Masterclass: Danish pastries

AT A GLANCE

  • Serves 21 people

"Here I've made two types of danish pastry: snails studded with raisins, and windmills crowned with canned apricots," says Catherine.

This recipe makes 9 windmills and 12 snails.

  • 550 gm (3 ⅔ cups) strong or baker's flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 50 gm caster sugar
  • 325 gm unsalted butter, diced
  • 12 gm dried yeast
  • 250 ml (1 cup) lukewarm milk
  • 1 large (60gm) egg, lightly beaten
  • 9 canned apricot halves, drained
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten, for eggwash
  • 150 gm raisins soaked in boiling water for 15 minutes, drained and patted dry with paper towels
  • Apricot jam, to glaze
  •  
  • Pastry cream
  • 250 ml (1 cup) milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
  • 55 gm (¼ cup) caster sugar
  • 40 gm egg yolk (about 2 large eggs)
  • 25 gm cornflour
  • 10 gm unsalted butter
01   Combine flour, sugar, 25gm butter (refrigerate remaining to chill) and 1 tsp salt in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Dissolve yeast in milk in a bowl, then add to egg and stir with a whisk to combine. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture and knead to just bring together to form a smooth dough. Form dough into a rough 17cm x 12cm block, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (20-30 minutes).
02   Meanwhile, spread remaining butter on a piece of baking paper in a rough 38cm x 18cm rectangle, place another piece of baking paper on top, then roll with a rolling pin to form an even slab. If butter becomes soft, refrigerate to firm – it needs to be firm but pliable.
03   Roll dough on a lightly floured surface to a 60cm x 20cm rectangle, dust off excess flour, then peel paper from one side of butter slab and place on dough to cover two-thirds, leaving a 1cm gap at one end. Peel away remaining paper, fold uncovered dough over butter to cover half the butter, then fold the opposite third over that. This is your first turn. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate to rest (20-30 minutes).
04   Roll dough to 60cm x 20cm, then fold as before. Wrap and refrigerate for another 20 minutes, then repeat rolling and folding once more, turning 90 degrees to roll each time; this makes a total of three turns. Refrigerate until firm after third turn. At this stage, the dough can be covered and refrigerated overnight.
05   For ease of handling, cut the dough in half and roll both pieces to just over 35cm x 35cm (this is a little larger than you need to allow for trimming). Cut one piece into three 10cm strips and then into nine 10cm squares. Transfer squares and remaining large piece of dough to oven trays lined with baking paper, leaving 5cm between them. Cover and refrigerate.
06   For pastry cream, bring milk and vanilla to a simmer in a saucepan, then remove from heat. Whisk sugar and yolk until pale (3 minutes). Mix in cornflour, then whisk in a small amount of hot milk. Whisk into remaining milk in saucepan, then bring to the boil over medium heat, whisking continuously. Reduce heat to low-medium and simmer, whisking continuously, until thickened (2 minutes). Remove from heat, whisk in butter, transfer to a bowl, cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until required. Whisk well to loosen before use.
07   For windmills, preheat oven to 180C. Make 2cm cuts from corners of pastry squares towards the centre. Dab centres with eggwash, then fold one point of each triangle over and press into the centre. Add 1 tsp pastry cream to the centre of each windmill, top with an apricot half and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size and pastry springs back slightly when pressed (30 minutes to 1 hour). If points release from the centre, gently press them into place. Brush pastries lightly and evenly with eggwash and bake until golden brown and risen (about 20 minutes). Cool on a wire rack.
08   For snails, spread remaining pastry cream over the large piece of pastry leaving a 1cm border and brush border with eggwash. Scatter raisins evenly over pastry cream, then roll into a log. Place in the freezer to firm up (5-10 minutes), then trim ends.
09   Cut log into 2.5cm-thick slices with a sharp knife and place them 5cm apart on an oven tray lined with baking paper, tucking a little of the ends underneath to stop snails unravelling. Set aside in a warm place until almost doubled in size and pastry springs back slightly when pressed (30 minutes to 1 hour). Bake until golden brown (20-25 minutes), then cool on a wire rack.
10   Meanwhile, heat apricot jam with a little water to loosen. Brush apricot glaze onto warm pastries and serve. Danish pastries are best eaten the day they’re made, but they can be reheated the next day in a low oven.
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