Welcome to this month’s Daring Bakers Challenge and my fifth one. Kelly of Sass and Veracity and Ben of What’s Cookin set us to make some Danish pastry this month. As usual, this is another cooking/ baking direction I’ve never gone before. But this time was a bit different for me. I went into the challenge knowing what a Danish pastry looked and tasted like!!
As usual, we were provided with lots of information regarding the history and also links and details for working with Danish pastry. And a recipe to bake by.
I’m not reproducing the recipe here to keep this post from being too long and boring everyone with a recipe seen on countless blogs. Please see the Daring Bakers site for the original challenge recipe.
The dough: Of course, we started the challenge with the making of the dough (Detrempe). I didn’t use any vanilla beans because they are not available here and sourcing them from elsewhere would have proved expensive. Then Rachel, a fellow DB, offered to send me some but I had finished baking my Danish pastry by then.
So I used double the amount of vanilla extract (3 tsps) instead. There were no oranges to be found at the market (not the season for them here), so I used the zest/ rind of some lemons and unsweetened orange juice from a carton. And I used salted butter as I couldn’t find the unsalted kind. I know, many of you find this hard to believe, but it’s true.
I don’t have a stand mixer, so my arms got a lot of exercise. Otherwise, I had no problems with the dough. The butter (beurrage) behaved well and didn’t leak. This could have been due to the lower temperatures here these days (the monsoons are finally here)
All ready for a sleepover in the fridge
I made a full recipe of the dough and froze it. Here is a good link that shows how to make Danish pastry dough and shape them.
The filling: We were required to make a braid with either the given apple filling recipe or a filling of our choice, provided we had made it. I made a half recipe of the apple filling for the braid as I love apple pie. I sprinkled some cashewnuts, sautéed in a little ghee, over the filling before braiding the dough.
I also used some other filling for the individual Danish pastries I made. Mango preserves I had made earlier.
Apricot and Almond Cashew filling
Sweet moist coconut filling
Sweet moist coconut filling. This is a traditional south Indian sweet filling we use in many of our sweets. Take 1 cup of loosely packed, freshly scraped/ flaked coconut (dessicated or dried coconut won’t do) and 1/2 – 3/4 a cup of powdered jaggery (depending on sweetness of the jaggery). Put both in a pan with 2 tbsp of water and stir, on medium heat, till it comes together (about 3 – 5 minutes). If this is kept on the stove for longer, it will take on a toffee like texture which is not desirable. The filling should be moist but not wet. Add a tsp or so of ghee (clarified butter) and a tsp of cardamom powder and mix well. Take off heat, cool and use.
A savoury Indian style filling made of steamed cauliflower, potatoes and peas sautéed with turmeric, chilli, cumin, coriander, garam masala powders and salt. Actually I had this leftover from lunch, so I used it to make some turnovers.
Putting it all together: I made the braid as instructed but left out the egg wash. The braid still baked to a beautiful brown. I used a half recipe of the Danish pastry dough for the braid and used the remaining half to experiment with various fillings and shapes.
It is important to keep the strips long enough for braiding or else the braid will open up during baking. The thing would be to mark the dough rectangle into three equal parts, place the filling in the middle third and then cut the outer thirds of the rectangle into strips for braiding.
Apple filling and cashews
Almost ready for the oven
For individual Danish pastries I made a few each of the following –
Spandauer – pastry folded into envelopes with mango preserves. It’s a sort of packet, with coconut filling, where the four ends of a square of dough were brought together and twisted into a top knot.
Bears claws/ Cock’s combs/ Kammar filled with apricot filling. (I bet you never saw a bear with paws like these!)
Pinwheels with the coconut filling.
Open Danish Twists with the mango preserves/ grated bitter-sweet chocolate.
Snails with the apricot filling, and some Plain Croissants at my daughter’s express request.
This challenge worked well for me. No unfortunate experiences, for a change!
could be made and frozen, fillings made ahead and refrigerated (except the savoury kind), and then assembled conveniently.
And the smells that float throughout the house when these are baking is another experience. All the spices (cardamom is my absolute favourite) and fruit baking up in pastry full of butter makes for a wonderful fragrance.
I didn’t find the dough too sweet, probably because I used salted butter! So this dough made a good combination with savoury fillings as well.
Most Danish pastries, I understand, are either sprinkled with sugar before baking or drizzled with a sugar glaze afterwards. I chose not to do this as I didn’t want the pastries too sweet. I didn’t get the layered effect in my braid (though it was good) but got some layering in my individual ones. I did get lovely layers in my filling free croissants. These were the best.
I think I might just venture forth into the world of puff pastry in the future.
Thank you, Kelly and Ben, for demystifying (for me, at least) one more baking tradition. I say this every time, and I’m saying it again. Please do go across to my fellow DB blogs to be tempted by the sheer variety of Danish pastries baked up across the world.