I signed up to bring pastries for Teacher Appreciation Breakfast this week. Having loved danishes since very little (Entenmann's Cheese Danish Twist being my earliest danish memory,) yet never having made one, I figured this would be a great time to try it. And if the pastry failed, Entenmann's could be always be Plan B.
The dough and fillings were prepped the night before. Can you see the huge butter chunks? MMM. Both fillings were conveniently made in the microwave.
I particularly loved the process of rolling the dough. Roll, fold into thirds, roll, fold, roll, fold; it's very therapeutic. And the smells. Yeast and butter. You can't beat it.
Braiding looks complicated, but is easy and quick.
Eating it, of course, is the best part.
I omitted the coffee glaze. I wasn't sure I wanted a coffee flavor with the fruit and cream filling, but it need a little something else, so next time I will definitely do a light confectioner's drizzle on top.
from Baking with Julia
½ recipe Danish Pastry dough, chilled
1 recipe Apricot Filling (or you can substitute a jarred jam)
1 recipe Confectioner's Cream
1 large egg white, beaten
Pearl sugar or crushed sugar cubes, for sprinkling
Sliced unblanched almonds, for garnish (optional)
2 to 3 teaspoons cold strong coffee, for glaze
½ cup confectioner's sugar, sifted, for glaze
Shaping the dough
Working on a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a rectangle 10 inches wide and 16 inches long. Lift onto a sheet of parchment, and position lengthwise on the work surface. Spread some of the fruit filling down the length of the center third of the dough, then top with some of the cream filling (you may not need the entire amount of either filling), spreading it so that a little of the fruit filling peeks out on either side. Using a pizza cutter of the point of a sharp knife, cut 12 to 14 slanting lines down each side, angling the cuts from the center of the pastry to the edge and cutting strips about ¾-inch wide. Fold the strips of pastry into the center, crisscrossing the filling by alternating one strip from the left side of the pastry with one from the right. Lightly press the ends together to seal and run your hands along the sides of the pastry to straighten them.
Brush the pastry with the beaten egg white and sprinkle with pearl sugar and almonds. Cover with a kitchen towel and allow it to rise at room temperature for 30 minutes, until it looks and feels puffy; it will not double.
Baking the braid
Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400º. Slide the braid, paper and all, onto a baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or just until golden. Transfer the pastry onto a cooling rack and make the glaze.
Glazing the braid
Stir the coffee into the confectioner's sugar, adding just enough coffee to produce a smooth, shiny glaze. Spoon the glaze into a small zipper-lock plastic bag, seal the top, and snip a bottom corner to create a little decorating tube. Squeeze squiggles of the glaze over the pastry, allow it to set for a few minutes, and serve while the pastry is still warm.
¼ cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
2½ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ cup milk, at room temperature
1 large egg, at room temperature
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter
Mixing the dough
Pour the water into a large bowl, sprinkle over the yeast, and let it soften for a minute. Add the milk, egg, sugar, and salt and whisk to mix; set aside.
Put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cut the butter into ¼-inch-thick slices and drop them onto the flour. Pulse 8 to 10 times, until the butter is cut into pieces that are about ½ inch in diameter. Don't overdo this—the pieces must not be smaller than ½ inch.
Empty the contents of the food processor into the bowl with the yeast and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently turn the mixture over, scraping the bowl as needed, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Again, don't be too energetic—the butter must remain in discrete pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread or cookie dough.
Chilling the dough
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 4 days, if that better suits your schedule).
Rolling and Folding
Lightly flour a work surface (a cool surface is ideal,) turn the dough out onto it, and dust the dough lightly with flour. Using the palms of your hands, pat the dough into a rough square. Then roll it into a square about 16 inches on a side. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, and turn it so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. (If at any time the dough gets too soft to roll, just cover it with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator for a quick chill.)
Roll the dough out again, this time into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold the rectangle in thirds again, turn it so the closed fold is to your left, and roll it into a 20-inch square. Fold the square in thirds, like a business letter, so that you have a rectangle, turning it so that the fold is to your left, and once, more, roll the dough into a long narrow rectangle, 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold in thirds again, wrap the dough well in plastic, and chill it for at least 30 minutes, or for as long as 2 days. (Depending on what you plan to do with the dough, you might want to divide it in half now.)
The dough can be kept covered in the refrigerator for 4 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for 1 month; thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.
1 cup (packed) dried apricots
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
½ teaspoon pure almond extract
Stir the apricots, water, and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl. Put the bowl in a microwave oven set to full power and cook, stirring a few times, for 10 minutes, or until the apricots are soft and puffed and have absorbed almost all the liquid. Turn the mixture into the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and process until smooth, scraping the bowl as needed. Transfer the purée to a bowl, add the lemon juice and almond extract, and stir to mix. Scrape the filling into a small container and cool to room temperature. Seal the container and chill. The filling will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
1 cup half-and-half or heavy cream
1½ tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whisk the heavy cream, cornstarch, and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl. Put the bowl in a microwave oven set to full power and cook for 1 minutes. Stir the mixture and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, a minute at a time, or until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly.
While the liquid is heating, whisk together the yolk and vanilla in a small bowl.
Slowly whisk a little of the hot liquid into the yolk. Pour the yolk mixture into the boiled mixture, whisk well, and return the bowl to the microwave oven. Cook the cream for 30 seconds longer, then remove the bowl from the oven and stir again. The cream's consistency is like that of lemon curd. Scrape the cream into a small container, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface of the cream to prevent a skin from forming, and cool to room temperature. Seal the container and chill. The cream can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept refrigerated.