I am More an Antique Roman than a Dane, but Even So. . . .

Waaaay back at the beginning of September, when we were still in the middle of a heat wave, public schools jumped back into session and Teacherman went back to work.  To celebrate/console, I made him a special breakfast–cherry Danishes. 

I’d never made Danishes before, and always had an impression of them as Way Too Much Trouble.  I had a vague desire to someday make croissants from scratch (I’ve read so many recipes that I technically know how to do it, I just never have), but Danishes, for all that the technique of preparation is so similar, seemed over the top.

As so often happens, though, one day in mid-August I was re-reading a Nigella Lawson cookbook (the particular one I don’t recall–I just know it was one that I don’t own).  Lo, there in the breakfast chapter was a recipe for Danishes, and it seemed extraordinarily easy.

One simply cuts butter (a huge quantity of butter) into a mixture of flour, a tiny bit of sugar, a packet of yeast, and a pinch of salt, then mixes the dry ingredients into a lumpy sludge with some milk, and egg and some water.  The mixture goes into the fridge overnight, then the next day goes through a series of foldings and rollings-out, until one has perfect Danish pastry.

The recipe acknowledges that the result isn’t a ‘pastry shop-type’ Danish, but rather the sort of Danish that actual Danes make in actual Denmark.  The butter is cut into the dry ingredients, rather than formed into a square and rolled in (just as for croissants), and all the rolling and folding happens at once, without interminable periods of refrigeration between each one (just as for croissants). 

The recipe recommends cutting the butter in with a food processor, but mine has been acting rather dodgy lately, so I did it by hand.  It only took five minutes, and it reminded me that the smell of pie dough (for that is essentially what this is, only with twice as much butter and a packet of yeast added) is one of the best smells in the world.

The next day I squoodged the dough together into a ball and rolled it out on a heavily (HEAVILY) floured board, marvelling all the while at how smoothly and easily it rolled out.  (Unlike pie dough, this took absolutely no effort to roll, and the gluten didn’t activate and elastisize the dough back into a postage-stamp-sized square.  It did require an inordinant amount of dough on the board, though).

I folded the dough in thirds like a business letter, turned it 45 degrees, rolled it out to cover the board again, folded it, turned it, rolled it, folded it, turned it, rolled it, then cut it in half.  One half I wrapped in foil and stuck into the freezer, the other I rolled out to cover the entire board again (can you believe that it was that easy?  What other dough would DO that??)  

I cut the dough into 6 more-or-less (mostly less) equal pieces, dolloped a little cherry preserves into the middle of each piece, then folded the corners to the middle and squished them together.  They looked a little more like enormous hamantaschen than Danishes, but whatever.  All that remained was to let them rise for an hour at room temperature, then bake them for 20 minutes.  Voila, Danishes.

Nearly a month later, Teacherman went to a breakfast tailgate, and I went along, too.  I had never been to a tailgate before (and I probably won’t ever go to one again), but it gave me a wonderful opportunity to make lotsandlots of food to feed to unsuspecting university marching band alumni.  I made sausage and mustard and bacon and all the things that have become my standards, but I also pulled that second batch of Danish dough out of the freezer. 

This time I cut the dough into 12 pieces (which didn’t make them small, just not ENORMOUS) filled each one with a sweet, cheesecake-like filling.  Feeling uncreative, I shaped them the same way–into little pyramid/hat/knob things.  They were devoured.  Among the devourers was Teacherman’s mother, who raved and moaned and fell about and made broad hints about her birthday. 

Last Tuesday was her birthday and, for a myriad of reasons, this Saturday we will be visiting her in Detroit.  Danishes?  Coming right up.

Back before the power of the Danishes became manifest, I was planning to bake an apple cake for my mother-in-law, and take it along to Detroit to surprise her with, but with Danishes specifically requested, I had to change my tune.  Apples, though, were stuck in my mind.  It’s fall–perfect apple season, even for the supermarket scary varieties, and even better for the exciting antiques from the farmer’s market*.  I determined to make apple Danishes.

I made an applesauce with Wolf River apples, a little cinnamon and a little cider, the heat turning the apples into such a fluffy, perfect mush that I didn’t need to puree them at all.  I cooked the sauce down a little farther than I might have for regular eating applesauce, just so it wouldn’t run when used as Danish filling.  The final filling was considerably stiffer than a commercial applesauce, but not as far gone as apple butter.

On Thursday night I made the strange, knobbley batter, and on tonight I rolled and folded and filled until I had eight little apple-spiced pillows (why not twelve?  Birthdays call for a little indulgence).  Tomorrow we are off to Detroit, where I will let the Danishes speak for themselves.

* Do not trust all antique apples, though.  I bought one type, untasted, this last weekend, only to discover at home that they tasted like bug spray.  I am not kidding.  Even washed, even peeled, even cooked and sweetened: bug spray.   Yech.

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Published in: on October 12, 2007 at 8:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

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