Monday, February 27, 2012

Danish Pastry

For me Danish pastry was my biggest challenge. The ultimate test (until I find something new of course, to tackle) of my baking skills. This intimidating pastry with layers upon layers of delicate, buttery delicioussness always seemed like something out of reach. But I knew I had to conquer it. Why? Because I grew up eating Danish pastry. We lived close to Solvang, a "Danish" village in California where pastry is abundant. Now I am in Nashville where the only place I've seen a Danish pastry was at Whole Foods. I needed to learn how to make this at home.

So I acquired "The Great Scandinavian Baking Book" by Beatrice Ojakangas. If you like baking and you like great Scandinavian breads and desserts this book is a must have. I have flagged about half of the pages in the book to try out. And those are just my priority recipes. This book will make you hungry! And ready to conquer baking. I used the Classic Danish Pastry recipe for the dough and the Danish Pastry Braid for the type of pastry. It is filled with almonds. Yum. When I was making the almond paste I could have eaten the entire bowl. Seriously. 

I'm not going to say that this challenge was easy. However, it was not as complicated as I thought it would be. Sure there are a lot of steps and I had to go and make things more difficult by making my own almond paste, but sometimes it is just worth it. Who doesn't deserve a decadent slice of pastry for breakfast? Or two or three? 

Classic Danish Pastry

1 1/2 cups chilled butter
2 packages yeast
1/2 cup warm water (110 F)
1/2 cup heavy cream or evaporated milk 
1/2 tsp crushed cardamom seed
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, room temp.
1/4 cup sugar
3 3/4 to 4 cups flour

1) Slice butter into thin strips and place between plastic wrap. Roll out to make an 8-inch square. Cover and place in fridge to chill

2) Dissolve yeast in the warm water and let stand 5 minutes. Then add in the cream or milk, cardamom, salt, eggs, and sugar. Once combined add in 3 cups of flour and then stir in 1/2 cup more. Mix until smooth. Cover and place in fridge to chill 30 minutes to 8 hours.

3) On a floured surface roll out dough to make a 16 inch square. Place chilled butter on 1 side of square. Fold other side of dough over the butter and pinch together to seal in butter.

4) Roll dough to to make a square, as large as possible, pressing out air bubbles and resealing holes made by the butter. Just add slightly more flour to seal in butter if needed. When dough is rolled out fold into thirds, so there are 3 layers. Then roll out dough again to make a long narrow shape. Fold short sides into thirds. Repeat this process of folding into thirds and rolling out 3 more times. If you need to, chill dough to keep butter cold. Chill for at least 30 minutes. I chilled mine overnight so pastry would be fresh in the morning. Dough is now ready to filled and shaped as desired.

Danish Pastry Braid

1 recipe Danish Pastry Dough

For the filling:
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup pulverized almonds
1 (3 oz) package almond paste (or you can make your own)
1 egg white

For the glaze:
1 egg, beaten slightly
2 tbsp milk 
Sliced almonds

1) Divide dough into 2 parts and roll each out to form a rectangle that is 12X6 inches and place on parchment lined baking sheets. Cut slanting strips using pastry wheel or knife on either side of pastry dough leaving enough space in the center to put filling in. So 1/3 of the pastry in the center should be left uncut. You are going to fold the cut pieces over one another to seal in filling. 

2) To make the filling cream the sugar with the butter until fluffy. Then add the remaining ingredients and blend

3) Spread filling into the center of the dough and then fold the strips over the filling in a braid-like pattern

4) Preheat oven to 400 F and let dough rest for 15 to 30 minutes
5) Brush top of pastry with glaze and almonds and place in oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown

6) Dough will look puffy, but will settle when it comes out of the oven and is sliced
7) Slice and enjoy with coffee!

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