
Good substitute! Glad you loved it and we could bring it back for you!
I’ve been making this wreath since it first was printed in McCall’s magazine. I was an inexperienced young newlywed, and I couldn’t find almond paste at the grocery store, so I bought canned Solo Almond Filling, and used it as a substitute for the almond paste. It’s so delicious! Since I’ve never made it with almond paste I can’t compare, but I will tell you that the Solo Almond Filling makes my pastry wreath something really special! I use Brandt zwieback.
Soo glad you loved it! I’ll look for the Solo almond filling next time.
I’ve always loved this recipe from the first time I made it! It makes me happy that the entire family loves it now.
I made it!!! It was delicious!!
Woohoo! I made my own this season. A little more advanced, but SOOOOO good!
Where do you put the almond extract!
Hi Cindy, step #7 states “graham crackers through almond paste”, which would include the extract. Enjoy!
As I am looking at my original recipe for Danish Wreath from the McCall’s magazine, I see a discrepancy between the magazine cooking school original recipe and your recipe. The filling calls for 1 can almond paste, 3/4 cup crumbs of some kind crushed…biscotti, perhaps, 1/2 c. butter melted, 1 egg (the other egg!) and 1/2 t. almond extract. This makes the filling richer and easier to work with. Also, the dough calls for
1 1/2 cups butter and 3 3/4 cups flour separate from the 1/4 cup you mix with the flour you spread on the parchment paper to refrigerate.
I’ve changed it slightly over the years- the original cookies are very hard to find these days, as is a whole can of almond paste, which now generally comes in a tube. I don’t have any issue with separation?
I am referring to the Danish pastry Wreath. I have been making this since the magazine article came out. It actually had pictures for each step. After the Zwieback disappeared I tried graham crackers and it was okay. I tried almond biscotti and it was better. This year I found in our Mediterranean restaurant something called Golden Toast. It’s dried bread like zweiback is. I think it will work well. Now my 2 daughters are making the bread with me in my kitchen. It is soooo delicious. I can actually make 3 small rings and share them.
So wonderful to find this recipe! Thank you for sharing it. I had grown up with this specific creation and didn’t ever know how to make it as it was a guarded secret of our relative. It is so fun I will be able to try to make it with my sister this Christmas.
Glad I could provide it for you!
Can you bypass the putting the dough in the fridge overnight by chilling slightly longer maybe in the freezer or something else?
You could use the freezer, but don’t forget about it! You don’t want it to be solid or the layers won’t blend together to form the flakey pastry.
Trying this out while sheltering in place!:) it calls for 2 eggs divided. Where does the second egg go?
Hi! Out of hundreds of people who have made this recipe, no one has realized there was an error. Too funny! I just fixed it 🙂 Stay safe.
This recipe was in a cookbook. My xerox copy is almost unreadable. My husband made this coffee cake every Christmas for over 40 years…he has handed over the task to me. Yes, as your Mom commented, it is a lot of work. The results vary, but always great. I miss the Zwieback toast, which was excellent. I now use Stella Doro almond toasts. Not the same, but pretty good. This is an effort and sometimes tricky, but Christmas morning isn’t the same without it. Just leave ample time for the chilled dough to rise if you’re making for breakfast. I get up super early to fill, braid, rise. I drizzle glaze over sparingly, so filling is the star. It’s a five star recipe.
I have been making this same recipe since I was in college (47 years!) and wanted to give less expensive gifts. My copy of the McCall’s recipe was so tattered it was hard to make out quantities of ingredients ( 1/3 or 1/8th cup of sugar) so nice to have an accurate copy. Thank you.
You are very welcome. Want to hear something funny? My mother pulled out the original McCalls magazine with the recipe just 2 days ago!
My mom has been making this wreath for over 40 years. It was so fun to see a posting honoring this much beloved pastry. We also have a tattered copy of the McCall’s article. Now my sister and I make it and our daughters are learning too. It is the centerpiece of our Christmas morning. We would love to see a picture of your original recipe if you don’t mind posting it.
My sister and I first made this when we were 12 and 13. My mom handed us the recipe and I have been making it every year since. That would be 47 years. I am getting ready to make them again. I give one to my neighbors. They look forward to them every year. I will be making six. Five to give away and one to keep!
Cheryl and this would be the first year I wasn’t making them. Now your story is making me double think that choice… they are SO good. There is nothing like it!
Wait, whaaaat? Were we in the same kitchen? My mother’s tattered and buttery-fingerprinted pages torn from the McCall’s cooking school magazine is exactly what I remember- and a lot of work is exactly what she said. It’s been years since I tasted one and mom is gone now. I had forgotten about the Zweiback toast. Thanks for the biscotti idea! ❤️ Maybe next Christmas I’ll finally try making one. Thanks!
Lovely! I am so glad I can bring you the same joy we get out of this recipe!
My mother used to bake this recipe every Christmas. It’s now too challenging for her. So yesterday I prepped everything and today I baked my first set of wreaths. I received a thumbs up from my mom who was very pleased at the result. Thank you for your pictures really – The helped A LOT!!
Oh, that makes my heart happy!!!! I needed that today.
my mother makes this every year for Christmas
she doubles the recipe so we get two wreaths!
now that zweiback has been discontinued, she uses almond biscotti
it used to be that almond paste was the difficult ingredient to source!
My sister and I used to make this from the Old McCall’s Magazine “cooking school” but we haven’t done it in years. (As your mom said, “Too much work”.) But, I wanted to try it again, but when I looked all for the recipe, I could not find it! Now, thanks to the internet, and your helpful page, I am all set for the challenge for another year!!!
Does anyone have the year from the McCalls magazine? We have a tattered copy.
One of my all time favorite recipes. Yummy! So glad you learned to make it.