PASSION FRUIT CURD AND CARDAMOM CREAM CHEESE DANISH
Ever wanted to make a French bakery style viennoiserie? Well, here is a comprehensive guide on how to make the perfect flakey, crunchy, delicious pastry or danish or viennoiserie!
WHAT IS LAMINATING DOUGH ?
Laminating dough is a technique where you fold in the butter between a yeasted dough, multiple times, such that you trap the butter into the dough, several times, to create alternating layers of butter and dough. When pastries made with this dough, hits the oven, the butter melts, creating pockets of steam between the layers, giving it the signature iconic layers, characteristic of a Danish, Croissant, Puff Pastry etc. The possibilities are endless. The process looks very intimidating, and one may be scared to venture into it, but once you try it one time, it is just a matter of repeating the same folding and rolling process a few times, before shaping the final pastry and baking it off.
I had taken an extensive lamination class a few years ago, at the SF Cooking School. That has been one of the most fun and rewarding experiences in cooking/baking. I learnt so many different tricks and techniques during the class, that got me really very excited! I was a good student and a keen learner. Learning never stops, and it is important to keep learning new skills in life, whatever be the age. That is how you keep things exciting and fun in life right?! The things we learnt in class were puff pastry, croissant dough, Danish dough, kouign amann, palmiers and many other fun things. I practice quite regularly and have really gotten to know the process, understanding the dough, the butter, how the dough is supposed to feel, how and when to shape the pastry, how to determine when you have done something wrong.
HOW DO WE START THE PROCESS OF LAMINATING DOUGH FOR DANISH?
Create the butter block. What is a butter block? It is essentially creating a Tetris(if you have played the game, ions ago!) of butter into a squarish shape, on a parchment paper. Cover it with another parchment paper and beat it with your wooden rolling pin to sort of spread it a bit. The end goal is the create a smooth butter block of 8×8 inch square. If it helps you can even draw a square with a pencil on the parchment paper, turn the parchment paper, such that the penciled side is the work surface and the butter is on the other side. That way it will give proper lines to work with. I use a bench scraper to sort of align the butter block and make all the edges and sides straight. Start rolling on the butter block to smoothen the top and also to spread it, to the penciled edges. It takes about 10 minutes of faffing around, until you get that perfect square. Rolling, straightening the sides and edges, repeat! That is the process. Once the butter block is created, you want to wrap it nice and tight using all the parchment paper, around to form a neat package and keep it in the fridge overnight to use it the next day.
Make the Danish Dough: The dough is essentially made with bread flour, sugar, salt, instant yeast, eggs and whole milk. Make sure that the eggs and whole milk are at room temperature. The dough is made in a stand mixer with a dough attachment. It is really easy to make the dough. You are essentially combining all the ingredients and then letting the stand mixer do the work. Let the mixer go on for 6 minutes or so, to stretch out the gluten, to let the gluten develop. The way you know that your dough is ready is by doing the window pane test.
What is the Window Pane test?
Window pane test is when you take a piece of dough, stretch it with your thumb and first 2 fingers, and see if the dough tears or simply stretches to form a stain glass effect. If it tears, the dough needs maybe a minute or so more in the stand mixer, to develop the gluten more. Once you are able to stretch the dough such that it does not tear, then you know your dough is ready. Take a quarter pan sheet, with a parchment paper. Place the dough on it, shape it into a rectangle shape and then cover it nicely with a plastic wrap so that the dough does not dry out. You want the dough to sit in the fridge overnight, or atleast 2 hours for the gluten to settle.
Ingredients used in the Danish Dough:
Bread flour: I used King Arthur Flour Bread Flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, more than 11%, and helps with the gluten development, which is essential to making flakey pastries.
European grade unsalted butter: It is extremely essential to use European grade butter for all your pastry baking needs. The butter that should be used has higher fat content than the regular American butter. The fat content is around 82%, and is essential to getting those flakey layers. The butter that I always use is Plugra. It is available in grocery stores. I have not tried any other brand, but if you do look for another brand, make sure that the butter is unsalted and also has a fat content of 82% or more.
Instant Yeast: So I always use the Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast and the dough works out beautifully. This one time I did not have this yeast. But I found a Red Star Platinum Superior Baking Yeast(Premium Instant Yeast) and I used that in my Danish Dough. My dough would just not stretch and settle. It was a pain to work with, and my pastries shrunk in the oven. I was really disappointed. So the next weekend, I bought the Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise Instant Yeast, and used that to make Danishes again and low and behold! I was able to get the exact flakey, correct sized pastries again! This was a learning experience for sure. Maybe that Red Star Platinum Instant Yeast was not made for Danishes. I am not sure?!
Enclosing the butter block in the Danish dough and creating your first fold:
Always make sure that your work surface is clean before you begin. You want to have the stainless steel ruler for measuring the length/width of the dough, pastry brush, extra flour, bench scraper, rolling pin, all ready to go so that you are not scrambling to look for these equipment at that time.
The next day you will roll out the dough into the dimensioned mentioned in the recipe, which holds the butter block right in the center, and you fold the dough over the butter block to enclose it completely, to form a book fold. The butter and the dough are at the same temperature as both have been in the fridge overnight, and that is what you are looking for, so that the butter seeps into the dough evenly. You use your rolling pin and start making indentations horizontally to get ready to start rolling the dough in an upward/downward motion. You are looking to elongate the dough more lengthwise, which is away from you. And also width wise sideways. But the length will be more than the width. The bench scraper and the rolling pin are used extensively to straighten out the sides as much as possible. You want the corners to have a neat 90 degree angle as much as possible. It is Ok if the first turn does not. It will eventually get there by the 3rd turn.
Tips if the butter oozes out, or the dough sticks to the surface:
Use excess flour underneath the dough at regular intervals to ensure that the dough does not stick to the work surface. If you see the butter seeping out, it is OK, and you DO NOT HAVE TO PANIC. Simply patch it up with excess flour and roll the rolling pin over it. Once you reach the desired size after using the bench scraper to straighten the sides and getting an almost even rectangle, use the letter fold to fold the dough. Take the top most part of the dough, and bring it onto the dough 2/3rd of the way. Fold the lower part of the dough over the folded dough to form a letter fold. Even out the sides again with the bench scraper and put it on a quarter sheet pan with parchment paper. Your first fold is done.
You are basically going to repeat the same process twice with a rest time in the middle, because you do not want the dough and butter to soften. If it softens then it is harder to roll and come to a desired size.
After the 3rd and final fold, you will roll out the dough to a thickness of 5mm, trim the edges with a pastry cutter or a sharp knife, and a ruler. And then using a 5-wheel pastry cutter which is linked here, you will cut the entire rectangle into 3.5 to 4 inch blocks, whatever size you desire. These should be placed on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and frozen for 10 minutes ,or fridge for 30 minutes. You want to be able to work with the squares, and hence it needs to be cold. Use any desired fold that you wish to do. There are several folds that you can do with the square. I love playing around with different folds every time I make Danishes.
Proofing the Danish is an important step that you cannot miss. It ensures the proper development of the iconic layers. The proofing temperature is important as well. In the summer, danishes do not take much time to proof, I would say about 1 ½ hours. But in the winter, it takes about 2 ½ – 3 hours to proof nicely. I wrap these plastic bags that I got from Amazon, linked here. They fit the baking sheets. The proofing temperature of 75 degrees is generally a good temperature. Anything more than that, the butter starts oozing out of the Danish dough which is NOT what you want. Once proved, then you can fill them with the filling of your choice, and bake them off.
You can fill them sweetened cream cheese, or you can simply fill them with jam and then bake them. OR cream cheese and jam are a great combination. I have also made pastry cream, and filled it with bake stable pastry cream, and then garnished with different garnishes. So it all depends on how you want to “dress” up your Danish to make it look pretty and taste delicious too! My family’s favorite is cream cheese and jam!
This recipe calls for a sweetened cream cheese, and passion fruit curd which are really a BOMB combination, and my family was absolutely nuts about this Danish!
Baking the danish:
You want to start baking at a higher temperature, for the butter to melt and generate the steam and puff up the outer layer, crisp up the outer layer. Then you want it to bake inside at a steady temperature, and hence you lower the temperature after a few minutes at a higher temperature. Once the danishes are baked, to give the crust a shine and beautiful crunch, I brush them with a simple sugar syrup as soon as they are out of the oven. Once they cool down, they are a delight to enjoy with some tea or coffee! They are absolutely amazing when fresh and you can see the flakey layers just falling OFF as you bite into the BEAUTIFUL DANISH! YOU CREATED THIS! AND IT IS SO WORTH IT!
MAKING A FEW AT A TIME AND FREEZING THE REST:
Danishes are best eaten the day of, or the next day in my opinion. So unless you are having a big breakfast buffet party, I would highly suggest to make 4 at a time or 6 at a time. That is what I do. I simply make 4 at a time, and freeze the remaining squares, by first freezing them on a baking sheet with parchment paper, and then stacking them all, and wrapping them in plastic wrap nicely sealed, and storing in the freezer. When I want to make some breakfast, I remove 4 from the freezer the night before and put them in the fridge to thaw. The next morning, simply shape, proof, fill and bake them off to have a fresh Danish breakfast ready to go with a different filling of your choice to enjoy!
I use the same Danish to create savory versions as well for dinner sometimes, and a side salad and some good wine to go with it! It makes for a delightful dinner that everyone enjoys! I remove 4 from the freezer the night before and put them in the fridge to thaw. The next afternoon, simply shape, proof, fill and bake them off to enjoy a savory Danish dinner that your family will love!
The ones in the freezer will last upto a month!
I hope you enjoyed this very detailed post that I have created for you! If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me anytime! Hope you get to make the Danish of your dreams!