It’s no secret that I love sweet things for breakfast. I like a good egg and some bacon, but give me a Danish or some coffee cake and I’m in heaven. Something about the way it complements my requisite morning coffee that an omelette just can’t do. I have recently been on a yeast dough kick–making breads, pastries, cinnamon rolls, you name it. All in the name of experimentation since the only thing I regularly (if you can call it that) make with yeast is pizza dough. The findings from my experiments are remarkable. Yeast is easy! I even venture to say that Julia Child’s Danish recipe is about 50 times easier than making American Pie Crust. While one can be fussy about the rise time and the lightness/density of a yeast dough, it’s pretty darn easy to fake it till you make it.
My tips for Danish Pastry Dough:
Don’t overwork it. Your butter will melt and stick to things, and you will lose the cool folding striations that make it pretty.
Don’t overfill it. If you can think of any good Danish you’ve ever had, you almost always desire more filling than what you get. Keep it in balance so your filling doesn’t slide out all over the oven. Also, use thick fillings. Jams don’t work as well as homemade puree of dried fruit or cream cheese.
Sparkling sugar. For me, this accompaniment trumps that weak old confectioner’s sugar glaze. It is beautiful and adds a sweet crunch.
Danish Braids are easier and hold more filling than the pinwheels and rival them in beauty. For the first time Danish maker, I recommend getting a book with some good illustrations like Julia Child’s or Cooks Illustrated.
Danish Pastry Dough
Makes 2 lbs dough that can be refrigerated up to 4 days so you have breakfast all week.
1/4 C warm water (105°)
2 1/2 Teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/2 C milk, room temp
1 large egg, room temp
1/4 C sugar
1 tsp salt
2 1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz) cold unsalted butter
Mixing the dough: Pour water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and let is soften for a minute. Add milk, egg, sugar, and salt and whisk to mix. Set aside.
Put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch thick slices and scatter them over the flour. Pulse 8-10 times until the butter is cut into 1/2 in diameter. Pieces should stay big so don’t overdo it.
Empty content sof food processor into the bowl with yeast. Working with rubber spatula, fold flour in very gently just until dry ingredients are moistened. (Julia says “don’t be too energetic” here and it makes me laugh.)
Chill the Dough: Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate on a flat surface overnight or up to 4 days.
Rolling and folding: Lightly flour a cool surface, turn dough out and then lightly sprinkle with flour. Pat the dough into a rough square. Roll it into a square about 16 inches on a side. Fold it in thirds like a letter and turn the closed fold to your left like a closed book. Re-chill dough as necessary if it gets too soft.
Roll the dough out again into a long narrow rectangle 10″x 24″. Fold the rectangle in thirds again and turn so the closed end is to your left. Roll into a 20 inch square. Fold the square in thirds to make a rectangle, turn the closed fold to your left and last time roll into a 10″ x 24″ rectangle. Fold it into thirds and if you’re saving some, divide in half and chill for at least 30 minutes or for 2 days.
Dough is ready to be shaped, filled and baked!
Can be covered and refrigerated up to 4 days or wrapped tightly and frozen for up to a month. If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Adapted and paraphrased from Baking with Julia by Dorie Greenspan.