A lot of life is about efficiency, and I get the importance of that. I really do. But sometimes you just need to swim against the stream, fly in the face of all the hurry, and spend 24 hours making 8 perfect Danish pastries. And then you need to have some friends come for the weekend, drink way too much coffee, and have the laziest Saturday of all times.
And so we did.
This was my first adventure in any sort of homemade puff pastry, so I will defer to the one and only Paul Hollywood for more specific instructions (just follow steps 1-5 and ignore the rest). I used an active dry yeast instead of instant, but I think I would recommend instant if you have it. This pastry spends most of its short life in the refrigerator to keep the butter solid, which is a little harder on active dry yeast as it needs a good amount of warmth and moisture to really rise well.
Like I said, look to Mr. Hollywood for the full story, but basically you get all the dry ingredients together (keeping your salt and yeast on opposite sides of the bowl)…
And then add the milk and eggs and give it all a good mix with your hand…
Until it all comes together in a sticky ball…
Which you knead until smooth, then wrap and chill for a couple of hours. I recommend chilling it in a rectangular shape to make it easier to roll out later.
You also take your block of butter and roll it out into a giant rectangle, and that goes in the fridge to chill as well.
I confess that I did not get any pictures of the laminating process, which is where you roll out the bread dough and fold it in thirds (like a letter) around the butter sheet, chill it again, roll it out and fold it in thirds, chill it, etc. until you’ve done that four times and you have about twelve thin layers of dough alternating with eight or so thin layers of butter… my hands were covered with butter and flour, and that doesn’t make for great photography or a long-lived camera. But the shot below shows the sort of layers you’re going for.
While the laminated dough was finishing its overnight chilling time in the fridge, I got up early this morning and worked on fillings.
First, frangipane. Frangipane is an almond filling used in tarts and pastries, and it traditionally consists of equal weights of ground almonds, caster sugar, eggs, and butter. I added a dash of almond extract to really boost the almond flavour.
Toss it all in the bowl of a food processor and give it a good spin, and there you go!
I also took just a few figs and turned them into a quick jam (for the third time in three weeks) with some lemon juice and sugar. Fresh figs and I are friends now. It’s official.
While both of the fillings were chilling in the fridge, I watched a bunch of Danish pastry shaping videos on Youtube (especially this one, which was very helpful) and decided on a vol-au-vent shape because of its superior capacity for fillings. I had a lot of frangipane to use up.
Broken down into steps, the process looks a little something like this:
After rolling the chilled, laminated dough into a rectangle twice as long as it is wide, you use a knife or pizza cutter to cut the dough into 8 pieces…
Which each get folded in half diagonally…
And then cut almost all the way to the non-folded corner, following a line about an inch from the edge. When unfolded, you have an almost-free square in the middle, just attached at two corners.
To shape the pastry, you take one of the free outer corners and fold it over the middle square, and then you do the same with the other free outer corner.
Give each pastry a generous spoonful of frangipane and a dollop of fresh fig jam, place them on baking parchment on a baking tray, cover them loosely with cling film, and set them aside in a coolish (not warm! Don’t melt your butter!) place to rise for 2 hours.
When they’ve puffed up a good bit, brush the exposed pastry with an egg wash (one beaten egg) and bake for about 20-25 minutes at 180°C (350°F). It may take longer depending on your oven, the thickness of your pastry, and how much filling you’ve piled on there. What you’re looking for is a rich, golden brown colour on the top and bottom, and a solid-feeling pastry that doesn’t melt when you poke it or try to move it from the tray.
I let mine cool for a few minutes on wire racks and then we enjoyed them–still just warm– with coffee and fresh fruit and bacon rolls and good chat.
Fresh Fig and Frangipane Danish Pastries
Makes 8 generous-sized pastries
1 recipe Paul Hollywood’s Danish pastry dough
For the frangipane:
150g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter, cubed
150g eggs, about 3 small-medium eggs
For the fig jam:
4 ripe, fresh figs, diced small
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup caster sugar
Splash of water
For the egg wash:
1 egg, beaten
- Prepare Danish pastry dough according to directions 1-5 of Paul Hollywood’s recipe. Chill overnight.
- To make the frangipane: blitz ground almonds and sugar together in food processor to combine. Add butter and process until mixture looks like even crumbs. Add eggs and almond extract and process until combined. Chill.
- To make the fig jam: place all ingredients in a saucepan over low-medium heat and simmer until mixture has reduced and thickened (about 30 minutes). Chill.
- To shape pastries: roll pastry dough out to an even rectangle about 5-8mm (1/4 inch) thick, and twice as long as it is wide. Cut dough into 8 even squares. Shape into vol-au-vents (refer to pictures above).
- Place shaped pastries on a parchment-lined baking tray with at least an inch between them. Fill with a generous spoonful of frangipane and a dollop of fig jam. Cover loosely with cling film and let rise for 2 hours in a cool place until puffed up.
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F). Brush pastries with egg wash and bake for 20-25 minutes or until top and bottom surfaces are crispy with a rich, golden brown colour.
- Cool slightly on wire racks and enjoy!