What I Did During My Furlough, Part Two: Fruit Danishes

After my first effort at making Danishes using a food processor shortcut to cut the butter into the flour, I thought that I was ready to go whole hog; a traditional laminated dough recipe where a solid sheet of butter (beurrage) is layered, rolled, and folded with dough (détrempe). I picked a recipe by Sarabeth Levine from her cookbook Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours. The cookbook has a wonderful set of 12 photos (accompanied by detailed instructions) illustrating the method for incorporating the beurrage into the détrempe and the subsequent rolling and folding process applicable to puff pastry, croissants, and Danish dough.

While the methods for making Sarabeth's croissant dough and Danish dough are almost identical, the détrempe for the Danish dough is enriched with butter and egg yolks; it is made from yeast, milk, sugar, egg yolks, vanilla seeds, all-purpose flour, salt, and a small amount (four tablespoons) of softened butter. The beurrage is a half pound of chilled butter (I used Plugrá) beaten briefly with two tablespoons of flour, and then formed into a square and chilled.

You encase the beurrage in an envelope of détrempe and then roll out the dough and create layers by making three turns (a single, a double, and another single), each separated by 20 minutes of chilling time to relax the gluten and keep the butter at the proper temperature. If you want to read detailed instructions for this process, see steps 6-10 of Sarabeth's croissant dough recipe here; the comprehensive set of photos in the cookbook was quite helpful during this process.

I rolled out the dough on our Corian counter and to keep the surface cold, I placed some ice packs on the counter before I started and also while the dough was chilling between turns. It worked like a charm. I got the idea from an episode of Baking with Julia featuring Michel Richard, where he mentioned that in order to get a marble slab cold before rolling puff pastry, he put a garbage bag of ice on top of it.

After the final turn, you divide the dough into two pieces, wrap them well, and put them in the freezer. Sarabeth says that you need to make this dough at least two days in advance of baking and that the time in the freezer both firms the butter and flour layers and encourages them to bake into an extra-flaky texture. However, you have to plan your baking schedule carefully, because the dough takes eight hours to defrost in the fridge and you have to roll it out immediately after it's defrosted, or it will begin to rise and develop a yeasty taste (she also says you can't freeze it for longer than four days, or the flour will discolor and the yeast will lose strength). The schedule that was easiest for me was to start defrosting the dough around midnight, and then to roll and shape the Danishes at 8:00 the following morning.

The method for forming the round Danish shape is pretty interesting. (And there is another nice set of photos in the cookbook that was very helpful.) Basically, you roll out the dough into a large rectangle, sprinkle on a mixture of cinnamon and sugar, and then fold the dough in half, creating a thin layer of cinnamon-sugar in between two layers of dough. Then you cut the folded dough into thin strips, twist the strips, and wrap the twisted strips (with the cinnamon-sugar still inside) into a snail shape, tucking the loose end underneath.

You arrange the Danishes on a baking sheet, slip the sheet into a large plastic bag (I used a 13-gallon trash bag), place a glass of very hot water on the center of the pan, and close the bag to create a makeshift proofing box. After the Danishes become puffy (around two hours), you remove the sheet from the bag, make an indentation in the center of each Danish with your thumb, and fill it with jam. You brush the Danishes with egg wash, bake them, and then brush them with apricot glaze (apriot jam simmered with a little water) when they are still hot from the oven. The glaze gives them a beautiful shiny appearance.
I was thrilled with the way these Danishes looked; they were dead ringers for the ones in the cookbook photo. I love the way that the twisted strips of dough formed such a beautiful and interesting design. And the interior of the pasty had beautiful layers and a perfect texture. But most importantly, these Danishes tasted amazing.

I ate one fresh from the oven, and the sweet dough was unbelievably tender and light, and the touch of cinnamon was just heavenly. Compared to my previous batch of Danishes -- which looked good but tasted like supermarket pastry -- these not only looked better, but they tasted better. In fact, these were more delicious than any Danish I've ever had before. By leaps and bounds. Usually I consider the best part of a Danish to be the filling, but this dough was so flavorful that I would have happily eaten the Danishes even with no fruit filling at all.

These Danishes were spectacular fresh from the oven, but they were still great for the next 24 hours (that's as long as they lasted) after a quick reheating in the oven. It's still difficult for me to believe that I can actually make these wonderful pastries at home. Best. Furlough. Project. Ever.

Recipe: "Danish Dough" and "Fruit Danish" from Sarabeth's Bakery: From My Hands to Yours, by Sarabeth Levine.

Previous Post: "What I Did During My Furlough, Part One: Danish Pinwheels," October 7, 2013.


Louise said…
Really nice looking weinerbrod.