Posted by: A Part of the Solution | June 27, 2012

Homemade Danish Pastry

Hooo boy! Laminated doughs, the kind used for croissants and danish are a real bear. Skilled pastry chefs know you’ve got to have every ingredient at exactly the right temperature. In addition, you need a day which isn’t too humid or damp from rain. Above that, you want to be sure you have the right flour on hand. Add to that the chance of a misstep at any point along the process–which will utterly overthrow your earnest attempt at getting the pastry to table, and you have one daunting project.

Unless you know the secret of food processor dough for danish (and by extension croissants). Ta daaa! This recipe is as easy as it gets. This recipe is neither complicated nor ingredient heavy. I’ll include the vegan variant below the original. Either way, no one will believe you made such a beautiful creation all by yourself.

Homemade Danish Pastry

1/4 cup, 2 oz, warm water (105°F to 115°F)

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup, 4 oz, milk, room temperature

1 large egg, room temperature, lightly beaten

1/4 cup, 1.75 oz, sugar–I do like vanilla sugar here, but lemon is also nice, and plain works just fine

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups, 12.5 oz, all-purpose unbleached flour

2 sticks, 8 oz, unsalted butter–cold from the fridge

Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and set it aside. In a large bowl, combine the milk, egg, sugar and salt. Once your yeast has bubbled up, add it to the ingredients in your mixing bowl.

Put the flour into your food processor. Cut the butter into 1/4″ slices and spread them around the food processor bowl. Pulse the flour and butter together, about 8-10 times, briefly. You’re looking for lots of large chunks of butter. Don’t over-process–if the butter chunks aren’t plentiful in the 1/2″ range, your counterfeit laminate dough won’t perform.

Add the flour-and-butter mixture to the mixing bowl. With a spatula, gently incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. As soon as everything is well combined, stop folding. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for a minimum of four hours, though overnight is preferred (and you could leave it there for three or four days even).

Lightly flour a good-sized, cool work surface. If you have a giant marble pastry board, so much the better. Stainless steel tables are also nice for this. Quickly pat the dough into a square with your hands. Roll it out into a 16″ square. Keep the dough loose from the work surface with a bench scraper or a metal spatula. Fold the right third of the dough over the middle third. Fold the left side over.  If your dough gets soft, just wrap it and throw it into the fridge for ten minutes to cool off–you can do this at any point in the rolling process.

Roll the dough out so that it’s 24″ long and 10″ high. Again, fold the right hand third over the middle, and then the left hand third. Roll the dough into a 20″ square. Fold it in thirds, as above. Once more, roll it out into a 24″ X 10″ rectangle. And fold it into thirds one last time.

Wrap the dough well and allow it to chill 30 minutes at a minimum, or up to 48 hours. If you cut the dough in half now, you’ll be one step ahead in making a family-sized danish braid (my favorite technique).

For the Braid:

1/2 the dough recipe above (I always make two big danish, but you could freeze half –double wrapped in plastic wrap and wrapped again in aluminum foil–for up to one month and let it thaw wrapped in the fridge overnight)

2/3 cup filling of your choice–I’ll include some of my favorites below

Roll your dough into a rectangle 16″ X 11″. With a sharp knife, or a good pizza wheel, cut from the left hand edge of the rectangle, on the long side, toward the middle for 3 1/2″. Do this at a slight angle. Position the knife or wheel about 2/3″ up from your first cut and repeat. You’ll do this all the way up both sides of the dough. Spoon the filling down the middle, leaving 1/2″ at either end. Starting on the left hand side, cross the dough strips over, alternating sides. Trim away any extra strip at the end. Place the danish braid on a parchment covered baking sheet. Cover it with a tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake the braid for 16-17 minutes until browned and lovely. While it cools on a wire rack, mix

1/2 cup, 1 oz, confectioners sugar, sifted

2 TBSP lemon juice

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled danish. Dig in!

Homemade Vegan Danish Pastry

1/4 cup, 2 oz, warm water (105°F to 115°F)

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast

1/2 cup, 4 oz, almond milk–or other non-dairy beverage (but almond is definitely tops here), room temperature

1 1/2 TBSP flax seed meal + 2 TBSP water + 1 TBSP unrefined corn oil–or other vegetable oil ground together in a mini-blender or processor until very foamy

1/4 cup, 1.75 oz, sugar–I do like vanilla sugar here, but lemon is also nice, and plain works just fine

1 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups, 12.5 oz, all-purpose unbleached flour

2 sticks, 8 oz, Earth Balance–cold from the fridge, or 7.2 oz coconut oil cold from the fridge, or 7.2 oz Spectrum organic shortening cold from the fridge

Sprinkle the yeast on the warm water and set it aside. In a large bowl, combine the almond milk, flax seed mixture, sugar and salt. Once your yeast has bubbled up, add it to the ingredients in your mixing bowl.

Put the flour into your food processor. Cut the fat into 1/4″ chunks, or larger and spread them around the food processor bowl. Pulse the flour and fat together, about 8-10 times, briefly. You’re looking for lots of large chunks of fat to remain. Don’t over-process–if the fat chunks aren’t plentiful in the 1/2″ range, your counterfeit laminate dough won’t perform.

Add the flour-and-fat mixture to the mixing bowl. With a spatula, gently incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. As soon as everything is well combined, stop folding. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and set it in the fridge for a minimum of four hours, though overnight is preferred (and you could leave it there for three or four days even).

Lightly flour a good-sized, cool work surface. If you have a giant marble pastry board, so much the better. Stainless steel tables are also nice for this. Quickly pat the dough into a square with your hands. Roll it out into a 16″ square. Keep the dough loose from the work surface with a bench scraper or a metal spatula. Fold the right third of the dough over the middle third. Fold the left side over.  If your dough gets soft, just wrap it and throw it into the fridge for ten minutes to cool off–you can do this at any point in the rolling process.

Roll the dough out so that it’s 24″ long and 10″ high. Again, fold the right hand third over the middle, and then the left hand third. Roll the dough into a 20″ square. Fold it in thirds, as above. Once more, roll it out into a 24″ X 10″ rectangle. And fold it into thirds one last time.

Wrap the dough well and allow it to chill 30 minutes at a minimum, or up to 48 hours. If you cut the dough in half now, you’ll be one step ahead in making a family-sized danish braid (my favorite technique).

For the Braid:

1/2 the dough recipe above (I always make two big danish, but you could freeze half –double wrapped in plastic wrap and wrapped again in aluminum foil–for up to one month and let it thaw wrapped in the fridge overnight)

2/3 cup filling of your choice–I’ll include some of my favorites below

Roll your dough into a rectangle 16″ X 11″. With a sharp knife, or a good pizza wheel, cut from the left hand edge of the rectangle, on the long side, toward the middle for 3 1/2″. Do this at a slight angle. Position the knife or wheel about 2/3″ up from your first cut and repeat. You’ll do this all the way up both sides of the dough. Spoon the filling down the middle, leaving 1/2″ at either end. Starting on the left hand side, cross the dough strips over, alternating sides. Trim away any extra strip at the end. Place the danish braid on a parchment covered baking sheet. Cover it with a tea towel and allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake the braid for 16-17 minutes until browned and lovely. While it cools on a wire rack, mix

1/2 cup, 1 oz, confectioners sugar, sifted

2 TBSP lemon juice

Drizzle the glaze over the cooled danish. Dig in!

Apricot-Ginger Filling

1 cup (packed), 7 oz, dried apricots

2″ ginger root, peeled and grated

1 cup, 8 oz, water

1 cup, 7 oz, sugar

pinch of salt

2 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 tsp cardamom (optional, but lovely if you like cardamom)

1/2 tsp almond extract IF you’re not using the cardamom

Stir the apricots, grated ginger, water, sugar and salt together in a large microwave-safe bowl, or a one quart measuring cup. Set the bowl in the microwave and run it at full power for ten minutes. The apricots will be puffy and most of the liquid will be absorbed by the fruit. Whirl this up in the food processor with the remaining ingredients. Cool to room temperature. This will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks. It makes enough for 2 danish braids.

Prune Filling

1 cup (packed), 7 oz, pitted prunes

3/4 cup, 6 0z, water

1/4 cup, 2 oz, port or cassis (optional, and if you don’t use them, just go with a full 8 oz water)

1 cup, 7 oz, sugar–and yes, vanilla sugar and lemon sugar are great upgrades here

pinch of salt

2 TBSP lemon juice

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Stir the prunes, water, port or cassis (if using), sugar and salt together in a large microwave-safe bowl, or a one quart measuring cup. Set the bowl in the microwave and run it at full power for ten minutes. The prunes will be puffy and most of the liquid will be absorbed by the fruit. Whirl this up in the food processor with the remaining ingredients. Cool to room temperature. This will keep covered in the fridge for two weeks. It makes enough for 2 danish braids.

You could also use lemon-ginger curd for the braid, folks.

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