How to Make Pastries Using Danish Pastry Dough
True Danish pastry is indescribably good! It's buttery and yeasty, it's soft and flaky, and can take on different shapes and fillings. There is no getting around the fact that making it at home takes a long time, but if you want good pastries then you must make them yourself. Don't be discouraged by the task because real Danish pastries taste nothing like the pale ones you've known. Once you taste the results of your work, you'll know that it was worth the effort!
Making pastries is an ideal weekend job because a day would be devoted to mixing and chilling the dough, rolling the butter layer, then folding and turning the butter and dough layers. The dough chills and continues to rise overnight. On the second day, you would roll, cut, shape and finally bake the dough.
With this kind of time and investment, it is a good idea to make a large bunch, eat some and freeze the rest. Seal the cooled pastries in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer where they will last about three months. When you warm them in an oven at 180 degrees centigrade, the frozen pastries will regain much of their freshly baked flavor. To make it easier for you to start, here is a recipe for Danish pastries:
Danish Pastry Dough
- 1/2 ounce active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 cup milk
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 5 1/4 cups home baking flour, more for dusting
- 1 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 1/2cups butter
Making the Dough: Sprinkle the yeast over the water. Stir in 1 tsp of the sugar.Leave the yeast mixture in a warm place to proof for about 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the rest of the sugar, the milk, eggs, 4 cups of flour and salt. Beat with a wooden spoon until flour is well mixed.
Gradually add the remaining flour. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it is shiny and elastic. Put it in a bowl, cover it with an oiled plastic paper and refrigerate for 3o minutes.
Making the Butter Layer: Place the butter on a large tracing paper. Draw a 10 inch by 12 inch rectangle on another piece of tracing paper and place this over the butter. Bang on the butter with a rolling-pin to flatten out to fit the rectangle that you had drawn. Remove the top sheet and cut the butter in half to create two 6 inch by 10 inch rectangles. Replace the top sheet of paper and refrigerate the butter.
Rolling and Turning the Dough: Punch down the dough and place it one a floured surface. Roll it onto an 18 inch by 13 inch rectangle. The rectangle should be vertical facing you. Place one butter rectangle on to the third of the dough closest to you. Fold this third of the dough upward. Place the other butter rectangle on top of the first butter and dough layer. Fold the last third of dough on top of the butter. You should have a 6 inch by 13 inch rectangle. Place the dough on to a floured baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Position the chilled dough so that the fold is to your left and the dough can be opened like a book. Roll the dough into a 12 inch by 24 inch rectangle. Fold it into thirds again and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Do this two more times. Cover the dough with a plastic paper and refrigerate overnight. The dough is now ready to shape and cook.
Shapes and Fillings: There are many shapes that can be used for the pastries and it is good fun playing around to come up with your own inventions. A common shape that you will find in the bakeries is the pinwheel. Fillings can also be added to the dough before baking and these are usually sweet although savoury fillings are delicious too for variation.
Common fillings found are almond and cream cheese fillings, which you can make yourself or but ready-made in tins. Remember to egg wash your pasties just before they go into the oven for a golden finish.
Tips in Making Pastries Using Danish Pastry Dough
- If you devote hours to one recipe, it only makes sense to use the best ingredients such as butter for this recipe. Margarine could always be used as a substitute, but it is just that and it will reflect in taste.
- If possible, make your dough on a cool dry day because of its large quantity of butter, the dough gets soft quickly and if it begins to melt, the pastries will be greasy and less flank.