Friday, March 11, 2011

Terribly Happy....

....about the danish I just made.  Also, that's the title of an awesome movie from Denmark. Oh, I'm so clever! Anyway, I've been wanting to make some kind of so-called "laminated dough" for a long long while, but it always seemed like such a time commitment.  Apparently "laminated dough" refers to kinds of dough with layers and layers and layers of butter (or shortening or lard, probably) in them, as a result of folding the dough, then rolling it out, then folding the dough, then rolling it out, then folding the dough.... sigh. And did I mention that you are required to refrigerate said dough for at least an hour between each folding/rolling session?
Well, because we are having the longest winter EVER and I am now suffering from extreme cabin fever, I have a lot of pent up energy. Last weekend, I somehow managed to channel this into baking, rather than just surfing the internet, watching horror movies, or drawing sharpie tattoos on myself and my children...
I started the dough on Friday night...and by Sunday "morning" (2 p.m.) there were fully formed danish ready to consume.  Just to give you an idea of the time line.
That being said, there was nothing at all that was hard about making these.  I consulted both Martha Stewart and Nigella recipes, as well as googling "danish pastry" and ended up with this:
1 cup milk (* have some extra on hand..more on this later)
2 envelopes instant yeast (or "rapid"....if you use active dry, dissolve it in the milk first)
4 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbs salt
1 pound of butter (softened...cut it up into tablespoons and lay on a plate, and it will soften in about 15 minutes)
2 large eggs and 1 egg yolk
Sugar (to sprinkle on the tops)
Another egg, beaten (to brush on the tops, do not mix into the dough)

1. Put the flour, yeast, sugar , salt, 4 Tbs of the butter, and milk into the mixer and mix until the dough becomes cohesive. This is where the potential need for extra milk comes in.  I don't know what it is about it related to the moisture in the air? The brand of flour? Who knows... but sometimes I end up having to add a lot more liquid just to make the dough stick together.  Anyway, add the extra milk a tiny bit at a time so that you do not drown the dough.
2.When it comes together and does not have any big dry clumps of flour, knead it with the dough hook, or by hand, very briefly, until relatively smooth.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate several hours, or overnight.
3. Now, take it out of the fridge and I suggest letting it sit for just a few minutes because it will be really hard to roll out at first.  Then, roll it out into a big rectangle, about 1 1/2 feet (yes really) by a foot. Approximate. It should be about a quarter of an inch thick. Now, distribute the butter all over two thirds of the dough, like this:
It will seem like way too much butter, and this is coming from me, and I heart butter.  But it will be fine...everything will be alll right.
4. Now, fold the naked 1/3 over the butter, and then flip that folded part over the rest of the buttered part. Basically, fold it into thirds, like a business letter, as they say.

Voila. It will be bulging with butter in an almost obscene way. Try to sort of pinch the edges to keep the butter from seeping out the seams.
5. Roll it out, to the same dimensions as before. Now fold it into thirds again. And put into the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic. This is the first "turn", and there will be three turns.  Now, you can start to imagine how danish and crossaints get all the layers, right?
6. After an hour (at least) take it out, roll out, fold up. Re-wrap, put back in fridge. For another hour.
7. See # 6.  This is the third and final turn. EXCEPT, after this one, leave it in the fridge for 3 or 4 hours or overnight.  This is for letting the dough rest and the butter get really cold before you cut into it. Or, it's tradition, perhaps.  I don't know, but it seemed to work.
8. Now you are ready to SHAPE and FILL! Roll it out a final time into a big rectangle, about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut along the edges so they are nice and straight.
9. Now, cut into 12 equal sized squares.  Make cuts from each corned in toward the middle, like this:
 But stop short about an inch from the middle of the square. (I know these pictures are not good, I was using my phone.  I can't find my camera charger)
10. Fold in corners like such:
Until you get this:
Ta da! A cute little pinwheel! Make sure you really press the dough into the center of the pinwheel - otherwise, when you bake them, they will pop open and you will end up with danish in the shape of iron crosses, which is probably not a message you want to be sending.
11. Put a spoonful of preserves in the middle. Put on a baking sheet which has parchment paper if you have it (which I never do), or aluminum foil, which is what I did. Because I'm too lazy to wash baking sheets, this way you just peel off the foil and throw it away.  Just typing that made me feel guilty about the environment.
12. When all 12 pinwheels are made (they will have to go on two baking sheets, fyi), cover them with plastic or a damp cloth, and let rise for an hour. Preheat the oven to 375.
13. Brush beaten egg on the tops, sprinkle with sugar.  Bake about 20 minutes, switching the sheets halfway (in other words, 10 minutes on the top rack, 10 min on the bottom rack, for each sheet of pastries)

14. Cool on baking rack
 While I was making these, I was so enthusiastic that I started to get all kinds of ideas about making a different kind of pastry each weekend, inviting a bunch of people over for brunch, etc.... now just thinking about all those things makes me exhausted! These were time consuming, but worth it, and delicious, really.