Danish, shortened for Danish pastry is a multi-layered, leavened, sweet pastry just like croissants, but only sweeter and richer in taste. I still remember, how I adored looking at these jewel like pastries in cafe windows in Paris.
During my time as a baker/pastry chef, I had the chance to learn and practice making french pastry. I absolutely loved making danishes and decorating them, specially when they came out of the oven looking all scrumptious. I think they look so sophisticated with the fruity center and the shiny flan jelly glaze.
The pastry contains more butter, sugar and eggs and hence the richer taste. Traditionally the dough is scented with vanilla and/or cardamom. I added a pinch of cardamom to my dough, but I think it disappeared among all other flavors. But vanilla definitely came through. The pastry is very well balanced and delicious, you can eat it on it’s own.
Because the dough is richer, I have increased the amount of start I use. I’m using the same stiff, sweet sourdough starter as in croissants. That doesn’t have to change. The fermentation is similar to that of sourdough croissants.
I usually do three letter folds or two book folds for the croissant dough. For this I only did two letter folds. It is completely up to you and this is my personal preference. Also I think having lots of layers in a Danish, makes it difficult to bake and decorate, then again, it depends on what shapes you are forming them into. So, if you like lots of layers, then by all means do two book fold.
Unlike croissants, danishes require a few extra detailing before baking and also few finishing touches once baked. You can skip these or replace it with an alternative as they only affect the flavor and the look. The texture will not be affected.
Usually, Danishes are egg washed and filled with custard or cream cheese and topped with fruits before baking. You can place fruits afterwards too. Or you can bake them and then fill them with custard/cream cheese. But I personally like the baked custard center, so that’s what I am doing here.
Once these are baked, give them a few minutes to cool down and then you can decorate them. Traditionally, the whole pastry or at least the fruit center is coated with flan jelly. This is to keep the fruit fresh and also to give them a shiny look. At home we can use melted apricot jam in place of Flan jelly. If you want, you can add some fresh fruit too. I love fresh fruits with flaky pastry and custard, so I have topped mine with some fresh raspberries.
Okay, so let get to the steps.
Make the stiff starter, the night before. Use fed active culture to make this starter. Remember your starter strength is important for the fermentation.
Next day, mix everything, except for the water. Add water gradually and stop as soon as you’v got a dough formed. Knead the dough until it’s kind of smooth and flatten it lightly.
Remember! You might not need all the water in the recipe, different flours absorb water differently. Humidity affects this too. Also the size of your egg, consistency of the butter matters too.
Wrap the dough and refrigerate until next day morning.
Mix butter and the little flour and shape it to a slab ( about 3/4 cm of thickness) Check this video to see how to do this.
Wrap and refrigerate.
Once you are ready, take the butter slab out and let it thaw for 5-10 minutes. Roll out the dough to twice the size of the butter slab. Wrap the butter with the dough. Check next picture.
Butter is now securely enclosed inside the dough. Seal the edges of the pastry, so that the butter wouldn’t escape. Flatten using the rolling pin and then start rolling length-wise.
This has been rolled out, length-wise. Then fold the dough sheet like a letter. Check next picture.
This is the first letter fold.
Check this video to see how the first letter fold is done.
Now wrap and place this in a fridge for an hour or two. Then take it out again and repeat this same process to do a second letter fold.
Once done, place back in the fridge. Now you can let this rest for about 4-6 hours.
After the resting period, roll out the laminated dough into a 40 cm by 20 cm square. Do this in stages. Get it to 20 by 10 first, and then refrigerate to rest, so the dough won’t shrink back. I like to cut the dough in half and roll out each half separately. Let this rest for few hours before you cut out shapes.
Once ready, cut 8, 10 cm by 10 cm squares. Shape them however you like, I did the following shape.
Put slits on the opposite sides as shown in the picture. Criss cross the cut ends and paste on the opposite sides. Check next picture.
I like to make this shape, as it’s easier to fill the center. Google for more shapes that you can do and try them out.
Once done, place them on a prepared tray. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and leave on the counter overnight. At this stage you can refrigerate them too ( for up to a day or two) and proof and bake later.
Or if you want to bake them on the same day, let them sit in a warm place. They will proof in about 4-5 hours.
(75F – 95F) is considered warm. It a range so the higher the temperature the sooner they will proof. But becareful as too much warmth can melt the butter.
It’s a good idea to make the custard a day ahead. So it is set and ready to go when the danishes are proofed.
You can make any custard( pastry cream) you like, use custard powder if you want.
This is my simple recipe: 1 cup milk, 30 g sugar, 25 g corn flour, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Boil milk and sugar in a heavy bottom saucepan. Whisk, eggs and corn flour until smooth. Pour boiling milk slowly into the egg mix, while whisking. Then pour the mixture back in the saucepan, and cook on medium heat, whisking vigorously, until mixture thickens. Once done, take off the heat, add vanilla and pure into a heat proof bowl. Cover the top with a cling film and refrigerate.
I usually let mine proof slowly over-night (10-12 hours), they are usually ready in the morning. If they aren’t quite ready, I would place them in a warm place for about an hour to finish-off proofing.
Remember, long and slow gives you more flavor and longer the fermentation, the better. That’s why we use sourdough after all. If you want quick results, using commercial yeast is the way to go.
Pre-heat the oven to 420 F or 215 C. Place a rack in the center.
Make an egg wash with a yolk and a tsp of water. Apply a light coating. Do not let it drip over the sides or pool around.
Once egg washed, place a dollop of pastry cream/ custard in the center and stick some fruit:
Fruit can be ; sour cherries, strawberries, raspberries, blue/black berry, ripe apricot (canned or fresh), apples, pears etc.
Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, reduce temperature to 400 F, rotate the tray and bake for a further 10 minutes or until golden brown all around.
Once baked, remove from the oven and let them cool off on the tray itself for about 15 minutes.
Melt some apricot jam in the microwave or stove-top.
Decorate with extra fruit (optional) and apply the melted jam over the top to cover the entire pastry.
Let the finished pastry rest for about 10 minutes. The jam will set nicely and will be less sticky. Serve with your favorite beverage.
As there is custard, these can not be left at room temperature for more than 4 hours. If you want to store them, place in an air-tight container and refrigerate. Freshen up in the oven before serving.
These are best eaten, fresh. So I would not recommend storing them. You can refrigerate them, but they will lose their flaky texture.
If you are desperate, you can bake these without custard and fruits and store them at room temperature for up to a day or freeze them in sealed containers. And to serve, they can be refreshed by baking for 10 minutes in a moderate oven, remember to thaw frozen pastry first. Afterwards, you can fill them with your favorite topping.
This is my usual recipe, which makes only 8 pastries. It is perfect for the two of us for breakfast and then may be a couple for tea. If you are serving a big crowd, you can double or quadruple the recipe easily.
If you tried this, please leave a comment to let me know what you think or tag me on Instagram. Any questions, ask them in the comments section below, and I’d be happy to answer them.
You can find related videos on my you tube channel too.