Pastry Basics: Danish Pastry Dough
Remember when I made these classic french croissants last year? Today, I'm going to demystify the equally popular danish pastry.
Puff pastry, croissant dough and danish dough are all laminated doughs, meaning that a dough package and butter package are folded multiple times to form alternating layers. These layers expand and rise in a hot oven to form that addictive flaky texture. The processes of making these three types of laminated doughs are similar, but have very distinct characters and are associated to very specific pastries.
Puff pastry, or pâte feuilletée, is a basic dough of flour, water and salt laminated with butter. It is most commonly known for palmiers. Croissant and danish doughs are both yeasted and use high protein flour. In addition to enrichment from butter, the danish dough détrempe is also enriched by eggs or egg yolks, and the final produce is sweeter and more tender.
This recipe is pretty long, so I urge you to read it from start to end at least once before attempting. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work out the first time, it took me 4-5 tries to get it right. With practice, you will develop an understanding of the dough texture and a muscle memory for shaping. The recipe makes a good amount of dough for beginners to handle. Once you get used to it, feel free to double the recipe and freeze half of the dough for future use.
A quick recap of the terms used in the recipe:
- Détrempe: the dough package
- Beurrage: the butter package
- Pâton: the combined dough and butter package
Danish Pastry Dough
Makes enough dough for 8 snails (recipe following).
338g all-purpose flour
40g granulated sugar
20g beurre en pomade (instruction follows)
4g dry active yeast
1. Combine the flour, sugar, and beurre en pomade in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed to combine.
How? This is similar to making puff pastry, where you are cutting the butter into the dry mixture. Make a beurre en pomade by wrapping the butter with cling film and massage with your hands until it is malleable, but not melting. Paddle through the dry ingredients until the butter becomes lentil sized pieces.
Why? The beurre en pomade hinders gluten formation, and makes the dough more pliable and easy to roll out.
2. In a bowl, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Once the yeast is dissolved, add the eggs and mix well to combine.
How? Bring the yeast and egg to room temperature. In a small jug, heat up the milk until it is lukewarm and mix in the yeast, then whisk in the egg.
Why? Temperature is important here. You want the yeast to be active, but not too much. Bring all the ingredients to room temperature helps kick-start the process of bulk fermentation.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the flour mixture and mix on medium-low speed. Add more milk, a tablespoon at a time, until a soft dough forms. Add the salt and mix until the dough just comes together.
How? Slowly pour in the liquid ingredients to hydrate the flour mixture. Start the mixer and mix until the dough comes together to a texture like play dough. Add the salt and knead until just incorporated. The dough should be soft, malleable and scraggy.
Why? The goal here is to develop minimum gluten development. This is a wet and soft dough due to the enrichment of eggs and butter. Salt is hygroscopic, meaning it draws moisture from its surroundings. Adding it later in the mixing process ensures that the flour is well hydrated.
4. Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and bulk ferment for 45-60 minutes in a draft-free place until it doubles in size.
How? Use a thick-walled glass or ceramic bowl that retains the heat better. If you don't have a proofing cabinet, boil a pot of hot water to increase the kitchen temperature to 78-80ºF.
Why? Cover the bowl so the exterior of the dough does not dry out. A pot of boiling water also maintains the humidity in the kitchen.
5. Turn the dough onto the counter and pat into a square. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This is the détrempe.
How? This step sets the lamination process for success. Pat the dough into a square around ½-inch thick, so that it could be rolled out thinner later.
Why? Ensuring the détrempe is evenly rolled out will help you get the pâton squared and even, meaning it will give an even rise in the oven. Cooling down the dough in the refrigerator allows the gluten to relax, giving it more extensibility when you laminate.
6. Meanwhile, temper the butter between sheets of parchment paper using a rolling pin to make a beurrage. Return to the refrigerator.
How? Take a sheet of parchment paper and fold it lengthwise in thirds. Rotate 90 degrees and fold the two ends towards the center until you have a rectangle around 6" x 9". Unfold the parchment paper and arrange slices of butter of equal thickness within the rectangle. Fold the flaps over, squeezing the sides until there are no gaps between the butter slices. Roll flat with a rolling pin, ensuring the thickness is even all around.
Why? Making sure the butter slices are homogenous can avoid cracking issues during rolling. Some people even paddle the butter before spreading it out onto the parchment paper. The butter should be firm but malleable in order to help extend the dough during lamination. If it is too hard, temper it for a few minutes before moving on to the next step.
7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the détrempe into a rectangle around 14" x 10", with the longer edge facing you. Place the beurrage over half of the dough, then enclose the butter. This is the pâton.
How? Imagine a vertical line running along the middle of the détrempe rectangle. Place the long edge of the beurrage along this line and fold the other half of the détrempe over. Gently press the three edges together with your rolling pin.
Why? Both the détrempe and beurrage should be around ⅛-inch thick. Keep in mind that you want even layers of butter and dough for lamination, so keep a rim of dough just wide enough to enclose the beurrage. Make sure the edges are well sealed to avoid leakage in the next steps.
8. Make three single folds (also called a letter fold), resting for 30 minutes between each fold.
How? On a lightly floured surface, place the pâton with the long side facing you. Visually divide it lengthwise in thirds and fold one flap over the other like a letter. Hold the rolling pin horizontally and press down gently along the entire length to flatten the dough, until it is around 6" x 12“. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes. Repeat the process 3 times.
Why? It is important to make your pâton as squared as possible to ensure even lamination. Chill the dough to allow the gluten to relax, and allow the butter to firm up again so it will help extend the dough.
9. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours, or overnight. Your danish pastry dough is now done. Use it right away or freeze it for up to a month.
How? Wrap the baton all around with plastic wrap to ensure the skin doesn't dry out in the refrigerator. Make sure it is not too tight as the dough will expand a little during cold fermentation.
Why? A long and cold fermentation allow the flour to hydrate and flavour to develop. Keep in mind that yeast action is still happening if you store it in the refrigerator, although at a slower rate. If you are not using it right away, store in the freezer.
Makes 8 snails.
1 recipe danish pastry dough (above)
egg wash, as needed
20-30g cinnamon sugar
pastry cream or jam, as needed
Lightly flour your surface and roll the chilled dough into a 16" x 12" rectangle (the size of a half sheet pan). Allow the gluten to relax for 15–20 minutes. Cut in half horizontally with a pastry roller or a pairing knife.
Brush one of the halves lightly with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top. Place the other half of top. Gently press down with a rolling pin to combine the two pieces into a rectangle. Cut the sandwiched dough into four 1-inch strips horizontally and in half vertically so you get eight 1" x 8" strips.
Take one strip and stretch it until it measures about 12-inch long. Moving your hands in opposite directions, twist the strip to create a spiral. Coil the spiral around itself, tucking the last 1-inch piece of dough underneath. Do not coil it too tight, you want to allow space for the dough to proof and expand. Place the danish on a parchment-lined sheet pan, spaced 2-inch apart.
Place the pastries into a proofing cabinet set between 72– 78°F (22–25°C) for about 1 hour, or until the dough is slightly puffed up and "jiggly" to touch. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375°F/190°C.
Take a small cup with a 1-inch bottom. Dip it in flour and press down the center of each coil. Top with around a tablespoon of pastry cream or jam. Apply a thin layer of egg wash on the dough part of the snail, avoiding the cut edges. The egg wash will "glue" the layers together and they won't puff up properly.
Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Then remove the pastries from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Allow to cool on the sheet pan. Serve within one day.