Danish Pastry: beauty or the beast?

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This is a semi-success.

This is a kinda-failure.

Both are delicious. Why does one go to the head of the class, the other straight to the principal’s office?

File this blog post under: be careful what you ask for.

Awhile ago, I polled our Facebook fans about what new recipes they’d like to see us write about here in the blog. One of the top vote-getters was Danish pastry.

You speak – we listen. I dutifully added “Danish pastry” to my list of future blog topics.

And there it sat. And sat, buried under a blizzard of duties, deadlines and the detritus of social media.

At last, I opened my King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook – the go-to on my bookshelf for all kinds of baking basics – and found the recipe.

It was 10 pages long.

Uh-oh…

You know, much as I love baking, I’m just not a 10-page-recipe kinda gal. A single page is good. Two pages? Well, sometimes yeast breads can be a little complicated.

But 10 PAGES? It was all I could do not to run shrieking from the kitchen, vowing to satisfy myself henceforth with recipes featuring boxed cake mix and Cool Whip.

But I sighed, pulled my virtual socks up, and dove in.

And boy, what a deep dive it was!

In the end, I discovered that the 10 pages it took to explore Danish pastry in our cookbook could actually be boiled down to many fewer steps.

Think “cut to the chase.” I have an advantage in this blog that Brinna Sands, the wonderful baker who wrote our original cookbook (and my dear friend), didn’t have:

Photographs.

So rather than fill 10 pages with words, I can simply show you how to make these wonderfully flaky, buttery, totally delicious, and absolutely attainable pastries.

Work with me here, OK? We can do this together.

Danish pastry is all about the butter; there aren’t many yeast pastries that are as buttery as this one. So it stands to reason you want to use top-quality butter – like these unsalted sticks from our friends up the road at Cabot Creamery.

Why unsalted? Because salt is sometimes used by unscrupulous butter manufacturers (though not our friends at Cabot or Land O’Lakes, certainly) to mask “off” flavors. So salted butter can have a longer sell-by date, and can stay in the refrigerator case at the supermarket longer than unsalted. We prefer our butter as fresh as possible.

Also, using unsalted butter allows you to add as much (or little) salt as you like, to taste.

If you choose to use salted butter, cut back the salt in the following recipe to 1 1/2 teaspoons.

We’re going to give the dough an overnight rest, so let’s get started.

You’ll need an entire pound of butter for this recipe: 4 sticks. Begin by cutting 1/4″ butter off the end of each of the four sticks in the pound; you’ll have about 2 tablespoons butter. Set them aside.

Cut each stick of butter in half lengthwise, to make eight long rectangles. On a piece of floured parchment or plastic wrap, line up four of the butter pieces side by side, to form a rectangle. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and cover with another piece of parchment or plastic wrap.

Gently pound and roll the butter until it’s about 6″ x 9″. The pieces may or may not meld together. If they do, great, they’ll be easier to work with. If not, though, that’s OK; don’t stress about it.

Repeat with the remaining four pieces of butter. You should now have two butter rectangles, about 6″ x 9″ each. Set them aside while you make the dough; if it’s really hot in your kitchen, stick them in the fridge to keep cool.

In a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the following:

5 1/2 cups (23 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, optional; for traditional flavor

Work the 2 tablespoons cold butter (reserved from the sticks) into the flour mixture, rubbing it in with your fingers until no large lumps remain. This step makes the pastry a tiny bit more tender by coating some of the flour with fat, which prevents its gluten from forming tough strands.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the following:

1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cold milk
1/3 to 1/2 cup lukewarm water*
2 large eggs
*Use the greater amount in winter, or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer, or when it’s humid out.

I’ve added another little touch here: 1/2 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, which you see in the photo at upper left, above. It gives the pastry a certain compelling bakery flavor.

Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, beating or stirring to combine.

Mix and knead to make a cohesive, but quite sticky dough. This is easily done in a bread machine set on the dough cycle; or in a stand mixer – about 7 minutes on medium speed should be sufficient.

If you use a mixer, the dough won’t completely clean the bowl; it’ll probably leave a narrow ring around the sides, and stick at the bottom.

Scrape the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a floured work surface. Cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 minutes, to relax the gluten.

Some friendly advice: Before we start creating the Danish, I want you to fully understand and embrace the following: don’t be a perfectionist. When it says to roll the dough 24″ wide, don’t measure to the 1/8″; go ballpark. When I talk about a rectangle, 90° corners aren’t necessary. Consider all of these measurements a guide. So long as you roll the dough and butter together a few times – e.g., give the dough a few “turns,” as the pros would say – your pastry will be delicious and flaky and tender.

Begin by patting the dough out into a rough rectangle; it’s soft and quite malleable, so this isn’t difficult. When it becomes too thin to pat easily, roll it into a rectangle about 12″ wide and 24″ long. Don’t worry about being ultra-precise; this is just a guide, but do try to get fairly close to those dimensions.

Place one of the butter slabs onto the center third of the dough. Fold one side over the butter to cover it. Place the other butter slab atop the folded-over dough, and fold the remaining dough up over it. You now have a rectangular “packet” of dough-enclosed butter.

Pinch the open ends and side closed as best you can.

Turn the dough 90°, so a 12″ side is closest to you. Roll the dough into a 10″ x 24″ rectangle (approximately). Fold each side into the center; then fold one side over the other to make a rectangular packet about 6″ x 10″.

Dust the surface of the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes.

Remove the dough from the fridge, and again roll it into a rectangle about 10″ x 24″. Fold it into a packet as you did before; it’ll be about 7″ x 12″. Give it another short rest in the fridge.

Roll one final time, fold into a packet, and flour the dough lightly. Wrap loosely (but completely) in plastic, and chill for 2 hours, or up to 16 hours; we prefer the longer refrigeration, as it gives the dough a chance to relax and rise.

While the dough is taking a rest, think about your fillings. A typical American-style Danish will have its center filled with fruit and nuts, or with a cheese blintz-type filling.

To fill all 2 dozen to 3 dozen of the pastries you’re about to make, you’ll need about 1 1/4 cups jam, preserves, fruit pie filling, or the chopped cooked fruits of your choice. Or try the following cheese filling:

1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mix everything together. Stirring will  yield a rather chunky filling; a food processor will smooth it out. Feel free to flavor with the extract of your choice: almond, vanilla, or butter-rum are all good, as are a few drops of lemon oil or Fiori di Sicilia. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Either of these filling suggestions makes enough to fill all the pastries; so if you want to mix and match, make a half-recipe of the cheese filling, and use only half the amount of fruit filling called for.

OK, we’re nearing the finish line – let’s assemble the pastries.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and cut off one third. You’ll work with this piece first; return the remainder to the fridge.

Now, this is where things begin to get sticky – not literally, but certainly figuratively. Before you go ahead and just follow these directions willy-nilly, read all the way through to the end of this post. Trust me, you may not want to go down the following path…

There are two ways to shape these pastries. One yields all kinds of fancy shapes; the other, detailed later, makes simple rounds. The fancy shapes turn out to be a bit problematic. Follow along with me, and you’ll see why.

Roll the dough into an 8″ x 16″ rectangle, and cut it into eight 4″ squares. Notice I haven’t managed to cut a single “square;” a bunch of raggedy rectangles is more like it. I’m the anti-Martha, so do as I say, not as I do!

Here are three easy shapes (top to bottom): cylinder, square, and pinwheel.

Dollop a heaping measuring teaspoon of filling into the center of each square of pastry. Shape as shown above, squeezing the edges of the dough together where they meet in the center.

Then there’s the cock’s comb: Spoon a strip of filling down the center of the dough, fold it over, and use a knife or pair of scissors to cut partway through the dough at the open edge several times. Shape the dough into a crescent to open the cuts.

Filled round? Well, that’s kind of awkward, considering we’re starting with a square piece of dough. But let’s give it a try. Dollop filling in the center, then gather all the edges up – rather than just four corners – and squeeze them together at the top. I’ve added another spoonful of filling on top, just to see what’ll happen.

Cover the pastries with lightly greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for 2 hours; they’ll puff noticeably, though not vigorously.

Towards the end of the baking time, preheat the oven to 400°F. Brush each pastry with an egg wash made from 1 large egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon cold water. Bake for about 18 minutes, until the pastries are a deep golden brown.

ZOUNDS! What happened to my carefully crafted shapes?

Well, the yeast did its job, and the dough just busted out all over, creating pastries that were ethereally light and flaky… but ridiculously un-handsome, and that’s putting it kindly.

Would I serve these to friends? Well, good friends, maybe, accompanied by a wry chuckle and a rueful shrug. But looking like this, they’re not really ready for prime time.

Well, that’s fine, I still have 2/3 of the dough left. Let’s try it again; maybe 2 hours is simply too long a rise.

For this second batch, let’s shape the dough and let it rise for just 20 minutes before baking.

Better, but still suffering in the looks department.

And the texture? That’s a 2-hour rise on the left – see all the air holes? On the right, the 20-minute rise. The 20-minute pastries were definitely denser and heavier.

Sigh. Still some dough left. What next?

Most Danish are round, right? What about if we forget all the fancy shapes, and simply start with flat disks?

Let’s divide this final 1/3 of the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a smooth ball, then flatten the balls into 3″ to 3 1/2″ rounds, making the center thinner than the edges. You want to build up a slight wall of dough all around the circumference; this will help hold the filling. Place the rounds on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet.

Cover the Danish lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for about 1 hour; they’ll become slightly puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Use your fingers to press the centers of the dough rounds as flat as possible, leaving the “sidewalls” puffed. Spoon a slightly heaping measuring teaspoon of filling into the well of each round.

Note: As you can see in the photo above (bottom row, left), at the last moment I decided to take one of the risen rounds and simply flatten it, leaving the edges just slightly puffy. I spread filling across the center of the disk, creating a circle of filling about 2″ in diameter. Then I scattered crushed walnuts over the filling.

Remember to brush the exposed edges of pastry with the egg wash; this will create a satiny, golden crust.

Bake the pastries for 15 to 18 minutes, until they’re golden brown.

And wouldn’t you know it, that final pastry, nearly an afterthought, is the one with the nicest combination of shape and texture. While not quite as light as those pastries in the first batch, it’s light enough; and much handsomer.

Especially once it’s drizzled with glaze.

Speaking of glaze, here it is:

1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar or glazing sugar
2 to 2 1/2 tablespoons water or milk, enough to make a “drizzlable” glaze
pinch of salt

Whisk everything together. Drizzle over the pastries.

And here they are, some of the many, many Danish I made in an attempt to figure out the elusive secret of this delicious pastry.

Some beauties; mostly beasts. As I said at the outset, though – ALL delicious.

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Danish Pastry.

Print just the recipe.

And if you like the idea of making your own Danish, you’ll enjoy our recipe for homemade Croissant, too. They’re created using much the same process.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel was born in Wisconsin, grew up in New England, and graduated from Brown University. She was a journalist in Massachusetts and Maine before joining the King Arthur Flour Company in 1990, where she's been ever since. Author or co-author of three King Arthur ...

comments

  1. sandra Alicante

    As anyone who knows me from the community will know, Danish and Croissants are one of my favourite things to make.
    Shaping – one of the easiest is to fold opposite corners of an egg washed square into the middle, press down, then add a filling on top. Don’t overdo the filling. I usually add the filling just before baking. My favourite is frozen raspberries (no need to defrost) mixed with a little jam to bind them, here are some pics.
    http://www.sandrascookbook.com/recipe.php?id=170&mode=pictures

    I find a mix of icing sugar and lemon juice provides a nice tangy drizzle.
    HI Sandra. Yes, I knew this post would be right up your alley. Thanks for sharing your pictures, as always! ~ MaryJane

    Reply
  2. lorrainesfav

    Thanks Mary Jane for giving us your pictures and tips on danish pastry. As always baking is learn as you go. That is what makes it so interesting and rewarding. You went forth and conquered the technique of making danish at home. How much fun was that! But…I would gladly taste a few of the not so pretty danish and be very happy. Lorraine

    Thanks, Lorraine, glad you enjoyed the post. Danish are more work than I’m used to, but the recipe does make a lot – and boy, were they good! PJH

    Reply
  3. jms2

    This has got to be one of my favorite posts. I am so new to yeast baking that everything I bake is a “first time” experience. And boy, some of my results are real doozies. Thanks for the inspiration to keep going without perfection as the goal. And by the way, your creations look delicious no matter their shape. They all should go to the head of the class! – joan

    Thanks, Joan – they’re definitely “head of the class” taste-wise, even though they’d never win any beauty contests… :) PJH

    Reply
  4. 4paws2go

    I just got a nicely sized ‘work table’…Mom’s kitchen is soooo tiny! I can do this! And strudel, too! Yippee-skippee!

    One of my all-time favorite fillings, right after almond, is the ‘meltaway’. I use Amendola’s formula, consisting of confectioner’s sugar/mix of butter/shortening/dry milk solids/egg whites. When I worked at the little bakery, we used a good quality frozen danish dough, so I have limited experience with working with the ‘real’ thing. I just so enjoy the way you present the whole experience, it makes it so much less daunting! Enjoyable, even!

    Thanks,
    Laura

    “Meltaway” sounds perfectly delicious, Laura – I tried a classic filing called “remonce,” which is just butter and sugar, but I think adding some flour (or dry milk) would keep it together better… Thanks for your kind words. PJH

    Reply
  5. "Mandi F."

    I always use the recipe in the KAF Whole Grain Baking book for cheese danish. They turn out slightly smaller than ones I’ve seen in bakeries but always light, delicious, and still quite attractive. Love that recipe. And I really appreciate you sharing your fails. It’s always comforting to me as a home baker when even the pros have kitchen flubs.

    Mandi, I totally forgot about that good recipe – thanks for the reminder. And yes, we do have quite a few flubs; hopefully, so we can learn from our mistakes and not put you, our readers, through a similar experience! PJH

    Reply
  6. whites5

    Thank you for the lesson and showing your “not quite ready for prime time” results. You made Danish seem absolutely doable!

    They’re totally do-able – it’s just not a “quick and easy” process. But then, everything doesn’t have to be quick and easy, does it? Some things are worth taking time for, and I think Danish are one of them. PJH

    Reply
  7. wendyb964

    Hi, Sandra. So are you saying you egg wash the entire piece before placing any filling on it? I’m a newbie at this type of pastry though I want to make old-fashioned bear claws with almond filling. Thanks, KAF for so many tried-and-true recipes and everyone’s wealth of knowledge.

    You’re welcome, Wendy. I’m sure Sandra will come back and give you an answer – PJH

    Reply
  8. "Holly S"

    I ventured into the realm of Danish making just a few weeks ago and I laughed so hard at your “Zounds!”… not at you but so with you because I had the exact same thing happen. I spent all this time and energy making these beautiful little shapes and what I put into the oven I swear was not what I took out!
    After a bit of practice or should I say bake and eat trials I was also able to come up with shapes and timing that worked out to great looking and tasty.
    Thanks so much for this post! I look forward to trying out the KA Danish dough soon.
    Cheers! H

    Holly, so glad you worked out the timing/shapes; Danish are a good thing to have in your “back pocket,” right? Just the fact that you KNOW how to make them – even if you don’t do so often – is a point of pride (at least for me!) Thanks for connecting here – PJH

    Reply
  9. pennyjeff

    I was kinda hopin’ that you would tell me how to make a ‘pan Danish’ . These individual ones are nice but a lot of work [ and frankly, I'm not that good with shaping dough ] I want to make the dough…. isn’t that enough work ?

    I’d guess you could just roll the dough into a big rectangle or square, then add your topping(s) and bake – should work… But I have to say, the shaping is actually pretty straightforward, as the dough is VERY easy to work with. Give it a try – PJH

    Reply
  10. Zanne4848

    I’ve been dreaming of a Pecan Danish Ring. We have no real bakeries within a 3 1/2 hr drive – the stores here that call themselves bakeries make Wonderbread type sweets).
    With your instructions, I might just try to make a ring. Any suggestions as to baking time?
    BTW, prune filling is wonderful as well as apricot.

    You know, you might want to try a Butter-Pecan Kringle – SO easy, SO good, and very, very similar to Danish. As for baking time – if yo do Danish dough, I’d say it would depend on the size of the ring, but you might want to bake for, oh, 20 minutes or so…? Good luck – PJH

    Reply
  11. "Janie Dee"

    Could you use this pastry to make Kouign Amann’s and if yes could you show us how? I can only get them at Whole Foods in Kansas City which is 4.5 hours from where I live. I guess that’s a good thing because they are sooo goood!!! Thank You in advance.

    Janie Dee, I do think you could make Kouign-amann with this dough – though you’d probably only want to give it three turns, rather than four; and you’d want to sprinkle the dough with sugar as you turn it. Not on my radar to blog it right now, but it certainly looks tasty! Let us know if you do it and how it comes, out, OK? PJH

    Reply
  12. Daveg

    Good job! I took the plunge last weekend and made Danish for the first time too! I used both the Buttery Dough flavor and a couple drops of Fiori di Sicilia in the dough – with great results. I made a few of the same shapes you did for my first batch – they came out ok. For the remaining batches I just used a scalloped square cookie cutter and made a dimple in the center for the filling – much easier! For fillings I used lemon curd, cream cheese, and I made a cinnamon nut filling. All-in-all a great experience! Planning to make another batch this weekend! Can’t say enough about King Arthur’s Buttery Dough and Fiori di Sicilia, they are the secret ingredients in many of my recipes!! Signed – “Certified KAF Junkie”!!

    Thanks, Dave, “C-KAF-J!” I didn’t think of lemon curd – great idea. Have you seen our 10-minute homemade lemon curd recipe? And I’ll definitely try the plan square next time – honestly, all the folds seem to just blow apart, so why go there? Enjoy – PJH

    Reply
  13. b.lm

    OMG – totally out of my comfort zone. Reading this blog it looks so easy and that there are no failures. One of the members on baking circle has challenged all of us to try something new. Well, this may just have to be may challenge. I have some peach jam made last summer that would make a tasty filling. Think warm summer breeze and the smell of peaches cooking down on the back of the stove. (We have a blizzard going on)
    Thanks! Brenda

    Oh, Brenda, you’re killin’ me… I LOVE LOVE LOVE peach anything! I’m getting a little tired of snow, and just the thought of simmering peach jam – well, it’s nearly as good as a trip to the Caribbean. Nearly. :) PJH

    Reply
  14. Cindy Leigh

    Last time I made Danish, I did sort of a knotted braid, and pressed the center down sort of flat and put the filling in the center. Came out fine. I’ve done one large one, and individual ones. They never lasted long for anyone to criticize the shape!

    I think one long Danish would definitely be worth trying, Cindy – thanks for the inspiration! PJH

    Reply
  15. sandra Alicante

    WENDY
    You use egg wash (lightly) to join bits together. In the case of the shape I was talking about, I egg wash the whole thing to give it a bit of a shine anyway and it’s easier to do it before putting the filling on. I fold the edges in and give the folds a wash then too.

    For anyone who is nervous about shaping, you can make ‘caracolas’. All you do for that is roll out the sheet of dough, put on filling of choice and roll up like a swiss roll. Cut into 1/2 inch slices and bake. (Good for dried fruits, spices etc.

    Reply
  16. "Since 8"

    I recently took the croissant class with Colette Christian on craftsy.com. She does a really good job of explaining and demonstrating the laminated dough process. Her method for making the butter block with the help of parchment paper would work with this dough as well. And she definitely agrees with you on the butter. Just another resource for those looking to learn.

    Thanks for sharing! The more help, the better the croissant! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  17. charliez

    @Amy Yes, I printed that one too. I guess to be fair, the 20+ page one is the blog post with all the nice pictures…

    Precisely! If you want all the details and pictures, certainly print the blog! However, our recipes are linked to each blog (usually right underneath the title in orange!) and you can find the printable versions there. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  18. 4paws2go

    At the bakery, we also used an apricot glaze, on the baked pastries, just a light wash, then topped w/confectioner’s sugar glaze. The glaze helps keep them from drying out so quickly.

    My next ‘big’ project is a strudel. I used to make them all the time, on my oblong dining room table. I have a bunch of old linen table cloths that are my designated ‘strudel cloths’…lol! I have to make smaller ones, down here.

    When are you guys gonna give strudel a go? Years ago, I’d sent PJH ‘strudel cam’ shots my hubby took, during the process. It really is a hoot, to make! Even my son enjoyed stretching the dough. It billows out like a sail, really cool!

    Laura

    Excellent suggestion, Laura! Strudel is also something I really would love to see a blog about! Kim@KAF

    Reply
  19. Mary K

    I was wondering if it would be ok to vacuum seal and freeze the remaining 2/3′s of the slab and then take them out and make at a later date. There are only 2 of us and that is way too much temptation. Great job at making it look doable!

    Mary, that should work just fine. The longer you freeze the more the dough will deteriorate, even when vacuum-packed, but it should be good 4-6 weeks. Have fun with it – and thanks for your kind words. PJH

    Reply
  20. AnneMarie

    Off topic, but something that I haven’t thought of for a while,…. do we no longer do daffodil watch????

    AnneMarie, no, no more daffodil watch – I’ve moved and no longer have daffodils next to my foundation, where they spring up early in the season. It was fun while it lasted, though, wasn’t it? :) PJH

    Reply
  21. horses272

    I made these Danish and I can’t believe how well they turned out. I did the easy method with the balls of dough and used my home-made jam for the filling.My only request is that I wish I knew how to trim down the recipe to make just a dozen of them. Thanks,Marie

    Marie, your best bet is to make the entire batch of dough, then freeze 2/3 of it for a later date. Since you’re doing all the work anyway, might as well make more than you need right away; i’d call that money in the bank, right? ;) PJH

    Reply
  22. jlamanna

    I remember my mom making Danish pastry, and even made it with her once. We would cut the puff pastry dough into long strips , then twist them, then make a coil. we filled the center of the coil with the filling and didn’t seem to have the issues that you had. Perhaps you could try that on your next go-round.

    Great idea, thanks for the tip!-Jon

    Reply
  23. Bill Trapp

    Really liked this recipe and in particular the blog complete with pics. Have tried several similar recipes, can’t wait to try this one; seems so easy. The count of layers, 128, is interesting. The French call the pastry “mille fueilles” (for thousand leaves). If you count the layers of dough rather than butter, it amounts to 768 which I guess gets rounded to a thousand.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Thanks, Bill – hope you try it sometime, they’re pretty tasty… PJH

    Reply
  24. Elizabeth

    Looks like a lot of dough – would a standard home Kitchen Aid be able to handle it?

    If the standard mixer can accommodate 5 1/2 cups of flour, then it should be fine. We used the stand mixer to mix the dough, then all the rest is hand work! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  25. Tonia

    When I want “danish” but am feeling lazy, I use a medium rich bioche dough — all the elements of danish dough, but without the rolling/folding drama! I’ve found that when making the shape you really need to “squish” the dough together with a little egg wash (for example: the square shape, push the center all the way down ’til you feel the pan both before the rise and just before putting in the oven to bake). Also, after shaping, usually shouldn’t need more than 1 hour of rising, probably less if your kitchen is warm! Of course, I know this because I had many interesting shaped danishes after the oven. :-) Trial and error — great thing about baking, most errors are still delicious!!
    Isn’t brioche one of the most beautiful doughs, Tonia? Thanks for the tips! Elisabeth

    Reply
  26. Rebecca

    I used to feel the same way you do about unsalted butter. Then they started adding “natural flavor” to unsalted and it is not found in salted butter. So now I use salted butter for everything because I find “natural flavor” to be cloying. I wish they wouldn’t do that.

    Reply
  27. tad1959

    When I took the bakeshop part of my chef training we never made danish that way. The rolled-in dough short cuts are fine. However, bakers cinnamon sugar was always used long strips of about an inch egg washed and dipped in cinnamon sugar then curled in a spiral to for the round leaving a center “bowl” for the fillings. Or larger strips for twisted. Or rectangles to fold for bearclaws all egg washed before baking. roll in the dough retard(refrigerate over night) then as you say work in thirds and using strips is much faster. Less hard and fun you can even do longer strips for those 2 flavor filled figure eights. The big tip for any of the sugar used in the bakeshop was to store the sugar with a whole vanilla bean in the sugar. It changes the flavor and makes a difference in any bakeshop activity. I love baking and am retired so why hide all those chefs secrets…heh always willing to talk. Oh forgot brush the strands on one side with egg wash the using shaker put on cinnamon sugar then twist or form you rounds sighs long time ago and by the way the finished danish freeze very well and they should last 4 months in the freezer though none of my friends had them last that long…:D

    Tad, you’ve got my mouth watering, just imagining the wonderful pastries from your description. And the spiral method is one I recognize, now that you mention it. Love the dipping in cinnamon-sugar first – and thanks for the vanilla bean hint, too. I knew about doing that, but never thought about it being the basis behind the “secret” taste that bakery treats can have… Thanks for sharing! PJH

    Reply
  28. Irene in T.O.

    I was taught to make Danish a different way. I believe the recipe came from Good Housekeeping or McCalls magazine in the 1950′s.

    Total butter about 3/4 of what you show here. Nop big block of it either.

    Once you have the dough, you dab half the butter on 2/3 of it and make the same folds shown here. The second half of the butter gets dabbed at the second rolling. Then there are 3 more rounds of rolling and folding, all half an hour apart. Then you shape IMMEDIATELY after the last half hour rest. This method has always produced the flaky dough regardless of whether you make strips or squares. It doesn’t rise more than 20 minutes and bakes at 350F for about 20-25 minutes per cookie sheet full.

    Thank you so much for sharing your technique with us!-Jon

    Reply
  29. zawackiis

    Excellent…you made this look like something achievable and certainly worth trying. I think I have been inspired (Once again) by you to try baking something new. Thank you!

    Reply
  30. "Copper Kettle"

    Loved reading all the comments here and look forward to adding my two cents after baking them on Sunday. The photos were very helpful also. Biggest takeaway for me would be to take it easy on the filling….

    Reply
  31. "R.L. Wallace"

    Because a batch of folded pastries popped open during baking, this recipe tells you, in effect, that classical Danish pastries just don’t work; and after you’ve gone to all the trouble of making a laminated dough, you are told to wad it up in little balls and squash them into mini-pizzas. That is just plain silly.

    This recipe repeats the flaws of the KAF croissant recipe: it tries for too many “turns” and too thin a lamination. Puff pastry can achieve 6 triple turns, for (theoretically) 729 butter layers; but laminated yeast doughs like Danish pastry or croissants are harder to roll out (more rubbery from the gluten, more moist), and their dough layers are made more fragile by the yeast action. One professional text says that “croissant dough is given a total of two and one-half to three [triple] turns, very rarely four turns, never more” (Bilheux and Escoffier, “Doughs, Batters, and Meringues,” page 181); that means 27 butter layers (3 to the third power) or “very rarely” 81 butter layers. By contrast, this KAF recipe calls for 2 butter layers to start with, plus 3 quadruple turns, for a total of 128 butter layers — nearly 5 times the usual maximum! The almost inevitable result is that the dough and butter layers simply amalgamate, producing a baked pastry that may taste fairly good, but that lacks the flaky exterior and honeycombed interior of a well-made laminated yeast dough.

    Moreover, the refrigeration times between turns (“20 minutes,” “another short rest”) are way too short, at least outside a Vermont climate, and make a lamination breakdown still more likely; and the Cabot butter referred to in the blog, extra-easy to slice even when cold, is also extra-difficult to work with in this dough. The photos in the blog bear this out: the rolled-out dough with its 128 imaginary layers of butter looks more like rolled pizza dough (BlogPhotos54, top) and the limp pieces of cut-to-size dough are retracting badly (same, bottom). Instead, this dough should look exactly like rolled puff pastry: smooth and even on the surface, with cut edges that stay sharp.

    This recipe shares another flaw with the KAF croissants: the unbuttered dough is not given a chance to develop flavor through a pre-lamination rise. (Compare KAF’s baguette recipe, with its overnight starter plus a 3-hour pre-forming rise.) No wonder this Danish recipe thinks a spoonful of “buttery sweet dough flavor” is necessary!

    As for the change in shape during baking, to some extent that is normal: my Danish envelopes (4 corners folded to the center as in BlogPhotos48) expand from 3 inches before rising to more than 4 inches after baking, and the corners pull away from the center somewhat). But the main culprit here is probably too much yeast, and instant yeast at that. KAF’s croissant recipe, with the same amount of flour, calls for 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast; this Danish recipe nearly doubles the yeast to 4 teaspoons. And because instant yeast is engineered to be extra-vigorous on the first rise, this one-rise recipe results in more yeast action, teaspoon for teaspoon, than a classical Danish recipe. Also, most echt-Danish cut-and-fold shapes involve pastry stuck onto pastry, like my 4-corner envelopes, the 2-corner variant suggested in another blog comment, or the cockscombs pictured here; expecting a dough with a double rising action (yeast and lamination) to stick to a soft, damp filling is mostly wishful thinking. It also helps to lightly moisten the dough and press the flap down very firmly, slightly indenting it. Finally, the fold is more likely to open if the dough is too thick for the length of the flap; for a 4-inch square of dough with its corners folded in, the thickness should only be about 3/16 inch.

    The yeast is not the only excessive ingredient in this dough formula; while the salt and sugar proportions are sound, the minimum amount of cardamom (1/2 teaspoon) is almost double what I use, and 1 teaspoon is ridiculous unless your cardamom is stale by several years.

    All in all, this recipe recognizes some of its own problems, ignores others, and solves none of them. It should never have been published.

    Thank you for copying your same review of this recipe onto the Blog as well. I have responded to you on the actual recipe page where I first encountered your comments. We will certainly be looking into this. Kim@KAF

    Reply
  32. Morten

    I agree with R.L. Wallace about the number of layers. The traditional method (I am Danish myself) requires a dough with one butter layer, and folding it in three. Repeating a total of three times creates 3^3=27 layers of butter in the dough. If you use too much force or too many layers, the butter blends into the dough, the Danish pastries fail and become delicious sweet rolls instead.

    This happens to me every time :-)

    Thank you for the tips and advice. Always glad to have another person’s advice on de-bunking danish pastry dough (a very challenging dough!) Best, Kim@KAF

    Reply
  33. fernando

    Guys, listen to this, it is important for danish. The picture shown doesn´t show good flaky layering, it shows more a kind of brioche texture, this is not what a danish pastry should look like!!!

    The problem: this guy has used a flower with too much protein! High protein flour is used for brioches, breads and so on, but NOT FOR PUFF things.

    The solution: You need 11% proteins, no more no less to obtain a proper layering, we don´t want a brioche, we want layers…. Mix 50% strong and 50% low protein. That is the secret. Another thing, as said in all receips dough always cold for lamination!!!

    Thanks for the tip of what to look for during the process and the bake for home made flaky pastry. This recipe uses all purpose flour, which is 11.7% protein or gluten. We appreciate your tips that will help others achieve the flaky pastry of their dreams. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

    Reply
  34. Sheri Lock

    I tried the recipe, but had not checked the blog pictures. I am used to yeast dough and making breads and cinnamon rolls that rise like an alien taking over the world. This dough worked well, but just got slightly puffy. Not wanting to give up, I filled and baked it anyway. They looked good enough, although not round. They were rather oval to rectangular. I took 2 dozen to church and they raved over them and polished every last crumb. Even the two chefs in the congregation told me to keep at it. Now that I have seen these blog pics, I am encouraged. I’ll just have to keep practicing. There are many willing testers of my efforts our there.

    Thanks so much for making all of this happen.

    Reply
    1. PJ Hamel , post author

      It’s a project for sure, Sheri – and the pictures reflect that it was my first time trying it, so they’re not the prettiest Danish, it’s true. But they did taste good, and I’m glad yours did, too. Listen to your “audience” – keep trying, and they’ll keep enjoying your efforts, which will simply get better and better. Good luck – PJH

  35. Cathleen P

    Can someone explain to me how to turn this surplus of mascarpone cheese that is currently dominating my cheese drawer into a nice danish filling? I don’t really know what to cut it with, how runny it’s supposed to be (if at all), or if it’s insane to even consider using mascarpone in a danish pastry. I do happen to have the pastry in my freezer from when I had a butter surplus awhile back, so in theory we’re good on that . . . :). But I need to learn some basic filling rules. Help!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Our favorite recipes for that mascarpone would include Fresh Berry Tiramisu and Divine Chocolate Velvet Cheesecake! Our 200th Anniversary Cookbook or Commemorative edition has a nice Cheese Filling recipe for danish on page 204. A quick web search of the recipes we found for mascarpone danish filling also include cream cheese or sour cream. What a delicious dilemma! Irene@KAF

  36. Susan B

    I have read the blog for the first time and I’m thrilled. I do, however, have a problem that you may help me solve. I have become the baker for our diabetics at church. I use splenda in my deserts with great success. I am stumped when it comes to “powdered sugar”. Any suggestions what I can use as a substitute?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Unfortunately, we don’t do extensive testing of sugar substitutes in our test kitchen here at King Arthur although we have a few recipes based on substitutes. As sugar substitutes do often behave differently than regular sugars, I would suggest looking for a credible source that has recipes written for the substitute you would like to use. I am not aware of anything akin to powdered sugar that is sugar-free, but I suspect you may be able to find other recipes for the same products done in a sugar-free manner from the start with some digging online. Happy Baking! Jocelyn@KAF

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