Were you a good little girl or boy? If so, you get a danish!
Ellie, of Kitchen Wench is hosting a wonderful one-off event called The Nostalgia Tastes Bittersweet. As so many of our memories are linked to food, Ellie has asked us to take a trip down memory lane and make a recipe that evokes a sense of nostalgia. I hummed and hawed over what I was going to make, lots of memories have a flavour of some sort attached to them. Eventually, the food memory that I decided on required me to make something I have never made before: Danishes.
Before I delve into today’s baking adventure, let’s go back to a time when I was just a young pup, still wet behind the ears. My family used to go to 9am mass every Sunday morning and I hated it. In general, I was a good kid but once you got me to church I turned into a little hellion. I would cry and scream and insist that I didn’t want to go and I didn’t want to be there. Mom would shamefully have to take me to the Crying Room where I may very well have been the oldest kid there. The Crying Room was a glassed-in, soundproof room in the back of the church that allowed mothers of new borns and toddlers to watch mass and listen as it was piped through a set of speakers, without disturbing the rest of the parishioners with a crying baby. It was not intended as a playroom for bratty kids who couldn’t sit still for one hour a week, like me. It got to the point where I was old enough that Mom didn’t even have to be in the Crying Room with me, I could look after myself in there. I guess I didn’t clue in to the fact that maybe church was the last place I should be misbehaving...
Once I was a little bit older I was put into the choir and became an altar server which kept me busy enough that I didn’t have time for crying. What does all of this have to do with danishes? Well every Sunday after church we would stop at the bakery on the way home and pick up freshly made, delicious danishes! I recall on more than one occasion, being threatened to be quiet or else we weren’t stopping at the bakery. That usually reduced to a whimper as opposed to full out shrieks. I loved that bakery. It was a small one and strictly a bakery with bread and pastries, nothing else. The smell that would hit me when I walked into the store was heavenly! Sometimes we would get a turnover or two with our danishes, or if my Grandmas was visiting she might treat me to one of the nicely decorated gingerbread men, but about 98% of the time we got danishes. They came in all sorts of flavours too; cherry, raspberry, lemon, blueberry… My favourite was cherry. When I was in grade 8 we moved away from there and never resumed the danish tradition in our new town. There just wasn’t a bakery like the old one. Consequently, I pretty much stopped eating danishes entirely except for the rare time that I’m in a bakery in another city and one catches my eye. So the danish has a special place in my heart. The bitter is obviously my dislike of church and deplorable behaviour. But the sweet is the memories of my old house, my family being together and of course, the sweetest thing of all, danishes!
Despite my childhood love of danishes I had never tried to make them. For a long time I never even considered it. Danishes were in the same boat as croissants and ice cream, something you just didn’t make at home. I have since conquered croissants, (ok, only once) and ice cream (multiple times, just ask my protruding belly) so I thought to myself: If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball! Err, I mean, if I can make croissants, I can make danishes! As luck would have it, the über talented Helene of Tartelette had recently made danishes from a recipe she saw on the also uber talented Gattina’s blog, Kitchen Unplugged. After seeing the amazing results this recipe produced for those bakers, I knew I had to give it a try. The step by step pictures on Gattina’s site, along with my previous croissant making venture really helped to make this a smooth process. And heck, since making the dough went so well, I thought why not make my own pastry cream, (from Dorie’s Baking: From My Home to Yours) and homemade quick cherry-currant jam. I don’t even have any disaster stories for you today! I suppose that makes for boring reading, but these were just really really good danishes and not difficult to make either! You’ll want to make these danishes if only for the divine way they’ll make your kitchen smell as they bake. Sigh…
Cherry-Currant Danishes (Recipe adapted from Helene who adapted it from Gattina who adapted it from Beatrice Ojakangas's The Great Scandinavian Baking Book)
14 g active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
330 g chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 slices. (about 3 sticks)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 pinches of salt
1/4 cup sugar
Pastry Cream, (just go buy Dorie’s book and I’ll give you the page number…)
Cherry-Currant Jam (rough recipe to follow)
Dissolve the yeast in lukewarm water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir in cream, salt, eggs and sugar.
In a large mixing bowl, add flour and sliced butter, use a pastry blender to further cut the butter to the size of kidney beans
Add the yeast mixture into flour mixture, combine carefully with a big rubber spatula, the mass is just moistened enough and hold together. Cover, refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Lightly flour the work table, turn out the chilled dough, pound and flatten to make a 16 - 20 inch square. Fold into thirds making 3 layers. Turn dough around and roll out again. Fold from the short sides into thirds.
Rest in refrigerator for half an hour, repeat folding and rolling one more time. Wrap and chill the dough 30 minutes or overnight before you proceed pastry making.
Cut the dough in half and working one portion at a time (refrigerate the unused one in the meantime), roll the dough to make a 12X9inch rectangle. Cut out 3 inch squares. Fold the corners of each square toward the center and make an indentation with the back of a spoon. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 45 minutes.
Before putting them in the oven preheated at 375, brush with eggwash (egg beaten with a dab of milk). Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Fill with pastry cream, top with jam and then drizzle with icing sugar, (oh yeah, this was decadent!).
Yield: 24 servings
Sour Cherries, (a margarine container’s worth)
Red Currants, (whatever was left in the freezer, about ¾ cup)
Sugar ( ½ cup – ¾ cup)
Juice of half a lime
Cornstarch, (about 1 tablespoon)
There are no hard and fast rules for this one, I just combined the first 3 ingredients in a sauce pan and brought them to a boil. I kept it around a light boil to reduce some of the juice, (probably about 20 min) but it still wasn’t thickening as much as I wanted so I added some cornstarch and while I was at it, some lime juice. After that it thickened nicely so I removed it from the stove and stuck it in a snowbank to cool off. If you don’t use all of the jam on the danishes, just stick it in a jar in the fridge to use on toast the next morning.