I am a planner. I love knowing ahead of time exactly how things will go and to make sure I have everything organised. When it comes to dreaming up ideas to bake I like to have the idea fully formed, go to the supermarket to make sure I have everything I need and then begin. This time I did everything the wrong way around. It started with these.
While I still haven’t come to terms with this whole summer Christmas thing in New Zealand I do love all the fresh stone fruit that comes with it. Cherries and Christmas go hand in hand here. After Christmas when you head away to the bach (cottage) you know you get to continue munching on these delicious fruits. I spent much of my childhood afraid of cherries due to those awful maraschino cherries….what a waste because the real things are just so good.
So back to these cherries. They were on sale at the supermarket, I wasn’t even doing the proper big weekly shop, it was just a top up after arriving back from the bach. With the memory of all the delicious cherries that had been consumed at and after Christmas I just couldn’t go past them. I had every intention of eating as many of these as I could but knew that I should make an effort to do some baking with them.
I had no idea what to make, cherries usually just disappear within hours of entering the house. I almost never have any left to bake with. I thought about cakes and I wondered about tarts but then a rather tasty childhood memory came my way.
My dad loves danishes. His favourite flavour is apricot and custard (note to self you have to make these for him soon!) Growing up in Whitby, Ontario, he would sometimes take us to a bakery for fresh danishes. We each got to choose our own flavour (I was usually a raspberry girl) and I remember them being the best treat. Puffy, flaky, soft, sweet dough with a golden shine and filled with creamy custard and a dollop of fruit jam and a sweet, sticky glaze. Just good!
I love danish pastry but as I have gotten older I am not the biggest fan of the super sweet fruit jam filling (is it the age or are they putting more and more sugar in things?) Why not fix that problem by using the beautiful fresh fruit that is sitting happily in your fridge?
Got any good reason not to? Excellent, me neither. These were so good and worth all the time and wait of making my own puff, brioche dough.
I decided to spread the process over two days. You can make the dough and custard the day before and leave them in the fridge overnight. In the morning you can prepare your fruit, roll out the dough, assemble, bake and try not to eat them all in one go.
The pinwheel design danish was just for a bit of fun but it did take some trouble shooting. The first batch all exploded open as they puffed up so the next few to go in the oven got skewers/toothpicks inserted into the middle to help them hold their shape.
There is absolutely no need to cause yourself extra work if you just want a tasty danish. The ones I remember eating as a girl were just squares of delicious puffed up pastry with a lovely little pile of custard in fruit in the middle.
Well enough reminiscing and chatter from me, lets just get to the good stuff and make some danishes.
Cherry and Custard Danishes
A PhD Original
Makes 24 danishes
225 mL milk
1 1/2 tsp dry active yeast
3 1/3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup sugar
75 g butter
275 g butter for rolling and folding into the pastry
250 mL milk
1 vanilla bean (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1/4 scant cup sugar
2 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
20 g butter
24 cherries, halved with stems and stone removed (or any filling you want, other fresh fruits or jams).
1 tbsp milk
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 tbsp milk
1. Heat the milk till lukewarm, add the yeast and stir till dissolved. Set aside for 5-10 minutes. In a large bowl mix flour, sugar and salt. Once the yeast/milk mixture has sat pour into the flour mixture and stir to combine. Add the eggs and form a rough dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until it comes together to form a smooth dough.
2. Cut the first 75 g of butter into cubes and knead a few at a time into the dough until they have all been added. Continue to knead (it may get a little sticky, do you best to keep working it, it should come back together but you can add a little bit more flour to help). Once the butter is incorporated knead for a further 5 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl and set aside in a warm place till it doubles in size (1-1 1/2 hours).
3. While the dough rises measure out a 20 x 30 cm rectangle in the middle of a larger piece of baking paper. Spread or use a rolling pin to roll out the 275 g of butter to fill the measured rectangle (if rolling place a second piece of baking paper on top of the butter). Use a knife to move the butter around to get good edges on the rectangle. Place the baking paper on a baking sheet and cool in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
4. Roll out the risen dough on a lightly floured surface to make a rectangle approximately 35 x 50 cm. Place the butter rectangle in the middle in the opposite direction to the dough rectangle (so that the so that the two sides can each fold over the butter and cover it completely, like a folded letter). Seal the edges of the dough so that the butter doesn’t get squeezed out and roll the dough out to a 35 x 50 cm rectangle. Fold into three again, bring the long side towards the middle and then fold the other side over the already folded piece.
5. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest in the fridge for at lease 30 minutes (it was so hot when I did this that I put ice packs around it to keep it extra cool). After 30 minutes repeat the rolling and folded process two more times and return the dough to the fridge. Once it has cooled again repeat the roll and fold two more times. At this stage you can use the dough or you can wrap it in plastic wrap and leave it in the fridge overnight (it will rise up a bit but will roll out just fine the next day).
1. Place the milk and vanilla bean (or extract) into a sauce pan and heat till just simmering. Set aside. In a heat proof bowl or jug mix together the sugar and cornflour till no lumps remain. Add the egg yolks and whisk till smooth and creamy.
2. With constant stirring in the egg yolk mixture slowly pour the warm milk into the bowl (too fast and the egg could scramble). Once half the milk is added you can quickly add the rest of the milk and stir well.
3. Return the mixture to the saucepan and heat over a medium high heat, stirring constantly. It will begin to thicken and eventually bubble. Once it is simmering stir for a further 2 minutes and then take off the heat. Pass the custard through a sieve into a bowl and then cover with cling film and allow to cool fully in the fridge. (This will keep for 4 days covered in the fridge).
To assemble and bake
1. Prepare your fruit filling and set in a bowl.
2. Preheat the oven to 160 °C fan bake or 180 °C conventional bake. (I prefer fan bake for pastry recipes to get crispier edges). On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to make a rectangle approximately 40 x 60 cm. Cut into 24 equal squares (all about 10 x 10 cm).
3. If you want to make a pinwheel shape cut 2 cm darts in from each corner. Transfer these cut pastry squares onto a baking tray lined with baking paper (leave 2-3 cm between each). Place heaped teaspoons of the custard into the middle of the danish and 2 cherry halves on top of the custard. Starting at the bottom left corner pick up the edge and fold up to the middle. Move to the bottom right side and bring the piece up to the middle, continue for the remaining corners and push a tooth pick through the dough to hold it all in place.
4. Mix up the egg wash and lightly brush the pastries before the go in the oven. Bake in the middle rack of the oven for 20-25 minutes until well puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool on wire racks.
5. Once all the danishes are baked make the glaze, adding just enough milk to be able to drizzle or pipe onto the pastries.
The danishes will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 3-4 days.
Now just for fun and to prove that baking is all about experimenting and having fun here is the picture of the danishes that exploded 🙂