Of all the breads and pastries, it is puff pastry I find most intimidating. It’s really not as difficult as some people say it is or tend to think, but it does require practice, patience, and strong arms. A cool kitchen to work in also helps.
There are two main types of puff pastry. The older and more traditional of the two is the French version. This is your basic croissant and chocolat au pain dough. French puff pastry doesn’t require the use of yeast, whereas the second, Danish puff pastry, does use yeast. Danish puff pastry in many countries is simply called danishes, often containing a fruit or cream filling. This post focuses on the latter of the two puff pastries.
Of course in Scandinavia, danishes are not called danishes, but wienerbrød. Whether French or Danish, one thing remains constant: butter …lots and lots of butter. Butter is folded into the dough by process of lamination. The dough is folded in thirds and rolled out, commonly seven times, giving you 21 layers of flaky buttery pastry. The hardest part is keeping the butter cold so it doesn’t melt into the flour.
Though I’ve listed this recipe as difficult, it certainly isn’t impossible. Anybody with just a little experience with basic yeast doughs and simple pie pastries will be able to pull this off without much problem.
- 1 kg bread flour
- 600ml milk
- 50g unsalted butter
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp dry active yeast
- 1½ tsp salt
- 1 kg cold unsalted butter
*Some recipes call for eggs to enhance the lightness of the danish. You can add 2 eggs, while reducing 150ml of milk.
1. In a saucepan, heat milk and 50g of butter just enough to melt the butter. Remove from heat and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and yeast. Wait 5 minutes.
2. Blend in flour until dough comes together. Knead for 10-15 minutes. Let rise for 90 minutes. Punch down and store in refrigerator or cold room overnight.
3. The next day, cut butter into thin slabs and place in freezer for 10 minutes. Place the cold dough on a floured work surface and roll out into a giant rectangle, about 80cm x 50cm.
4. Place 500g of butter 1/3 from the edge of the dough. Fold that edge over the butter then place the other 500g of butter on top of the dough covered buttered. Fold the other third of dough over the butter.
5. Working quickly to prevent the butter from melting, roll the folded dough out to a 80x50cm rectangle again. Fold into thirds again and roll out. If at any point the dough starts to warm up, place it in the freezer for 10-20 minutes. Total laminations should be between 7 and 9 times.
6. On the final lamination, roll the dough out into the giant rectangle and divide into 4 equal parts for easier handling. Keep unused dough cold.
- 400g fresh or frozen pitted cherries
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1/4 tsp citric acid (optional)
- 2 apples, peeled and chopped
- 1 cup apple juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 tbsp cornstarch
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Directions apply to both fillings. Use other fruit if you prefer.
1. In a saucepan, combine fruit and water/juice. Heat until fruit has softened and much liquid has been expelled.
2. In a bowl, combine the sugar, cornstarch and/or other remaining ingredients.
3. Pour dry ingredients into the fruit and stir until thickened. Remove from heat let completely cool before using.
Cream Cheese Filling
- 200g cream cheese
- ½ cup icing sugar
Mix the cream cheese and sugar. Store in fridge until needed.
Shape and fill the pastries as desired. Bake the puff pastry by proofing first until doubled in size. Brush with egg wash and bake at 200°C for 20-25 minutes.
Shaping the Pastry:
American style danishes
Press one end of the dough down on the work surface and encircle that end with the strip until you have a braided disc of pastry. Make an indent in the center and fill with cream cheese and fruit filling.