David loves pastries. He’s not much of a chocolate eater, but he can pack away a pastry pretty much anytime. Since one of my favorite cookbooks, Williams Sonoma: Essentials of Baking has a section devoted to pastry, I decided to challenge myself to make it at home. I’ve already made Palmiers, but I wanted to try to make the Danish Pastry dough, and then make Pinwheels from it as a special Valentine’s Day treat.
They came out pretty well, but next time I will be more patient when rolling out the butter package. It’s really important for the butter to be very soft before rolling it out. I will definitely make this again, and hopefully next time it will come out even better!
Master Recipe: Danish Pastry
For the Danish dough:
2 packages (5 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large whole egg, plus 2 large egg yolks
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
For the butter package:
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of the sugar in the warm water. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
With a stand mixer: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the remaining sugar, salt, cardamom (if using), melted butter, eggs, milk, and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until combined. Add the yeast mixture and then add the flour, 1/2 cup at a time, and mix just until the dough clings together in rough mass. If it is still very soft, add up to 1/4 cup flour.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Place on a half-sheet pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 45 minutes.
To make the butter package, using a rolling pin or the heel of your hand, beat or knead the butter on a work surface to flatten it and warm it to about 60 degrees. Sprinkle the butter with the flour and gently beat the butter with the rolling pin to press the flour into the butter. Shape the butter into an 8×7-inch rectangle. If the butter has become to warm, wrap and refrigerate just until firm but still pliable (about 60 degrees).
To laminate the dough, on a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10×16-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, place the butter on the lower half, leaving a 1-inch border on all sides. Fold over the upper half to cover the butter and press the edges together to seal. then, with a folded side to your let, roll our the dough into a 12×20-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the bottom third up, then fold the top third down, as if folding a letter. This completes the first turn. Return to the pan, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Return the chilled dough to the lightly floured work surface with a folded side to your left and repeat the process to make 3 more turns, rolling, folding, and chilling the dough each time, for a total of 4 turns. After the final turn, refrigerate the dough for at least 1 1/2 hours or for up to overnight before shaping.
YIELD: 2 pounds of Danish pastry dough
Prepare the Danish Pastry Dough and refrigerate to chill as needed. You will need 1 pound of dough, or half of the recipe above.
Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper, or butter lightly.
On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the pastry into an 8×16-inch rectangle. Cut in half lengthwise, and then cut each half crosswise into 4 squares, for a total of 8 squares.
Spread about 2 tablespoons of the filling (I used peach preserves) in the center of each square. Using a sharp knife, make a diagonal cut from the corner of each square to within 3/4 inch of the center. Fold over every other point to the center, overlapping them slightly and sealing the points together with a little of the egg mixture. Place the pastries on the prepared pans. spacing them about 2 inches apart. Place the pans in a warm, draft-free spot, cover them loosely with a kitchen towel, nad let the pastries rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat to 425 degrees.
Lightly brush the tops of the pastry with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the coarse sugar, if desired. Bake the pastries, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool completely on the pans. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day.
Makes 8 pastries