Category Archives: Danish Pastry

The Classic Sweet Roll

As ubiquitous as this style of Danish is, it’s one of the more complex to make. I learned to make them putting in an extra fold and layer of buttercream. That makes the end product both richer (of course) and flakier. If you’d rather not do that part (though it’s a nice way to use up any leftover buttercream you might have in the freezer) you don’t have to. The end result will still be amazing.

Begin by rolling about a pound and a half of Danish dough (find the recipe here) out into a square about 1/4-inch thick (the actual dimensions don’t really matter).

Trim up the sides a little to square it off, the spread a thin layer of vanilla buttercream frosting (I always make a point to stash leftover buttercream from other projects in the freezer) on the half of the pastry sheet closest to you.

Fold the top half down to enclosed the buttercream…

Then cut the dough into roughly 1/2-inch thick strips. (Actually, I should have rolled the dough out a little more first to make the strips longer, but I forgot. Oh, what my former pastry task master Fanuel would say!)

Now then, grasping the strip on each end, stretch the dough strip out, flipping it back and forth like you’re trying to dry the ink on a check.

When it’s long enough (and ideally, this strip should be about half again as long…) press one end down onto the board with you index finger…

…then use the palm of the other hand to roll the strip toward you. What you get, as you see, is an attractive twist.

Now, still holding one end of the dough strip down, drape the strip down and around the center point in a curlicue.

Bring it around and around…

…tuck the last half inch underneath so the pastry doesn’t unravel in the oven…

…and — ta da! You’re done. A nice little heap of clothes, as my former boss used to say. Again, a longer strip gives you more of a swirl…but heck, it’s close enough for blogging, am I right?

Put them on a parchment-lined sheet pan, six per sheet. At this point you can start proofing the pastries in anticipation of baking right away, or put them in the fridge overnight (you can even freeze them if you wish, for up to three months). If you don’t have a proof box, don’t worry about it. Just give them a spritz of water to keep the outer skin moist…

…then cover them with lightly oiled plastic wrap (or you can drape the plastic over upturned shot glasses to keep it from touching…which is what I like to do). You’ll want to give them a light spritz with water every 45 minutes or so to keep them supple.

Once the Danishes have proofed and are soft and airy to the touch, about two hours at room temperature (closer to three hours if the pastries have been refrigerated) make a deep depression in the middle of the Danish with the back of a spoon and lay in about a tablespoon of any jam you like.

Brush with egg wash and bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about fifteen minutes or until golden. After the Danishes have cooled on a wire rack, drizzle them with a simple powdered sugar and water “five finger” icing.

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The Envelope

This is a slightly different “envelope” than the one I talked about in the cheese Danish post. It isn’t my best shape, I’m baker enough to admit that. However never let it be said I didn’t show you every Danish I know how to make. Most of the time when you see these they’re filled with jam, though you can also tuck a canned apricot half inside as I’ve done above.

Roll out a pound and a half of Danish dough into a rectangle 1/4-inch thick (dimensions aren’t important). Cut the sheet into six squares. Take one and turn it slightly to one side, into a diamond.

Fold the bottom half up to make a triangle, but don’t press down or seal it.

Cut two slits in the dough, parallel to the outside edge, about two thirds of the way to the center of the dough piece…

…and unfold the dough square. Turn it so there’s a slit on either side.

Now then, fold in the sides, tucking the left-side point through the gap in the right-side point (put an apricot half in the very middle beforehand, if you wish).

Proof as with classic sweet rolls, then fill the middle (if unfilled) with jam. Paint with egg wash and bake.

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The Bear Claw

Call me crazy, but when somebody offers me a pastry called a “bear claw”, I actually expect to see something that looks, at least a little, like a bear’s claw. Hence my years of confusion going into doughnut shops and encountering amorphous blobs of fried dough that bore the name. I swear to you I was in my twenties before I ever realized that a bear claw could be, in fact, representational. Here’s how they’re classically made — out of pastry and not doughnut dough.

First you’ll need to prepare a filling that’s made from:

1 cup blanched almonds, chopped fine in a food processor
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
dash of almond extract

Combine all and mix until uniform.

For the Danishes, start once again with about a pound and a half of Danish dough, rolled into a 1/4-inch thick rectangle. Exact dimensions are — what? That’s right, not important.

Roll a small log of filling between your palms and place near the edge of one of your dough squares.

Now then, dip your finger in water and moisten the top edge of the square.

Then fold the dough over the filling, leaving a lip on the bottom.

With a sharp knife, make several small cuts in the lip…

…and bend the whole thing to spread them out into “toe”-like shapes. This bear has six toes, I know that. But it’s my bear, and it can have six toes if I want it to, alright?

Proof and paint with egg wash as with classic sweet rolls, then sprinkle the tops with slivered almonds (put on little fingernail “claws” if you feel like being cute). Bake.

Filed under:  Danish Pastry, Pastry | 9 Comments

The Pinwheel

Here’s another very simple one that anyone can do in the comfort of their own living room: the pinwheel. As with the cheese Danish, start by rolling out about a pound and a half of dough into a rectangle about a quarter inch thick (the exactly dimensions aren’t important.

Starting with a rough square…

…cut slits in the dough from (almost) the center outward.

Bring up the right-side corner of each resulting “triangle” to the center of the dough piece and press it down lightly.

And you’re done!

Proof like classic sweet rolls. Similarly make a depression in the center of the proofed Danish with the back of a spoon, then fill it with a teaspoon or so of whatever jam you like. Brush with egg wash and bake like classic sweet rolls.

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The Cheese Danish

This shape is perhaps the easiest of all the Danish types, being just a simple packet made from a dough square. The filling is simplicity itself, something that I almost always just improvise. The rough proportions are as follows:

8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon juice

Sometimes I’ll add a little lemon or orange zest if I have it. Combine all ingredients a bowl and beat until fluffy and uniform.

As for the pastry portion, begin by rolling about three quarters of a pound of pastry dough into a rectangle about a quarter inch thick (exact dimensions are not important). Then simply cut it into squares with pizza cutter like so:

Spoon about tablespoon of filling into the middle of the square.

Then fold in the the first two corners. (NOTE: Stop here if you wish to make the Danish pastry shape known as an “envelope”, though this shape most commonly has jam or fruit in it).

Bring in the third corner and using your finger, dab a little bit of the cheese filling on it as a sealing compound.

Fold in the last corner and you’re done!

Proof, paint with egg wash and bake just like classic sweet rolls. In an ideal world I’d have made some streusel topping to sprinkle on top of these before I baked them (that’s how I learned to make’em anyway), but heck, a little icing after baking works just as well:

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The Snail Roll

Like classic sweet rolls, these too are fixtures of the Danish counter. The reason (probably), because the shape is so darn versatile. There are chocolate chip snails (like mine above), cinnamon sugar snails, cinnamon sugar and raisin snails, walnut and cinnamon sugar snails, pecan snails, almond filling snails and any-kind-of- jam-you-can-possibly-think-of snails. And none are more difficult to make than any others. In fact the only time I don’t like snails is when bakeries try to pass them off as cinnamon rolls. You can see how they could, especially if they’re made with cinnamon and iced. But true cinnamon rolls are made with brioche, and are their own distinctive pleasure. But I’m here to talk Danish, dernit!

Start by rolling out again about a pound and a half of Danish dough into a rectangle, this time maybe a little less than a 1/4 inch thick. Again, the exact dimensions don’t really matter that much. If you’re making chocolate chip or pecan snails, put down a thin layer of buttercream (otherwise lay down whatever you wish). Then scatter your chips — or whatever — over the sheet.

Gently turn in the top edge…

…and using both hands (only one pictured) roll the whole thing up.

Shore up the ends with your hand and roll the tube back and forth a little to solidify it a bit. The roll should be about an inch-and-a-half to two inches in diameter. If it isn’t, just roll it out with your palms like a baguette until it is. (Don’t forget to shore the ends up again afterward).

Now, using your trusty bench scraper (or a knife), cut them into roughly inch to inch-and-a-quarter-long pieces. Don’t worry if they’re a littl squished, you can squeeze them back into shape. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Never show fear before pastry, my friends, or you will never earn its respect).

Now all you need to do is peel back about the last inch or so from the roll…

…and tuck it underneath to keep it from unraveling in the oven.

Proof, brush with egg wash and bake just like you would classic sweet rolls. Drizzle with simple icing — or even chocolate — if you wish.

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Danish Pastry Dough

Here’s a nice Danish-style pastry dough that works as well for coffee cakes as it does for Danishes. And mark my words, this tastes as close to the real thing as we can get in the States. A mighty viking woman I once had the honor of knowing (until, sadly, she died two years ago) told me that she hadn’t tasted Danishes like these since she was a child in Copenhagen (and believe me, not even the Danes make many Danishes like this anymore). I usually quadruple this recipe, cut it into four pieces and freeze it in individual batches.

Danish Pastry Dough

For the dough (détrempe):

5.5 ounces (2/3 cup) milk
1 ounce (2 tablespoons) sugar
1 ½ teaspoons (6 grams) instant yeast
10 ounces (2 cups) all-purpose (AP) flour
½ teaspoon salt
1 egg

For the butter slab:

8 ounces unsalted Danish or Euro-style (cultured) butter
2 tablespoons flour

Combine all the dough ingredients in a mixer and, using the dough hook, mix about five minutes until the dough is smooth and uniform (it will be somewhat sticky…this is what you want). Turn it out into a dough rising container and let it ferment for half an hour at room temperature, then put it in the fridge for a minimum of two hours, or overnight.

When you’re ready to shape your Danishes, make your butter slab (and need I say it? Real Danish butter), according to the “How to Laminate Dough” instructions under the Techniques menu. Then carry on with the rolling and folding process for a total of three letter-style “turns”, letting the dough rest twenty minutes between each folding.

Put the dough into the refrigerator and let it rest for one hour, then use (or keep it there for 2-3 days). It keeps well frozen for up to two months. Most small Danish pastries bake at a temperature of 375 Fahrenheit for between 15 and 20 minutes, but can take longer of they’re filled.

Makes enough for about a dozen Danishes or two coffee cakes.

Filed under:  Coffee Cake, Danish Dough, Danish Pastry, Pastry, Pastry Components | 117 Comments