This week I decided to try something I have never attempted before, Danish Pastry. I have always enjoyed Danish but never really thought about making it at home. For one thing, I usually only eat one or two so I thought making a whole batch of it would be kind of wasteful around my house. Well, once I got started I went a bit wild and made three batches of danish dough so I have plenty to pass around now.
Back in the 70s when I was working as a hairdresser, there was a bakery next door to the salon that made the most wonderful bear claws. Every morning before work I would stop in a get a couple to have with coffee before my first client arrived. Tom, the baker and his wife Lisa eventually became clients of mine and every time they came in to get their hair cut they would bring me an assortment of pastries and we would talk about each one. That was my first introduction to laminated dough. One day Tom invited me to come over and watch him work. I was thrilled and ended up being there for over 3 hours. Lisa was working on a wedding cake the day I visited and I was fascinated with her piping work. Tom was working on the danish dough for the next day and he showed me how the butter was rolled into the dough to form all the flaky layers. Little did I know that years later I would be doing the same thing in my own kitchen.
Danish dough is a butter laminated dough similar to puff pastry and croissant dough. Puff pastry is just a flour, water and salt dough into which butter is rolled to make the flaky layers. Croissant dough is also a flour, water and salt dough but it has butter and yeast added to the base dough before the butter is rolled in. Danish dough is also a yeasted dough like croissant dough but it also has the addition of milk and eggs and a bit of spice before the butter is rolled in.
For the dough you will need
1/2 oz active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees)
4 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 pound unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk
Sprinkle the yeast over the warm milk; stir until dissolved. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 1 pound, 4 ounces flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 4 tablespoons butter; beat on low speed until butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the yeast-milk mixture; mix until dough just comes together. Add the eggs and yolk; mix until just combined, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overmix
On a lightly floured work surface, gently knead to form a smooth ball. Wrap well with plastic, and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight
In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the remaining 3 1/2 sticks butter with 2 tablespoons flour. The addition of flour here helps to absorb any excess water in the butter and prevents it from weeping when the butter is rolled into the dough. Form the butter mixture into a 12-by-10-inch rectangle on a sheet of plastic wrap. Refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 1 day.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, a little over a 1/4 inch thick, keeping the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a pastry brush. Remove butter mixture from refrigerator and let stand at room temperature until it reaches the consistency of the dough. With a short side facing you, place butter mixture over 2/3 of the dough. Fold the unbuttered third over as you would a business letter, followed by the remaining third. This seals in the butter.
Roll out dough again to an 18-by-10-inch rectangle, then fold dough into thirds as described above; refrigerate for 1 hour. Repeat rolling and folding two more times, refrigerating for at least 1 hour between turns.
Refrigerate the completed dough, tightly wrapped in plastic, for at least 4 hours or overnight.
One recipe of dough will make about 18 danish. Roll the dough into a rectangle about 10 x 18 inches. Cut the rolled dough into 9 – 4 inch squares and proceed with your desired shape. Allow the formed pastry to rise for about 45 minutes. Brush the danish with beaten egg, sprinkle with sugar. Bake the danish at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes rotating the trays half way through the baking time.
For the bow ties you will need about a cup of your favorite Creme Patissiere recipe and whichever fruit you decide to use. Place a dollop of the pastry cream in the center of the dough square, Place two pieces of fruit over the cream and fold the top corner down over the fruit, then fold the bottom corner up and press to hold. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 45 minutes.
For the cheese danish use whatever cheese filling your prefer. I used ricotta cheese to which I added lemon zest, a tablespoon of flour and the zest of 1 lemon. Place a dollop of the filling into the center of the square and fold the corners into the center and press to hold. Bake as above.
For pinwheels, cut the for corners of the square about 3/4 into the center. Fold every other corner into the center and press. Add a dollop of fruit preserves into the center. Allow to rise for about 45 minutes and bake.
For the snails, roll the dough into a rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Fold the dough in half and trim the edges. Cut the dough into 3/4 inch wide strips. Twist each strip and roll into a coil. Allow to rise and bake.