Danish pastry is a tricky one. Not to dissuade you from trying and of course, there’s the chance it’s not you – it’s me. It’s just once I’d made those almond croissant using puff pastry, I just had to have a go at making them with proper Danish pastry and I was not disappointed. You could think of Danish pastry as a yeasted version of puff. It gives a better rise and much softer texture than the crisp and flaky puff and it is wonderful to eat. Having made up a big batch of dough, I decided to make some almond croissant, my savoury mushroom and caramelised onion Danishes plus try out a new recipe I came up with.
The trick is, once that you whip up a simple sweet yeasted dough, you have to go through the rolling and folding motions of incorporating the butter as you do for puff but the nature of the beast is you get rise and expansion of the dough portion, so the butter doesn’t reach precisely to the edges as it does with puff. Which means you don’t see the layers actualised in the final bake so clearly. Don’t get me wrong – they are there, it’s just that I’ve never quite managed to get it so obviously laminated as my puff. Another thing that I think would help is not rolling the dough too thin. A bakery I follow on Instagram recently posted a photo of their proven but not yet baked rhubarb Danishes (oh my!) and they were easily a centimetre tall. You see, the butter guilt kicks in when I make this pastry and I roll it thinner to convince myself I’m not being quite so naughty #deluded …
So was born the apple custard danish. A simple pastry comprising a filling of creme patissiere, topped with thin slices of apple and dusted with cinnamon and demerara sugar. By simple, I’m of course referring to the flavours, I can’t deny the pastry isn’t several hours work in the way of rolling and folding. A weekend baking project indeed.
I’m not sure which I prefer – the ones drizzled with glacé icing or those just bearing their cinnamon dusting. I love using Pink Lady apples although they are extravagantly expensive as their beautiful blushing pink and lime green skin maintain their gorgeous colours, just a little muted, upon baking. These Danishes rise extremely well so bear this in mind when you are portioning up the dough or you will end up with monstrous versions! If you like, you could cut them very small, around 1-2 inches square, no bigger and make miniature versions. They would be so elegant to pass around at a drinks and nibbles party.
- Half quantity of Danish Pastry*
- 2 small Pink Lady apples cored but not peeled
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tbsp demerara sugar
- 2 medium egg yolks reserve one white for glazing
- 50 g caster sugar
- 40 g plain flour
- Seeds of one vanilla pod/1 tsp vanilla extract
- 200 ml full fat milk
- Icing sugar - optional to glaze with
Make your creme pat first to give it time to really chill – heat the milk to just under the boiling point in a small saucepan. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks, caster sugar, plain flour and vanilla together to make a paste then when the milk is up to temperature, slowly dribble it in whisking all the time. Pour back into the pan and cook on medium heat until the custard thickens (at first it will feel *heavy* on the whisk then it will rapidly become very thick). Pour into a bowl or jug through a sieve to remove any lumps and cover immediately and directly with cling film. Once reaches room temperature refrigerate until needed.
Slice your apple into thin pieces 1-2mm thick and place in a bowl with plenty of cold water and a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent browning.
Roll your dough out to slightly less than 1cm thick into a large square shape – the exact dimensions don’t matter too much.
Trim the edges pushing down with the knife don’t drag it through the pastry as this can restrict the rise. Slice into 10-12 evenly sized squares, transfer them to lined baking trays at this point spacing 2 inches apart to allow for further rising. I use reusable silicone sheets and can’t recommend it enough.
Pipe a blob of creme patisserie into the centre of each square – a generous tablespoon each is about right. Use a small piping bag or just dollop out with a spoon.
Brush the points of each square with the reserved egg white then bring the opposing edges up and pinch them together in the centre, over the creme pat filling. Dust with 1 tsp of cinnamon just over the centre (a tea strainer is a good tool here).
Place 3 slices of apple on top of each square and then lightly cover the pastries with oiled cling film and leave to prove for 30-40 minutes in a warm, draft free atmosphere until almost doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Brush the exposed pastry with the reserved egg white then dust over a little more cinnamon and the demerara sugar and bake for 20-22 minutes until well browned, risen and dry to touch on the pastry.
Transfer to a rack to finish cooling using a large thin spatula and once cool, drizzle with some glacé icing if liked to decorate. (Mix 4 tbsp of icing sugar with a little cold water to make a thick paste which slowly drizzles off your spoon to give the best finish).