I’m well aware that “danishi” isn’t really the plural of danish. But it’s my blog, and I’ll use my Eleisms as and when l please. (It’s a good thing I don’t talk about large mammals here very often, or we’d get into the whole moose/meese thing. I’m quite passionate about that.) Danishi is a term my friend MH and I coined during university, when the only acceptable reason for going to a lecture at the ungodly hour of 8am was the promise of a cup of coffee and a sweet treat from Tim Horton‘s.
First year, this was easy; we’d simply grab our breakfast at any of the on-campus kiosks on the dash to class. During second year, we’d meet before school on our way to campus. Whoever got to the big Tim Horton’s on the corner of Yonge and College first was responsible for procuring breakfast: two medium double-doubles and two breakfast items. Usually bagels, but once a week, a strawberry cream-cheese danish was in order. Even in later years when we lived together, the breakfast routine remained the same. As long as there were lectures on the state of textile manufacturing in the far east, there would be danishi.
I don’t think there was anything particularly delicious about these danishes, but we definitely enjoyed our weekly treat. It didn’t occur to me until years later, when I’d moved across an ocean from campus, MH and Tim Horton’s, that I could attempt to make these danishes myself. In fact, this was only the second time I’ve made danish pastry.
The recipe for the pastry comes from from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson. Nigella can somehow manage to take the intimidation factor out of anything, so I felt quite confident attempting these for the first time last autumn. I made ricotta cheese danishes as well as some homemade pain au chocolat, both of which turned out well. So I felt reasonably confident when I set out to recreate my beloved Strawberry Cream Cheese Danish.
I made two fillings for these danishes: a cheese filling, and a strawberry jam. The cheese filling is just a basic combination of cream cheese, egg, sugar and a bit of lemon zest. The jam is one of those quick-cooking refrigerator jams, with no added pectin, sugar thermometer or frightening canning process. It couldn’t be quicker to make, and leftovers can be stored in any clean, airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
As for the danish shapes themselves, I went a bit crazy here. I found this great resource at Joe Pastry, and tried nearly every shape that I could. Andrew thought the whole thing was a bit over the top and called me a crazy old lady, professing to actually be frightened of the bear-claw one. (Yes, that’s a bear claw with eight toes.)
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), danishes tend not to like me very much, and conspire to rebel in my oven. No matter how carefully I shape, seal and slash the shapes pre-baking, it all goes pear-shaped once I close the door. Neat little packages open up, filling spills out, and once symmetrical shapes are now sad and lopsided.
Still, the proof is in the eating, right? The pastry turned out crispy and light, with a deliciously buttery flavour. The strawberry flavour was strong in these, and overpowered the cream cheese slightly. That’s easily remedied, though; next time I’d just use more cheese filling and less strawberry in each danish. Andrew liked these so much, he said he’d even eat the bear claw. They didn’t quite have that Tim Horton’s charm that I was after, but at least I can eat these on the couch and not in a freezing lecture theatre.
- Cream Cheese Filling
- makes enough for 12 danishes
- 100g cream cheese
1 egg yolk
2 Tbs. caster sugar
2 tsp. plain flour
2 tsp. lemon zest
- 1. Gently whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Refridgerate until ready to use.
- Strawberry Jam Filling
- makes enough for 12 danishes
- 1 1/2 cups hulled and chopped strawberries
1/3 cup caster sugar
1 tsp. lemon juice
- 1. Combine all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Using the back of a wooden spoon or a potato masher, press down on the strawberries so they become mush.
2. Let the mixture boil for 4-5 minutes, then remove from heat to cool.
- Danish Pastry Dough
- makes 12; to be made in two batches of 6
- from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
60ml warm water
350g plain flour
7g (1 packet) instant yeast
1 tsp. salt
25g caster sugar
250g unsalted butter
- Egg Glaze
2 Tbs. milk
- 1. Mix together the water, milk and egg in a jug and set aside. In a large bowl, blend the flour, yeast, salt and sugar.
2. Cut the butter into 1cm cubes. Add to bowl with the flour mixture and, using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut in the butter until most of the flour mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Do not blend in all the butter though, you should have some slightly larger pieces of about 1cm left. (You could also do this step using a food processor.)
3. Pour in the wet ingredients and fold the mixture together with a spatula. It will be very wet and sticky at this stage, but don’t worry too much about it. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and place in the fridge for at least 8 hours, or up to 4 days.
4. When you’re ready to make your pastry, turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and roll into a square about 50cm x 50cm. (You may need a great deal of extra flour during this stage.)
5. Fold the square into thirds, as you would with a business letter. Roll out folded dough into another 50cm x 50cm square, and repeat this step twice, for a total of 3 folds and rolls.
6. When you’ve rolled it out for last time, fold the dough in thirds and cut it into two sections. Wrap each piece tightly in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 30 minutes.
7. To make the danishes, take out one section of dough and roll into a large rectangle of about 30cm x 45cm. Slice it in half lengthwise, and then in thirds crosswise, so you have 6 more-or-less square sections.
8. At this point, there are many different ways to fill/shape your danishes. (I used the photos and info here to try a whole bunch of different shapes.) Whichever shape you choose, you’re aiming for about 2-3 teaspoons of filling per danish, divided between the two types however you like. Some shapes can take more filling than others, so use your judgement.
9. Arrange the danishes on a baking sheet and leave, loosely covered with clingfilm, to rise for about an hour and a half. They will double in size and be puffy. About 30 minutes before they’re ready to be baked, preheat your oven to 180°C/350°F, and prepare the egg glaze by whisking the egg and milk together.
10. Brush the danishes lightly with the egg glaze, and bake in oven for about 15 minutes, until puffy and golden brown. Remove to a wire rack to cool.
Note: You can now repeat with the other half of the dough (still in the fridge), or save it for another day. Dough can be refrigerated for a total of four days, and frozen for up to a month.