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Just about the best thing ever – laminated dough. On average I bet people don’t realise, getting their teeth into the flaky, creamy, beautiful pastry that's the only thing that enlivens a dreary meeting, that it’s actually simple bread dough enriched with layers upon layers (32 recommended) of butter. Quite simple really. The trick is to get that butter inside, not let it leak, not break the dough making a godawful mess and keep it all at just the correct side of chilly – so no, not at all simple.
This recipe is doable though, fantastic Andrew Whiteley in his ‘Bread Matters’ book delivers again. I did a batch of croissants with the dough and the remaining part made the nicest home made series of breakfasts.
danish pastriesServings: a dozen pastriesTime: 3-4 hours
- For the dough:
- 10g fresh yeast
- 385g cold milk
- 600g strong bread flour
- 5g salt
- 250g butter, out of the fridge but still quite cold
- For the topping and filling:
- 1 beaten egg, to brush
- 50g raisins
- a couple of spoonfuls of demerara sugar
- ground cinnamon
- apricot, raspberry or any other jam you like (it needs to be quite thick)
- a few dried apricots, sliced in half horizontally
- a few whole blanched almonds
- For the icing:
- 30g butter
- 30g caster sugar
- 30g lemon juice
- 110g icing sugar
For the dough, dissolve the yeast in milk and add to the flour with salt. Knead to a quite stiff but smooth dough. Put in a polythene bag and chill in the fridge while you prepare the butter.
Place the block of butter between two large sheets of cling film and press down with a rolling pin – you’re aiming at about 2mm thickness and as regular a shape as you can. If the butter has softened considerably in the process, put it back in the fridge, cling film and all.
Now roll out the dough into a rectangle twice as long as it is wide and about 8mm thick. Place the sheet of butter to cover two thirds of the dough, fold the uncovered third over the butter, halfway down, and fold the remaining buttered part back over the resulting sandwich. Align the edges and seal them by pinching the dough together.
Roll the sandwiched parcel in the opposite direction to the first roll, so lengthways. It will produce a rectangle twice as long as it is wide again. Fold the short edges inwards so they meet in the middle and the fold again in half as it closing a book. Put the dough back in the bag and place in the fridge for at least half an hour – but not more than an hour.
Roll the dough out again in the opposite direction and do another ‘book’ folding exercise. Let it rest in the fridge for another half an hour and now it is ready for the final roll.
Try to roll it out into a large rectangle about 6mm thick and you can start cutting the shapes.
For the raisin wheels, cut off a rectangle as large as you wish, depending on how large you want the pastries and how many of them. Sprinkle liberally with demerara sugar and scatter the raisins all over the dough. Roll it up tightly from the short edge and seal the seam well. Using a sharp bread knife, cut the roll into slices. Place them flat on a baking sheet lined with parchment and brush gently with the beaten egg.
For the jam pastries, cut the dough into 10cm squares (or larger, or smaller if you prefer). Make an incision in each corner halfway down to the centre. Place a dollop of jam in the middle and fold every other split corner onto the jam. Place an apricot half or an almond in the centre to secure the folded corners. Brush all over with the beaten egg.
Place the trays in inflated plastic bags (just blow into it and tie the ends!) for an hour or two, until they take on a puffy look, they won’t rise very much.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, until they are nicely puffed up and golden.
For the icing, melt the butter with the caster sugar and the lemon juice in a small pan until almost boiling and pour into the icing sugar. Mix well with a whisk. Brush the icing over the pastries and let it set.