“When people think of Scandinavian baking, they think of Danish pastries. Over the years, the Danish recipe was adapted to make it more flaky and crispy than other types, like croissants. The secret to successful Danish pastry lies in incorporating the butter in layers which puff up during baking, giving the distinctive flaky finish.”
- 250-300ml whole milk
- 500g strong white flour
- 10g fine sea salt
- 2tbsp caster sugar
- 2tsp freshly ground cardamom
- 15g fresh yeast or 7g fast action dried yeast
- 2 medium eggs, beaten
- 250g unsalted butter, chilled
- 12-15tbsp jam
Scald 250g of the milk by heating it in a small pan until almost boiling and then allow it to cool. Scalding the milk makes the finished pastry softer.
Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cardamom together in a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds) add to the dry ingredients.
Make a well in the middle, add one beaten egg and then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl, adding as much of the remaining milk as you feel is needed until the dough looks doughy. Shape it to a rough rectangle shape, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.
Take the dough out of the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature. Use a cheese slicer or a very sharp knife to cut 250g chilled butter in to thin slices, and place them on a rectangular sheet of baking parchment, about 10cm x 25cm.
Lightly flour the surface you’re going to roll the dough on and the dough itself. Roll out to a rectangle about 15cm x 45cm and roughly 1cm thick. Starting at one end of the pastry rectangle, put the parchment paper butter-side down on the pastry, leaving a border of a couple of centimetres around the edges. Gently peel back the parchment, leaving the butter in place so that two-thirds of the pastry is covered with it. Scrape off any butter left sticking to the parchment and smooth on to the buttered pastry, making sure the butter is evenly distributed and that there are no large lumps sticking out.
Fold the unbuttered pastry third over to sit on top of the half of the buttered pastry, and then fold the remaining buttered third on the top of that, so you end up with a rectangle of pastry a third of the size but three times as thick as when you started. Turn the pastry 90 degrees and roll out again to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways again, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.
Remove from the fridge, place on a lightly floured surface and roll in to a long rectangle (roughly 10-10cm x 50cm) when it again should be about 1cm thick. This time, fold both the shorter ends in so they meet in the middle and then fold one half on top of the other, as if you’re closing a book. Turn the pastry 90 degrees and roll out again in to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways one last time, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill for another hour or so.
Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Roll out the chilled Danish pastry on a lightly floured surface until it forms a 30cm x 40-50cm rectangle. Slice into 12-15 equal-sized squares of pastry, about 10cm square, and place about 3-4cm apart on the baking sheet.
Cut a couple of centimetres in from the tip of each square towards the centre, leaving the middle of each pastry square uncut. Dollop a tablespoon of jam in the centre of each square.
Lift one side of a split corner and fold it in towards the middle, pressing gently in to the jam so that it stays put. Repeat with the same side of each of the remaining split corners, pressing the pastry tips together in the middle to give a pinwheel star shape. Brush the exposed pastry surfaces with beaten egg (dabbing a little on the points where they meet in the middle to stick them together), cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 20 minutes. While they are proving, preheat the oven to 220°C/gas mark 7.
Bake on the upper shelf for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 190°C/gas mark 5 for a further 3-5 minutes or until they look golden brown and feel crispy and firm to the touch. Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack and eat while still warm – but not immediately out of the oven, as the jam gets very hot.