I've been working up my nerve and stamina, lately, to try my hand at some homemade Danish pastry. That's what prompted me to look through those old bakers' books I blogged about a few days ago. Then, on Thursday, when our neighbor, Lorraine, came bearing bags of tomatoes, zucchini and peaches from her garden, I decided the time was right. Fresh peaches! Perfect for making a filling for some kind of Danish creation!
So, Monday morning (Labor Day holiday) I sliced the peaches up, added some squirts of lemon juice to help keep them from browning, and stored them in the refrigerator.
After that, I started on the Danish dough. The particular recipe I used* includes cardamom (a MOST wonderful spice) and the seeds of a fresh vanilla bean. YUMM! Danish pastry is a form of "laminated" dough, meaning that it has many layers, each separated by a butter/flour mixture; that's what makes it flaky. The many layers are achieved by folding a butter mixture between three layers, to begin with, and then performing a series of dough roll-and-folds, with time in the refrigerator between the roll-and-folds. The fingerprint in the dough, in this picture, is there to keep track of which roll-and-fold cycle I'm on - one fingerprint means the first cycle. It takes about 4 hours to mix, knead, chill and perform all of the folds.
After this, the dough needs to "rest" in the refrigerator over night. But, I wanted to do one more thing on Monday night, in preparation for completing the project on Tuesday. I cooked up the peaches into a caramelized, syrupy concoction, to make them suitable for filling the Danish. Here's a picture of them bubbling away in my cast iron skillet. Yummm. This would make a great ice cream topping, as well.
So, on Tuesday (today), I stopped by Bed Bath and Beyond to get some parchment paper, then came home to get started on shaping the dough and letting it rise (it is a yeast dough). I decided to make one Danish braid, and some little, individual pastries. I used the peaches for the filling in both.
(The individual pastries, before proofing)
(The braid, after 2 hours of proofing)
After 2 hours of proofing, I baked off the pastry. Although the recipe I used didn't call for any kind of glaze or drizzle on top, I just had to add that. Here they are, all finished and ready to eat. I just came back from taking some - still hot from the oven - across the street, to the neighbors who gave us the peaches. I hope they enjoy, since they were my inspiration!
It was great fun, and was the first major baking project I'd taken on in awhile. Don't be surprised if you see some more in the near future, here on my blog.
(*Credits: I found this recipe, which came, originally, from Sherry Yard’s The Secrets of Baking, on Kelly's blog at: http://sassandveracity.typepad.com/sass_veracity/2008/06/im-a-little-bot.html)