Andrea is a home baker who loves to perfect challenging cakes, breads, and the like. She is on a quest to find the perfect flavor combos.
The Perfect Danishes
These Danishes are perfect for breakfast, a holiday gathering, or a romantic date. This is a complicated recipe that will take several hours. . . maybe even a couple of days. I don't recommend trying to make Danishes quickly—your dough won't have enough time in the fridge to get a really good rise.
I would plan to do this recipe when you have a decent amount of time to work in the kitchen. Don't plan to make these if you have other strenuous activities for the day. On the plus side, kids may enjoy shaping the pastries with you.
This recipe is perfect if you have no plans for the weekend. I wouldn't recommend making Danish pastries as your first ever bake—or even your tenth.
|Prep time||Cook time||Ready in||Yields|
5 hours 18 min
24 to 36 pastries
In This Article
- Recommended Jams
- Photo Instructions
- Commonly Asked Questions
- 32 tablespoons unsalted butter sticks, at cool room temperature, 65°F to 68°F
- 5 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 4 teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 to 2 1/2 teaspoons cardamom (optional but traditional)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or maple extract
- 1 cup cold milk
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 2 large eggs
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- 1/2 cup ricotta cheese or mascarpone
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- about 1 to 1 1/4 cups jam, fruit preserves, canned pie ingredients
- 1 large egg, beaten lightly with a tablespoon of cold water
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- 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or maple extract
- 3 tablespoons milk
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 4 ounces cream cheese
- a touch of salt
- a handful of nuts, crushed, for garnish (optional)
- a sprinkle of pearl sugar, found in Scandinavian food stores (optional)
I used four different jams for my Danishes. All four were from Roots Kitchen & Cannery. I believe if you're going to make something in the kitchen then you should use the highest quality ingredients possible.
The four jams I used were:
- Raspberry Vanilla: this is one of the best jams I've ever tasted. The raspberries aren't too sweet nor too tart. They're perfect. The vanilla complements it beautifully. You could easily eat from the jar as an afternoon snack.
- Blackberry Earl Grey: the citrus flavor of bergamot is paired with the ripest blackberries—it makes for a refreshing blend. It's perfect to spread on a scone and serve at tea time.
- Blueberry Lavender: the calming lavender with the summer-ripened blueberries will put you at ease after a long day of work. I personally think it tastes like a fancy candy. If you love the taste of lavender or other floral flavors then this jam is perfect for you.
- Sour Plum & Sage: it's a little more tart than the others. It's unique in a good way. The sage gives it a nice mature autumn profile. Perfect for bread, biscotti, and cheese.
- Cut 1/4" butter off the end of each of the 4 sticks. You'll have 2 tablespoons butter from each stick totaling 8 tablespoons. Set all of the butter aside. You'll use the cut off butter shortly, but it'll be awhile before you use the longer butter sticks. You have two options: (1) leave the long sticks out to help them soften and be more malleable, or (2) put them in the fridge until later, so they don't melt.
- In a large bowl, whisk together: flour, sugar, yeast, salt, and cardamom. Add the 8 tablespoons of cold butter. Work it with your hands until no large lumps remain. This helps coat the flour with fat, making the pastry more tender. (If you love cardamom, do 2 teaspoons or more for your dough.)
- Add the vanilla, milk, and water straight into the dry ingredients. Add one egg at a time. I highly recommend using a bread machine and hitting the dough setting. For me, my machine takes about an hour and a half. You could use a mixer, but the dough won't be as neat.
- Take your ball of dough and transfer it to a floured surface. Cover it with cling wrap. Let it rest while you prepare the butter sticks.
- Cut each butter stick in half lengthwise. You should have 8 long rectangles. Line up 2 butter pieces to form a stick; take another 2 cut up butter pieces and put them on top to form a long rectangle. Cover the long rectangle with floured plastic.
- Smoosh down the wrapped butter until it's about 4" x 9" to 6" x 9". It's okay if the pieces meld together or slightly come apart. If the butter comes out of the plastic, re-wrap it. (Ideally, you want the butter to meld together.)
- Repeat steps 5 and 6 with your remaining butter sticks. You should have two butter rectangles in plastic that are the same size.
- Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 12" wide and 24" long. Your dough may not stretch as far as that measurement, which is okay. The wider and longer you can roll it out, the easier it's going to be with the next steps.
- Unwrap one butter rectangle and place it onto the center third of the dough. Fold one side over the butter. Place the other butter rectangle on top of the folded-over dough—fold the remaining wing of dough over it. Close the open ends and sides as neatly as possible. If it's too open butter will come out really early when you start doing more folding and rolling. Butter will likely come out during the fourth roll and folding.
- Roll the dough into a 12" x 24" rectangle (your dough may end up shorter than this). Fold one side into the center then fold over the other wing of dough. Your dough should be about 6" x 9".
- Lightly flour the dough. Wrap it in plastic. Put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes have passed, roll the dough again and into a rectangle about 10" x 24". Fold it like you did in step #10; it'll be about 7" x 12". Roll once more, fold it into a rectangle, and lightly flour the dough. Wrap it in plastic but don't make it too tight—it needs room to rise. Chill the dough for a minimum of 2 hours and up to 20 hours. The longer it is in the fridge the better chance it will have at rising. A lot of people leave the dough in their fridge overnight. When I did the recipe for the pictures, I waited about 7 hours before moving to the next step.
- Make your filling before you start shaping your pastries. There are two filling options for this recipe: the cheese filling or the jam filling. I mixed and matched for my pictures.
- Cheese filing option: Combine all of the filling ingredients together. Stir until smooth. If you have a food processor, use it.
- Jam filling option: Select your favorite jam, jelly, preserves, etc.
- Pull out the dough. While it's wrapped, cut off one-third. Take off the sliver of plastic from the chopped-off-third and re-wrap the larger dough and return it to the fridge.
- Roll out the cut off dough to about 1/4 to 1/2 an inch thick. Cut the dough into 10 to 12 pieces. I would suggest cutting down the middle lengthwise and then cutting the opposite direction to make neat squares.
- Roll each square into a smooth ball. Flatten the balls, making sure the center is thinner than the sides. You could stick your thumb or knuckles into the center and then with your fingers push the dough to the sides. You want the centers to be as thin as possible. Build up a wall of dough around the center. The center will hold the filling. When you're done shaping the dough, place them on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. (Parchment is recommended. It will come in handy when you do the glazing later.)
- Repeat steps 16 through 18, but work with the middle third of the dough.
- Repeat steps 16 through 18, but work with the last third of the dough.
- Let the dough rounds rise for about 1 hour. If you've done everything correctly, the pastries will get puffy. With 10 minutes left on the timer, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Do not put filling in your pastries yet! You need to rework them a little bit because the centers came up. Work with one tray of pastries at a time. Take the rounds and smoosh down the middle and move dough to the sides. Once the pastries look right, spoon in the filling. If you don't want too much filling, add about a teaspoon to each pastry. If you want more, do a spoonful or so. Don't add so much that it spills over the sides before you even bake them. (I went the heavy route for the pictures. I tend to be more liberal with my ingredients. Jam and cheese that spills over during baking is easy to cut off and the glaze will make overloaded pastries look pretty.)
- Brush the pastries with the egg wash. It will give your pastries that desirable golden finish. Avoid touching the filling.
- Bake the pastries for 16 to 18 minutes. They should be golden. Let them cool down on the tray before moving them to a rack. You now have three options: (1) skip the glaze; (2) put the glaze on now but know it won't have the best finish; (3) let the pastries rest overnight and add the glaze tomorrow morning.
- The glaze: whisk together the ingredients one at a time. You can do this by hand, but the cream cheese will be a little pesky. Taste test the glaze before you apply it. Some tips: if it's too runny, add more sugar. If it's too lemony, add more milk. You can use mascarpone cheese in place of cream cheese.
- Drizzle the glaze on the Danishes. I recommend going heavy with it. Make sure the glaze gets around the sides and isn't just sitting on the top. Sprinkle on crushed nuts or pearl sugar if you like.
- Eat and enjoy!
Commonly Asked Questions
Why do I have to keep rolling and folding the dough?
- All the rolling, folding, and reshaping helps create the flaky layers. Every time you fold it and roll it you're helping create thinner butter layers.
- If you skip the four turns of rolling and folding, you'll be taking away the Danishes' magic.
Do I have to shape my Danishes this way?
- No. There are multiple ways to shape these. You could flatten them into squares, punch down the middle, and fold over the sides to the center. You could fold the sides over as rectangles or triangles.
- Beatrice Ojakangas knows way more about Danishes than I do. If you want to perfect your technique, I would suggest looking into one of her cookbooks.
Why are they called Danishes?
- The pastry is connected to a strike among bakery workers in Denmark in 1850. The strike caused bakery owners to hire workers from abroad, many were from Austria. They brought over new baking traditions and recipes. After the labor disputes ended, the Danish bakers adopted the Austrian recipes.
- The Danish adjusted the recipes to their own liking by adding egg and fat. The adjustments led to what is now known as the Danish pastry.
- At that time, bakers in Denmark gave pastries exotic names.
- Danishes are often topped with chocolate, pearl sugar, icing, and nuts. Common fillings include: apples, prunes, marzipan, and custard.
© 2021 Andrea Lawrence