How to Make Danish Pastries: Step-by-Step With Pictures
Danish pastries make delicious morning coffee and afternoon teatime treats. There is a wide range of fillings and toppings, as well as shapes and sizes, to choose from, which can make the preparation of these pastries almost as much fun as eating them!
Origin of Danish Pastry
These light, flaky delicacies originated about 150 years ago when Copenhagen bakers went on strike for cash, instead of room and board. Employers retaliated by dismissing Danish bakers and importing Austrians to take their place. The Austrian method of folding butter into dough became popular, and when the Danish bakers eventually returned to their jobs they embellished upon the Austrian method, adding jam and other fillings to variously-shaped pastries.
Like everything, making delicious Danish pastries at home is easy once you know how. Just follow the step-by-step instructions below for making and shaping the dough. Select one or more of the great fruit or custard fillings from the suggestions the end of the article (recipes, where necessary, are included). Then it's simply a matter of baking and adding a glace icing when cooled.
Then you can get on with the all-important last step . . . eating! You've earned a treat (or two), don't you think?
Danish Pastry Dough
- 4½ cups strong plain bread flour
- Pinch of salt
- 1½ ounces (40 g) (3 tablespoons) sugar
- ½ ounce (15 g) fresh yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm milk
- 1 egg, beaten
- 12 ounces (375 g) (1½ cups) butter
- Extra beaten egg to seal and glaze
1. Sieve the flour and salt into a bowl and stir in the sugar.
2. Blend the yeast with the milk, stir in the beaten egg and mix with the flour and sugar. Knead on a lightly floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic.
3. Place the dough in a plastic bag and allow it to rest in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
4. Shape the butter into a flattened ball. Roll out the dough to a 12 inch (30 cm) square, place the butter in the center and wrap the dough neatly around it, pinching the edges well together.
5. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle about twice as long as it is wide. Fold the short sides to the middle, then fold in half again. Seal the edges by pressing them together with the rolling pin. Return the dough to the plastic bag and chill it for a further 10 minutes.
6. Repeat the rolling and folding process, chill for 10 minutes, repeat again and chill for 20 minutes.
7. Preheat the oven to 425° F (220° C). Roll out one-third of the pastry at a time, rolling each third to a 9 inch (23 cm) square. Cut each square into nine 3 inch (7.5 cm) squares and brush each with beaten egg before shaping and filling as desired (see below for suggestions).
This quantity of dough is enough to make 25-27 pastries.
8. Place the prepared pastries on a greased baking tray and brush with beaten egg to glaze. Leave in a warm place until well-risen and puffy.
9. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes until cooked and golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, then decorate as desired. Serve the pastries cold.
Shaping Danish Pastries
Shape and fill the Danish pastries in any of the following ways, remembering to brush the squares with beaten egg first to make sure that they keep their folded shapes. Recipes for the fillings and toppings can be found below.
Place an apricot half in the center of the dough square. Cut a circle, the size of the apricot, from the center of a second square and place over the first. Brush the finished pastry with glace icing (recipe follows).
Make a diagonal cut to ½ inch (1 cm) of the center from two opposite corners, forming two triangles that are joined at the center. Place a small teaspoonful of raisins in the middle of each triangle and fold the cut corner over to the other. Press lightly to seal, then separate the triangles to form a butterfly shape. Decorate, when cooked, with glace icing and flaked almonds.
Place a 3 inch (7.5 cm) roll of marzipan across the middle of the square and fold the dough in half. Press lightly to seal, then fray the edge by making cuts at ¼ inch (3 mm) intervals. Bend the pastry back slightly so that the cuts spread out. Brush the finished pastry with glace icing and sprinkle with flaked almonds.
Cut a border, ½ inch (1 cm) wide in the square, leaving it intact at two opposite corners. Fold the cut corners of the border over to the opposite corners of the central square. Fill the center with fruit mince and brush the finished pastry with glace icing.
Place two pineapple pieces diagonally on the square and fold two opposite corners to the center. Press lightly to secure. Brush the finished pastry with glace icing.
Place a slice of peach on the dough square and roll the dough around it. With the join-side downwards, cut a slit to reveal the fruit. Brush the finished pastry with glace icing.
Place a generous teaspoonful of Apple Filling (recipe below) in the center of a square. Fold in half diagonally and press lightly to seal. When the pastry is cooked and cooled, brush it with glace icing and decorate with flaked almonds.
Spread the dough square with Cinnamon Butter (recipe follows). Fold it in half and make a lengthwise cut to within ½ inch (1 cm) of the ends. Pass one end through the slit to twist the pastry. Spoon or pipe a little prepared confectioner's custard (see recipe below)along the middle of the finished pastry and brush with glace icing.
Make a diagonal cut from each corner of the square to within ½ inch (1 cm) if the center. Fold alternate cut corners to the center. When the pastry is cooked and cooled, spoon or pipe some prepared confectioner's custard in the center and brush with glace icing.
Fillings and Toppings
Peel, core and slice 1 cooking (green) apple and place in a pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water. Cover the pan and cook over a gentle heat until the apple is soft. Beat to a pulp, then stir in 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon (15 ml) sultanas or raisins. This quantity is enough to fill 6 pastries.
Cream together 1 ounce (30 g) (2 tablespoons) each butter and sugar and mix in 1 teaspoon cinnamon. This quantity will fill 6 pastries.
Cream 1 egg yolk with 2 tablespoons (30 ml) caster (fine granulated) sugar until thick and pale. Blend 1 tablespoon (15 ml) each flour and cornflour (cornstarch) with a few drops of vanilla essence and a little milk taken from ¼ pint (150 ml) milk. Heat the remaining milk until almost boiling and pour on to the egg mixture, stirring. Return to the pan and stir over a low heat until the mixture boils. Stiffly whisk 1 egg white and fold into the custard. Cook for a further 2-3 minutes and cool before using. This will decorate about 25 pastries.
This filling can be used in place of the marzipan in the Cocks' Comb, or with the raisins in the Butterfly pastries. Cream together 1 tablespoon (15 ml) butter and 3 ounces (90 g) (6 tablespoons) caster (fine granulated) sugar. Stir in 3 ounces (90 g) (5 tablespoons) ground almonds and enough beaten egg to form a pliable consistency. This quantity is enough to fill about 12 pastries.
Place 6 ounces (1¼ cups) icing (confectioners') sugar in a pan with 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water and stir over a very gentle heat until the mixture is transparent. Use immediately to brush over about 30 pastries.