Danish Dough

Published February 03, 2011.
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If the French call this kind of pastry Viennoiserie, and it hails from Vienna, why do Americans call it Danish? In the mid-nineteenth century, there was a bakers’ strike in Copenhagen, and the strikers were replaced with Viennese workers, who baked their own national recipes. When the strike was over, the customers had developed a taste for the Viennese style of baking. Danish immigrants brought the layered dough recipe with them to America, and the bakeries that they opened featured this new, irresistible pastry. Enriched with eggs, butter, and sugar, this golden dough is responsible for many of the most beloved morning pastries, particularly with my New York clientele who have deep nostalgia for fruit Danish and cream cheese Danish. The butter layers give the pastries a deliciously light texture.

Baker’s Note: U se this dough for Cheese and Raisin Danish, Fruit Danish, and Chocolate Babka (pages 44, 49, and 51). • Danish dough has three turns: single, double, and single. • Use two rolling pins: a tapered pin for creating the thin flaps to cover the beurrage, and a large, heavy pin for the rolling steps. • For dry yeast, refer to the adjusted liquid measurements in the directions. • Make, freeze,and defrost Danish dough at least 2 days before baking. This firms the butter and flour layers, and encourages them to bake into an extra-flaky texture. It also relaxes the dough better than refrigeration alone. • Danish dough can be frozen for up to 4 days. After that time, the flour discolors and the yeast loses strength.

Détrempe
.75 ounce (1 packed tablespoon plus 1½ packed teaspoons) compressed yeast or 2¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
⅔ cup whole milk
1 large egg plus 4 large egg yolks
Seeds from 1 Plumped Vanilla Bean
2⅔ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out the dough
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons, well softened

Beurrage
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into tablespoons
2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

1) Make the dough at least 2 days before using. To make the détrempe, finely crumble the yeast into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Add the sugar and let stand until the yeast gives off some moisture, about 3 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Stir in the milk. (If using dry yeast, sprinkle the yeast over ⅓ cup warm, 105° to 115°F, milk in a small bowl. Let stand until the yeast softens, about 5 minutes. Whisk well to dissolve. Pour into the mixer bowl, then add the sugar. Add the remaining ⅓ cup cold milk.)

2) Add the egg, yolks, and vanilla seeds and whisk to combine. Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed, and add 2 cups of the flour and the salt to the bowl. Add the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, sticky dough that almost cleans the sides of the bowl. Do not overmix, as the dough will be worked and absorb more flour during the rolling and folding processes. Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, knead a few times to smooth the surface, and shape into a ball. The ball should hold its shape, but it will widen slightly upon standing.

3) Dust a half-sheet pan with flour. Place the dough on the flour and cut an X about 1 inch deep in the top of the ball to mark it into quadrants. Sprinkle with flour on top and refrigerate.

4) Immediately make the beurrage. Clean the mixer bowl and paddle attachment. Add the butter to the bowl and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed until the butter is almost smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and continue beating until the mixture is smooth, cool, and malleable, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and press any remaining lumps of butter out with the heel of your hand, and shape the butter into a 4-inch square. Place the beurrage on the half-sheet pan with the détrempe and refrigerate together for about 15 minutes. The détrempe and the beurrage should be the same consistency and temperature after this slight chilling.

5) Flour the work surface again. Place the dough on the work surface with the ends of the X at approximately 2, 4, 7, and 10 o’clock positions. You will notice four quadrants of dough between the crosses of the X at the north, south, east, and west positions. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using the heel of your hand, flatten and stretch each quadrant out about 2½ inches to make a cloverleaf shape with an area in the center that is thicker than the “leaves”. Use a tapered rolling pin to roll each “cloverleaf” into a flap about 6 inches long and 5 inches wide, leaving a raised square in the center. Using the side of the rolling pin, press the sides of the raised area to demark the square.

6) Place the butter square in the center of the cloverleaf. Gently stretch and pull the north-facing flap of dough down to cover the top and the sides of the butter square, brushing away any excess flour. (This dough is very extendable and stretches easily; be careful not to tear it.) Now stretch and pull the south-facing flap of dough up to cover the top and sides of the butter square. Turn the dough so the open ends of the square face north and south. Repeat folding and stretching the north- and south-facing flaps of dough (originally the east and west flaps) to completely cover the butter square, making a butter-filled packet of dough about 6 inches square.

7) Dust the work surface with flour. Turn the dough over so the four folded flaps face down, with the open seam facing you. Dust the top of the dough with flour. Using a large, heavy rolling pin held at a slight angle, lightly pound the top of the dough to widen it slightly and help distribute the butter inside the dough. Roll the dough into a 17 by 9-inch rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, like a business letter, brushing away excess flour. This is called a single turn. Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Transfer to a half-sheet pan and refrigerate for about 20 minutes.

8) Dust the work surface with flour. Place the dough on the work surface with the long open seam of dough facing you. Dust the dough with flour. Roll out the dough into a 17 by 9-inch rectangle. Fold the right side of the dough over 2 inches to the left. Fold the left side of the dough over to meet the right side. Fold the dough in half vertically from left to right. This is a double turn (also known as a book turn). Roll the rectangle lightly to barely compress the layers. Return to the half-sheet pan and refrigerate for another 20 minutes.

9) Repeat rolling and folding the dough into a final single turn. With the long seam facing you, cut the dough in half vertically. Wrap each piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap, then wrap again. Freeze for at least 24 hours or up to 4 days. The night before using the dough, transfer the frozen dough to the refrigerator and let thaw overnight, about 8 hours. Once the dough defrosts it will begin to rise, so be sure to roll it out immediately or it could develop a yeasty taste.


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