Saturday, February 22, 2014

Danish pastry-The classic sweet roll

I've always been mesmerized by these light and airy pastries filled with sweet jam. They just look so beautiful--almost too lovely to eat. Ah, but these pastries live to be eaten. They live to be enjoyed by people all over the world. That was my goal exactly with these danishes. I wanted to make them look too good to eat, but so enticing that you can't help but devour them. I think I achieved that if I do say so myself. 

I decided to add a little twist into these pastries by adding a thin layer of hazelnut cream, very similar to a frangipane, between the two layers of dough. The result is a deliciously nutty and earthy note added to each bite. The danish dough itself is so flaky and buttery, which is everything you would want in a danish. The butteriness stems from the addition of a butter block into the dough. This process is called "laminating" the dough. I'll discuss this further in the recipe section of this post. 

Overall, this danish is not all too difficult to make. I highly recommend beginners to buy puff pastry dough rather than making danish dough from scratch. The laminating of the butter is the hardest and most tedious part of making the dough. If you aren't interested in waiting around hours to make a simple slab of dough, buying puff pastry dough is definitely a healthy alternative. However, if you're up for the challenge, by all means go ahead! 

Recipe Review:

Taste: The addition of hazelnut cream adds a wonderful nutty note to the pastry. The jam has the perfect amount of tartness that contrasts the sweetness of the icing and butteriness of the pastry itself. 
Texture: It is very flaky and light. There is a nice bite even though it virtually melts in your mouth....which is a good thing! 
Level of difficulty: This is definitely not a beginner's recipe if you want to make the dough from scratch. The hardest part is making sure the butter is correctly added to the dough. The rest is a piece of cake. 
Appearance: It is a beautiful golden pillow topped with a rich and dark raspberry jam. 

Black Raspberry Danish 
makes approx 14 danishes 
adapted from Joe Pastry 

Pastry Dough
5.5 ounces (2/3 cup) milk
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons (6 grams) instant yeast
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg

Butter Slab
8 oz unsalted butter, left at room temperature for 15 minutes
2 tablespoons flour

Combine the first six ingredients into a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix the ingredients until they come together and becomes smooth and uniform, about five minutes. Transfer the dough into a greased bowl and let it rise for a half hour at room temperature. Then, leave the dough in a fridge for a minimum of two hours or overnight. 

When you are ready to use the dough, begin making the butter slab. Put the butter on top of two layers of plastic wrap, with 1 tablespoon of flour under the butter and one tablespoon over the butter. Wrap the plastic over the butter and, using a rolling pin, begin beating the death. You really want to flatten the butter. Once it is flat, cut the dough into a rough square and pile the scraps on top of the square. Then keep beating. Repeat this process until the butter is pale and dull looking. If it beings to shine, the butter is too soft. If that's the case, put the butter back into the fridge to let it firm up again. Once the butter is pale and dull, it is ready to be laminated into the dough. Make sure it is a square shape. 

Now it is time to laminate the butter. Take out your dough and roll it into a square slightly larger than the size of the butter slab. The rest of this recipe is easier to see than it is to write. Therefore, I will now direct you to Joe Pastry's instructions. 

Hazelnut Cream
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3 tablespoons softened butter 
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour 

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor and process until a creamy paste in formed. Leave in the fridge until ready for use. 

Sweet Roll
1 recipe danish pastry dough
1 recipe hazelnut cream
1 jar of jam--your preference 

Begin by rolling about a pound and a half of Danish dough out into a square about 1/4-inch thick (the actual dimensions don’t really matter). Spread a thin layer of hazelnut cream on half of the dough. Fold the other half over to enclose the hazelnut cream. Then, cut the dough into 1 inch strips. 

Now, gently stretch the dough and pinch one end and begin twisting the opposite end. Now, still holding one end of the dough strip down, drape the strip down and around the center point in a curlicue. Tuck the end under the pastry so it doesn't unravel in the oven. Put them on parchment paper and cover with lightly greased plastic wrap. Keep at room temperature for 2 hours, until the dough is soft and airy to the touch.

After two hours, the danishes are now ready to bake. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Using a spoon, indent the center of the pastry and lay about a teaspoon of jam in the middle. Brush the pastry with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let them cool and drizzle them with powdered sugar icing. Enjoy! 

*Visuals can be seen at Joe Pastry

As you can see, this recipe is extremely time consuming. The dough alone takes 4 hours to proof. This definitely is not a recipe for those in a rush. A whole day must be dedicated to making these danishes. However, the end product is definitely worth the effort and trouble.  I highly recommend making a trip to Joe Pastry because he provides many wonderful step-by-step photos. If you are interested in a new baking adventure, this is the recipe for you. So go ahead and give it a try! You won't regret it.

As always, Happy Baking! 

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