RECIPE: Danishes have been on my list to try since the beginning of the year. While you occasionally see recipes for Danishes that use either puff pastry or croissant dough, Danish dough uses yeast (which puff pastry doesn’t), and includes egg (unlike croissant dough). This results in a slightly chewy dough. I was very excited to finally find a local source for fresh yeast, so no more compromising my yeast recipes. I used Felder’s recipe (see below) and didn’t alter it apart from doubling the quantity, which gave me 32 danishes. For a thorough coverage of the ins and outs of Danish pastry-making see this site.
COMPONENTS: Much like puff pastry and croissant dough, the process involves a lot of rolling, folding and waiting. It seemed like my dough was never going to become smooth in the first stage and it took a good ten minutes before it came close. I walked away for a couple of minutes and then came back for an additional knead and it was finally ready. I suspect just allowing it to relax for a bit made it easier. When I added the butter I tried to roll it straight from it being a super-chilled block and it just broke apart. I had much more success with the second block (remember I made a double batch) when I bashed it down to a flat rectangle with my rolling pin. It was then more willing to be rolled! The other stages of rolling and folding were pretty straight forward. The process is much simpler in winter, as the butter doesn’t soften fast enough to leak out.
ASSEMBLY: To make sure I had fresh danishes, I prepared the dough to the point of having the corners folded in on individual pastries and then refrigerated them in airtight containers overnight. I then carried out the rise and bake the next night. I started the rise by just laying out the pastries on their own without the topping, but after only half an hour they started puffing up and the corners were at risk of unfolding. It seems counter-intuitive to put the crème pâttisière and pears on the pastry before it’s left to rise, but this is necessary to keep the folds in place. Once I added the custard and pears the rise wasn’t affected at all – I did make sure to drain off as much syrup as I could before adding the pears. They rose well and baking was successful, although I did have to rotate the trays. That could just be my old dodgy oven.
IMPRESSION: These pastries were amazing warm and still enjoyable cold. I had leftover poached pears, which I was pretty happy about because they were delicious, and I was pleased with the lamination and air in the pastries. I can’t say I’ll be making them regularly – they take ages to prepare! Everyone thought they were bought ones 🙂
Danish Pastry recipe from Patisserie by Christophe Felder
Recipe for poached pears and creme patissiere from Bourke Street Bakery by Paul Allam and David McGuinness
375g all-purpose flour
15g powdered milk
25g fresh yeast
1 70g egg
40g butter, softened
250g butter, chilled
Put the flour, sugar, salt and powdered milk in a large bowl. Crumble in the yeast making sure it doesn’t touch the salt. Add the egg and water. Knead the dough with your hands until firm, then add the softened butter and knead until it is incorporated. It will take about ten minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball, cover it with plastic wrap and chill it in the fridge for at least two hours.
Ten minutes before you begin working again, place the chilled butter in the freezer. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle 6mm thick. Dust the chilled butter with flour. If it’s firm beat the butter flat with your rolling pin and then roll it into a rectangle half the size of your dough rectangle, leaving a gap of at least 5mm around each edge. If the butter is soft, roll it out between two sheets of lightly floured parchment paper.
Arrange the dough with a short side facing you. Place the butter on the bottom half of the dough and press it into the dough around the edges. Fold the top half of the dough over the butter to enclose it completely. Rotate the dough clockwise 90 degrees so that an open edge is facing you. Roll out the dough lengthwise 7mm thick. Fold up the bottom third of the dough so that it covers one third of the dough. Fold down the top third to meet the edge. Fold the entire dough in half, making four layers of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
On a lightly floured surface, arrange the dough with an open side facing you and the closed side to your right. Roll out the dough into a rectangle 7mm thick. Fold the dough in thirds like a letter. There are now three layers of dough. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
Cut the dough in half, placing one half back in the fridge. Roll out the other half into a 32 by 16cm rectangle 4mm thick. Cut the rectangle lengthwise in half to make two 8cm bands, then cut the bands into 8cm squares. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
1 vanilla bean
1.2kg caster sugar
2 lemons, sliced
2 litres water
10 Buerre bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut into eighths
Split the vanilla bean lengthways and scrape the seeds into a saucepan, adding the sugar, lemon and water. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring well to dissolve the sugar, then reduce the heat to a slow simmer. Add the pears to the simmering syrup and cook for about 20 minutes, or until they are easily pieced with a skewer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Store in the syrup in an airtight container and refrigerate until needed.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
50g caster sugar
3 egg yolks
15g all-purpose flour
Pour the milk into a saucepan and scrape in the vanilla seeds with the bean. Heat up until just below boiling point and pour into a container to cool completely. Allow to infuse in the refrigerator overnight. Gently heat the milk over low heat. Put the egg yolks in a stainless steel bowl and whisk continuously, adding the sugar a little at a time until combined. Continue whisking while adding the flour until the mixture is smooth. Pour the warm milk through a fine sieve directly onto the egg yolk mixture and whisk well until smooth and combined. Return this custard to a clean saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon. Once the custard boils, reduce the heat and simmer for a further five minutes, stirring continuously. Do not allow it to sit without stirring. Remove from the heat, allow to cool, then transfer to an airtight container, with a layer of plastic wrap over the surface of the custard. Refrigerate until needed. The crème pâttisière can be made three days in advance.
Assembly of the danishes
Preheat the oven to 240 degrees Celcius. Take each square of pastry and fold each corner to meet in the centre, pressing down firmly to create a smaller square. Place 1.5 teaspoons of crème pâttisière in the centre, topping with two slices of pear. Arrange the danishes on trays lined with baking paper or silicone sheets and set aside in a warm room (about 25-27 degrees Celsius) for about two hours or until almost doubled in size.
Brush each pastry with egg wash (1 beaten egg with 100ml milk) and place in the oven, reducing the temperature to 190 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, rotating if necessary, until a deep golden colour. You may choose to dust with icing sugar and the danishes can be eaten hot or cold. If storing to eat later, wrap tightly with foil and store in an airtight container in the fridge.