Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Danish Pastry

It’s been now, some years that I have been intimidated but exceptionally tempted to attempt the menacing and nerve-wracking task of baking off something “hard”, which, by my definition, means one of the following:

1. Pastry, like this one here today…

2. French Macarons (ooh, one day I will, I will, I will!)

3. Artisan breads

It’s true; like any hobby or interest, there are invariably levels that we can find our skill sets just pooling in. I for one, am guilty of being complacent about trying something in the baking world that scares the butter out of me. Cookies, tarts, cakes, muffins, you know.... are my comfort zone. Not pastries. No no....

... but I needed a challenge!! Something that my made my hands and my apron tremble with fear...

..I flipped through MS BAKING HANDBOOK, a great go-to for any amatuer or seasoned baking goddess... and the Danish Pastry chapter seemed far less threatening then any of the other so-called “hard” things to bake. Plus, I’m always grossly more motivated when I just happen to have every last ingredient chilling in my fridge and

pantry! It was decided.

I’ll stop clabbering because this is a long post. HOWEVER, here are some helpful tidbits I learned in the process that may come in handy should you choose to try these out. Trust me on these—like any first-time, I learned through a lot of could’ve been-avoided, mistakes. And luckily, I finally nailed it, or so I think, the last couple of pans of pastries I baked off (yes, my first few pans of pastries were either burned, undercooked, scorched, too thick, too much, too warped, too this, or too that!).

Make sure your butter is room temperature. You’ll hav

e a horrible time rolling out the dough if it’s frozen or simply cold.

Rolling the dough out three separate times is a bullying duty but a total must- that is the ONLY way the dough births out those succulent layers of buttery richness. Your arms and elbows will be in more pain than you can even imagine, but it is worth it!!!

Give yourself a LOT of time to do this OR split it into a two day project. Day one: make the dough and roll out the dough. Day two, roll out the dough, cut it into squares, put the filling inside, and bake them off.

When you are rolling out the dough for the final time, and just bef

ore you fill each square with its filling, cut your dough with a knife into sections and roll each small piece out- it’s far easier to work in small cuts than it is to work with a huge lump of thick dough.

Again, for baking these off, you want your dough rolled out THIN!!!!! Believe you me!

If you use this delicious ricotta filling, and I highly recommend you do, please use a teaspoonful at most- it looks really tiny in the do

ugh, but you wouldn’t believe the expanding talents this filling has in the oven!!

Use parchment paper. I repeat, use parchment paper. I echo once more, use parchment paper. I DID NOT!!! FOOL!!! Yes, I simply greased my pans, and as a result, the bottoms of each pastry, no matter how short a time I baked them for, were always DARK DARK BROWN, almost BLACK! YUCK! I think parchment paper will reduce this greatly.

Best eaten within 24 hours.

Okay, good luck to ya, and here begins the pastry making party..

NOTE: my images are NOT the aggregate of how to make these pastries—I selected only a few to post. Hence, if you decide to make these, PUH-LEASEEEEE read the recipe at least 2 times through. The pictures could be confusing if you only look at them and disregard the text. THANKS!!!

Danish Pastries with Ricotta Cream Filling

{Martha Stewart Baking Handbook}

{Filling from Ina Garten- www.foodnetwork.com}

1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)

2 envelopes (1/4 oz each) active dry yeast

1 lb 4 ounces (about 4 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp coarse salt

½ tsp ground cardamom

1 lb (4 sticks) unsalted butter- room temperature, cut into tablespoons

2 large whole eggs, plus 1 large egg yolk

Filling (recipe below!)

In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over the warm milk and stir until diss

olved. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 4 tbsp butter; beat on low speed until butter is incorporated and the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 3-4 minutes. Pour the yeast-milk mixture into this and combine on low speed just until the dough comes together. Add the egg yolks, and yolk- mix until just combined. Do not overmix.

Turn out the dough on a lightly floured work surface- making sure to include any loose bits leftover from the bottom of the mixing bowl. Gently knead to form a smooth ball- less than a minute. Wrap well with plastic and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to an 18 x 10 inch rectangle, about ¼ inch thick, keeping the corners as square as possible. Remove any excess flour with a pastry brush. With a short side facing you, evenly distribute the remaining butter over the two-

thirds of the dough- fold the unbuttered third over as you would a letter- followed by the remaining third- this seals in the butter.

Roll out the dough again to an 18 x 10 inch circle (this was seriously hard work for me with my rolling pin!). Then, fold the dough in thirds as described above. Refrigerate for 1 hour. This is the first of three turns—once the first hour has elapsed, remove the dough from the fridge, roll it out to an 18 x 10 inch square, fold it up like a letter, and then refrigerate it again. Got it? After the THIRD roll out, you will refrigerate the dough for at least 4 hours or overnight. Meanwhile, make the filling as described below.

When you are finished with all the wonderful refrigeration and rolling stu

ff, the fun part comes to actually bake it off!!


Here’s what I did for the final steps in baking.

Preheat your oven to 375. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Roll out the dough as thin as you can- and I recommend cutting it into smaller sections so it’s more pliable to roll out.

Roll the dough out to 1/8 inch or a tad thicker. Cut it into small 2x 4 rectangles. Place just a very small dab of filling in the middle of each one. Using a pastry brush

, streak each side of the rectangle with egg wash. Fold the two sides in as shown in the picture and gently press them inward on top of the filling—use a little force so the pastry sticks together and doesn’t come loose.

Place on lined sheets and bake until the tops of pastry are just golden brown (18-25 minutes). Remove immediately from the oven and allow to co

ol on a wire rack.

If desired, frost with a simple confectioners’ sugar/milk/almond extract glaze (which I highly recommend!) and enjoy all your hard work!!! Ta da!! You did it. Take a bow.


8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/3 cup sugar

2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature

2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

1 egg beaten with a little water, for brushing the pastry (AKA- EGGWASH!)

Combine the cream cheese and sugar. Cream until well combined (make sure your cream cheese is well softenend!). With the mixer on low, add egg yolks, ricotta, and the remaining ingredients- don’t whip it, but stir until just combined and fluffy. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use (holds up for a couple of days in the fridge). Have eggwash ready to use on pastry when you begin filling each one with this filling. Ciao!

1 comment:

The Tingey's said...

Ket- so I have to honest...I didn't read the post- I scrolled down to look at the yummy pictures...mmmmm. I so am not a patient cooker. Maybe one day you will have to make some treats for me. And I will return the favor by... showing up on time to a play date!