One of my projects during the holiday break has been learning how to make one of my favorite desserts: Danish pastry! Somewhere between a brioche and a croissant, Danish seemed like a good next step in my baking journey.
First step was choosing a recipe. After scouring the internets, I decided King Arthur Flour / Binging with Babish recipe seemed challenging but achievable.
That said, I did some modifications, mostly based upon this fairly exhaustive recipe and description over at Bake Street. Specifically, changing up how the yeast is incorporated and adding an extra round of dough folding.
I was particularly pleased with the wonderful layers in the enriched, laminated dough!
Making the different Danish shapes was pretty challenging, but I’m happy with how they turned out. I made some little spiral pastries with the extra dough that were equally yummy.
Overall I give myself a solid B for these pastry. The appearance is quite appealing, with a medium dark crust and a bit of shine from the sugar syrup. Nice crisp exterior and a soft, buttery interior. That said, the texture was a little dense and it could have used a stronger filling.
I was not particularly pleased with how the actual cheese and jam were incorporated into the pastry. The cheese filling I made was too runny and the jam was rather clumpy.
One of the most successful modifications was to use a sugar syrup glaze instead of stripes of sugar frosting. The sugar was less overpowering and it imparted a nice gloss to the finished pastry.
Next time I want to go for a longer proof and choose a better filling. But overall I’m delighted with the results!
Recipe for Cheese Danish
Adapted from Binging with Babish / King Arthur Flour.
Butter Dough Ingredients:
- 450 g french Butter
- 659 g all-purpose flour
- 67 g sugar
- 12 g instant yeast
- 75 ml lukewarm water
- 230 ml cold full-fat milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 large eggs
- Kosher salt
Cheese Filling Ingredients:
- 100 g cream cheese
- 50 g ricotta
- 1 large egg
- 35 g sugar
- Kosher salt
- Berries to top – I like blackberries.
Sugar Syrup Ingredients:
- 50 g sugar
- 100 g water
Butter Dough Method:
- In a large bowl add 659 grams of all-purpose flour and 30 grams of butter. Work the butter into the flour with both hands. Add in 67 grams of sugar and whisk.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 12 grams of instant yeast and 230 ml of cold full-fat milk. Then add 75 ml of lukewarm water, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 2 large eggs. Add to dry ingredients.
- Mix together with 15 grams of kosher salt until completely combined with no dry spots remaining. I used the fraisage method to combine all the ingredients, then the slap & fold method to knead the dough until it passes the windowpane test. [See here for instructions.]
- Cover with plastic wrap and let rest while making the butter squares.
- On two sheets of floured parchment paper, place the remaining halves of the 450 g of French butter and use a rolling pin to pound out to a thickness of 1-2 cm.
- Open the parchment paper, fold the butter in half and re-flour as necessary and pound out again. A sum total of 4 times. Rinse and repeat with the other half of the butter.
- On a well floured surface, pour out the dough and use a bench scraper shape it into a rectangle. Roll it out to 3x its width.
- Place the first piece of butter in the middle of the dough. Fold on the side over it. Lay the second butter rectangle on top. Dust the excess flour off, and fold the remaining third of the dough over. Pinch the edges shut.
- Roll the dough out to the same width as before (3x its width). Brush off any excess flour. Fold once again into thirds.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Unwrap. Roll out as before. Fold into thirds again.
- Repeat steps 10 and 11.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 8-16 hours.
Cheese Filling Method:
- In a large bowl, combine cream cheese and ricotta along with 1 large egg, 35 grams of sugar and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Whisk to combine until smooth and thick.
- Prepare mixture in a piping bag.
Multiple Shaped Danish Pastries Folding Methods/Assembly:
- Prepare two baking pans with parchment paper.
- Whisk 2 egg yolks into a small bowl with a splash of water.
- Using a half batch of dough, roll out to about 18″ x 8 “, with a thickness of 1 cm. Slice it into even 8 squares. Mine were 3.5 inches x 3.5 inches.
- Fold in half diagonally. Place two cuts down the side leaving a gap at the end. Separate both flaps and fold them over. [this one is my favorite!]
- Place four cuts from each corner leaving a gap in the center. Fold each half of the triangle towards the center in alternating fashion.
- Place 90 degree cuts in each corner leaving a gap between them. Fold the loosened corners towards the center.
- Fill each pastry shape with cheese mixture and fruit and place on baking pans.
- If proofing for a long time, spray lightly with water, to keep from drying. Then cover with oiled plastic wrap and proof for 1-12 hours. To proof, I put in the oven in the center rack, with a cake tin filled with 3 cups of boiling water.
- Preheat over to 400°F.
- Brush all pastries with the egg yolk mixture.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes. If using more than one baking tray, do one at a time. Don’t crowd the oven or you won’t get even browning.
- While baking, make sugar syrup by combining 50 g sugar and 100 g water in a small pot and heat to boiling, stirring constantly, then take off heat.
- Move pastries to wire rack and immediately apply sugar syrup with a brush.
- Cool completely before eating. (I know, it’s hard.)