Done with Danish

Week 8.

No, not down with Danish…done with Danish. And also done with laminated doughs. Hooray! It has been an interesting challenge learning the rigorous (read: tedious) process of creating the various laminated doughs, but I have to tell you something: I had grown weary of creating the books, all the turns, rests, rolls, shaping. I think if we went one more week on laminated doughs, I would be saying down with Danish (and all other laminated doughs).

Thankfully, week 8 meant wrapping up Danish (literally) and closing the book (har har) on laminated doughs. And that’s pretty much all we did in class during week 8 (and a couple of other fun treats that I’ll get to). I’m not sure if this was due in part to Chef’s continued absence, but it was a nice reprieve from the breakneck pace of the other seven classes.

Danish. I should have mentioned this in week seven’s post because perhaps not everyone is familiar with what a Danish is. I think many people may associate Danish with those unappealing, overly cream cheese-filled “pastries” served on many a chain hotel’s continental breakfast buffet. Blech. In reality, a true Danish is a smallish, multi-shaped pastry delicately filled with any variety of fillings, one of which can, in fact, be cream cheese. But cream cheese filling made in a good way, not made in some factory and then stuffed into a factory-made Danish stuffed into a plastic wrapper and then plopped on a continental breakfast buffet. Other common fillings are pastry cream and almond paste filling. Danish can come in a variety of shapes, such as the classic square, diamond and pinwheel, or freeform if you’re feeling creative. As usual, class stuck to the classic shapes and fillings. Danish may also be topped with an assortment of items, such as cherries, walnut pieces or apricots. The combinations are dizzying, really.

Wrapping up, or shaping, Danish is quite fun, actually. And it’s good to do on a day when you’re feeling creative, or indecisive. Much like shaping croissant dough, you can use the same piece of Danish dough and create three different shapes. Combine these shapes with a couple of different fillings and toppings and you’re in for some creative activity, or more indecision, depending on how you’re feeling.

To shape the Danish dough, roll out a ten inch by ten inch rectangle approximately 1/8″ thick. Cut the rectangle into 16, two and a half inch squares by cutting four two and a half inch columns and four two and a half inch rows.

Square Danish, also called pocket Danish (I have no idea why) is made by folding each corner into the center and then pressing to seal together the folded corners.

Diamond Danish, also called half-pocket Danish (again, no clue), is made by folding one corner to the center and then folding the opposite corner to the center, pressing to seal together the folded corners.

Pinwheel Danish, also called pinwheel Danish (which I do know why – because they are in a pinwheel shape. A-ha!) are the most intricate of the three shapes. Using a sharp knife or pastry cutter (a.k.a. a pizza cutter), cut from the corner edges toward the center, making four separate cuts, which creates eight points. Pull every other point to the center to create a pinwheel shape. Press together the pulled in corners.

Let’s take a look:

I think the pinwheel and diamond shapes are self-explanatory. Not so evident, though, are the square shapes, at the bottom of the picture. In my defense, the square shapes were the first ones I made…before I re-read my notes that indicated the dough rectangle should rest for a minute or two after rolling it out, to let it shrink back and relax, before cutting and shaping. Sigh. I think the squares used for the diamond and pinwheel Danish had a chance to relax before getting shaped so they performed much better. Although, I like the second square from the left. It makes me think of Edvard Munch’s famous painting, The Scream. (This is a full-service blog, people. Occasional informational tidbits in addition to all this free pastry knowledge. Spread the word!) Of course, all my shapes may have been screaming from my less-than-gentle shaping and pressing.

Once the shapes are made, the Danish proof at room temperature for 45 to 60 minutes. Filling the Danish is not an exercise in cramming as much filling as possible into any available crevice. Instead, push down in the center of the Danish to make a small area for the filling which ends up being just a small amount. That is all that is needed.

   

Danish are double egg-washed, which means they are egg-washed twice, and then baked at 375 degrees for approximately 13-14 minutes. Take the Danish out of the oven and use a pastry brush to apply a thin layer of apricot glaze all over.

   

Inevitably, you will find yourself with some Danish dough scraps, but please do not panic about this. This is actually fortunate because those scraps can be turned into my new (and possibly yours, too) favorite “cookie” of the moment, palmier, and its cousin, sacristan. Palmiers [pahl me ayz] are known as elephant ears in America. That’s the best name we could come up with? Fine, Palmiers do bear a resemblance to the ear of an elephant, but I really think whoever coined the American English translation could have mustered a little imagination when doing so. To protest this very un-American lack of creativity, I am sticking with the oh-so-sophisticated pahl me ay, which is ironic, really, because they aren’t that sophisticated. They are simply Danish dough scraps rolled with a lot of sugar, shaped into a tube, cut into slices and then baked. But they look sophisticated and have a sophisticated, crunchy, caramel-y sweet taste. Sacristans, by the way, are the same dough scraps, rolled in sugar, but cut into strips and then twisted before baking, a sweet version of a cheese straw, if you will.

So, that’s a wrap on Danish dough, the last chapter of the book of laminated doughs. Next week? Class is taking on a new subject…and I think you just might like it.

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