Ever since I bought Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess, I've wanted to make her Danish pastry recipe. However, it always seemed too time consuming, despite being a sped-up version. You need to let it rest and rise twice, then there's the rolling and the shaping and the ensuing mess. And what on earth would I do with 6 danishes? (That's a rhetorical question).
But buoyed by my experience with croissants, puff pastry and Tartine's flaky pastry (which is essentially an un-laminated rough-puff pastry), and with a free weekend ahead of me, I thought it wouldn't hurt to give them a go.
Danish pastry is the same as croissant dough - that is, a yeasted laminated dough. Nigella's recipe is a quick processor version. Rather than wrapping the dough around a flat square of butter before starting to roll, in this version the butter is distributed throughout the dough in small, pebble-like pieces.
Additionally, Nigella's version gets you to do all the rolling at once, rather than letting it rest for 30 minutes in between each turn. (If you don't put yeast in the original dough, what you've got is a rough puff pastry!)
With each turn, the dough gets smoother and smoother...
... and you can see the layers building up.
And ta-dah! Here is the finished dough. I love how smooth it gets, compared to the rough and shaggy ball of dough you start with.
I used a pizza cutter to slice the dough. This way you get minimal tear-and-drag along the edge of the dough, so the layers rise more evenly.
So, the recipe makes enough for two batches Nigella has two versions in her book: cheese danish, and an almond danish. I made cheese and cherry danishes with the first batch, and stashed the remainder in the freezer for a later batch of almond danishes.
As you can see above, the pieces weren't particularly even. Oops! But still, I managed to bring them together into rough Danish pastry shapes.
Glazed with egg...
...and then baked! The recipe calls for you to brush the baked danishes with a clear sugar glaze, and then drizzle a white sugar glaze over the top. I'm not a fan of my sweets being too sweet, so I skipped the second glaze.
You can see in the above photo the comparison with and without the clear glaze. It's quite pretty, but I'm not sure it's completely necessary. Do you think it makes a big difference?
You'll also notice that some of the pastries came unstuck while being baked - a combination of too much wet filling, and my not sealing the edges tightly enough. I think next time I'll avoid ricotta for a firmer German / Eastern-European cheese, like twaróg, or those hefty blocks of Tempo's continental cottage cheese. That's probably about as close as I can get to Topfenstrudel in Australia!
Oh yes, and the taste? These danishes were incredible. I loved the soft flaky pastry and its total butteriness (I've decided that's a word). They're actually super easy to make, and I found that Nigella's recipe worked very, very well.
I told you I also made almond Danishes, yes? I did these a few days later (with the dough frozen in the meantime), to take to my parents' house for dessert. The dough puffed up heaps because it proved in a much warmer spot!
And here they are, all baked. I didn't bother with the sugar glaze this time as I was in a hurry.
I'm so glad I finally got around to making these - yum yum and so much fun! Such a lovely breakfast or afternoon indulgence with a cup of coffee. I'll definitely be making these again, perhaps even making croissants out of the dough. (So much faster and easier than the full croissant/danish dough I've made previously). I'll want to play around with the fillings too - what are your favourite danish fillings?