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Good afternoon! While casting about for ideas for this week’s post (I say as though I consistently post each and every week…), my wonderful husband recommended doing something with a laminated dough. Since this is something I haven’t touched since that one day in culinary school, I thought that this was a marvelous idea! While puff pastry is a laminated dough and I could have made croissants, I prefer the sweeter, richer Danish.

Cheese Danish ready for tea!

Cheese Danish ready for tea!

I started out this post by stopping by a nearby bakery and picking up some of their danishes, partly because I wanted to see how theirs looked and tasted, mostly just because I wanted a danish. It was delicious with a moderately dense dough and sweet cheese filling, but I think, as you’ll see, mine came out somewhat different in texture, so I don’t think we’re working with quite the same dough.

The recipe I used for the dough came from Emeril and the cheese filling from the book A Real American Breakfast by Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison. I will post them here for your ease of use.

Before I do that, however, let me talk a little about the danish. Danish is made with a laminated dough and what that means is that layers of fat (butter) and dough alternate to create that tender flaky wonderment that transports you to Nirvana (not the band, the paradise). A fancy word used to describe sweet yeast doughs is “Viennoiserie” because they are in the Viennese style of pastry. So why is it called a Danish if it’s Viennese? Well, according to a very reliable source (*cough Wikipedia *cough), the Viennese bakers brought a pastry called Plundergeback to Denmark where it was well-received and overtime, the recipe was tweaked here and there to produce what we know of as the Danish. And thus there you have it.

Cheese Pinwheel Danish

Cheese Pinwheel Danish

Now I am sure you are just dying to see this technique, am I right? I must apologize because I don’t have any love for taking photographs during a process, only after, and I’m sorry to say that means you must work from my words only and not my actions, but you’re smart, I think. And if it’s not enough, check out these links!

This one is a puff pastry demonstration, but the technique is similar: http://www.joepastry.com/2008/how-to-laminate-dough/

This video shows you how to roll out and shape the “Snail” version of Danish: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=xfDRLX7KFeo

And now the recipes! 

Danish Dough

3/4 cup warm water (105 degrees F – 115)

1/2 cup milk (105 degrees F – 115)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 oz dry active yeast

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

4 cups flour

1/2 tsp cardamom (I used nutmeg, it was great)

1 egg yolk

flour for dusting

8 oz cold unsalted butter

1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water (this is for the egg wash)

Now, in your electric mixer (or just a regular bowl if you are superhuman) combine the warm water, milk, yeast and vanilla. Mix to dissolve yeast. In a separate bowl, sift together the sugar, salt, flour and cardamom. Along with the egg yolk, add this mixture to the yeast/milk mixture using a dough hook if you have one for your mixer. Mix on low to medium until it is all combined and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Now put that in the fridge for 15 minutes. This dough doesn’t need a lot of kneading. (hahaha…)

Grab your chilled butter and this is the fun part. Dust your counter with a little flour, place the butter on top, dust the top of the butter with a little flour. Now get out your rolling pin and pound that butter into an 8 inch square. I don’t care how you do it, just get it done. It’s fine if your butter becomes softer, but you’ll want to pop it back in the fridge to firm up a bit before rolling it into the dough. Ten minutes should be enough time.

Great! Now get the dough out of the fridge and roll that out into a 16 inch square. Place your 8 inch square of butter dead center on top of the dough. Now fold the sides in towards the center forming a tidy package. I also folded up the ends and pinched the dough to make a fully sealed parcel. Now using your rolling pin again, roll the dough out into a 24 inch long rectangle. It doesn’t matter much how wide it is at this point. Fold one end down into the center and the other end up into the center so you have a square. Place on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge for 25 minutes. That was the first turn. Do this two more times, letting the dough rest in the fridge for 25 minutes between each turn. So roll into a 24 inch rectangle then fold, put in fridge. Repeat. Etc. And on and on. Only three times though, don’t get carried away, loveys.

Once you have done this three times, you are ready to shape the dough! Now I lied before, because this is really the fun part! I myself prefer what they call a “snail” shape. So roll out your dough to a 1/4″ thickness and trim yourself a 16 inch long rectangle. Width matters not, it will just give you more or less danishes. Spread half the dough with an schmear of 4 oz soft butter, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon. Fold the unsmeared half of dough on top and gently roll it out a bit with your rolling pin to press the halves together. Using a pizza cutter, cut 1 inch wide strips from this. Take a strip and twist it in as tight a spiral as possible. Now spiral this around itself (I highly recommend watching the video I linked above because it will show you this) and tuck the end under. To make a pocket in the center for filling, just make an indentation with your fingers.

To Make the Pinwheel Danish: Take a square of dough rolled to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut in towards the center from each corner, but not quite all the way. Fold in every other corner towards the center dabbing a little water on the dough to help it stick. Place a spoonful of your filling right in the center.

Don’t be shy. Fill with something tasty, like this!

Cheese Danish Filling

8 oz cream cheese

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 large egg yolk (whoops, just realized I left that out.)

1 tsp lemon zest (don’t forget to wash your lemon first!)

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 tsp salt

Mix it all in a bowl and fill your danishes with it!

Once you have your danishes all shaped and filled and placed on parchment-lined baking sheets, they need to proof. Proofing is a fancy word for ‘rise’. The yeast needs time to come to room temperature and activate and grow! So you can put them in a warm place (sometimes I put doughs near our pellet stove, but not too close) for a while. I think I proofed mine for 30-40 minutes. They should increase in size a bit, although they’ll grow even more in the oven. Brush with the egg wash (1 egg plus 1 Tbsp water), which will make them all golden and shiny. Bake on 400 F for the first ten minutes, lower temp to 350 F and bake another 10 minutes.

When they have come out of the oven and cooled down a bit (although who can wait that long, right?) you may want to drizzle them with a simple icing. Mix 2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar with 1 tsp corn syrup (optional) and about 2 Tbsp water and 1/2 tsp vanilla. You can add more water or more sugar to adjust the consistency.

Great! You did it! Now invite over some friends and put the kettle on because you won’t want to keep this one to yourself!

Danishes and Bunnies! This dish was given to me as a bridal shower gift. Today I pulled it out in anticipation of Spring!

Danishes and Bunnies! This dish was given to me as a bridal shower gift. Today I pulled it out in anticipation of Spring!

Have you ever made danishes from scratch? How did they come out? Are there any recipes you would like to see me attempt? Speak up because I enjoy input!