Anybody else watch The Great British Baking Show? It’s fair to say that all activity ceases at our home the minute Netflix is fired up and a load of affable, decent, eminently talented Brits start sifting the old whole wheat and creaming Mrs. Butterfat. The season we recently watched (I think it was number two in the U.S.) where Frances, Ruby and Kimberley had it out was right up there for high drama and excitement with last year’s World Series.
As a consequence, we have not only started to say, “Scrummy!” like Mary Berry, but went searching for square-jawed Paul Hollywood’s propers, and learned through his website that he is a celebrity Brit baker with lots of background in high-end hotel kitchens. And one of the things on his website that intrigued us was a recipe for Danish.
Surprisingly (“Shocking!” Sue and Mel would pipe up, and I do wish they’d just shut up), we had never made Danish at the Pastry Ranch. Beats me why; maybe just because we’ve already been more concerned with things French. Anyway, this looked fun and easy, and now, a month later, after three Danish experiences that have made us roll around on the floor, moaning with delight, they are officially part of our repertoire, and we suspect will have a starring role for a long, long time.
Here’s the recipe from Paul Hollywood’s website; we won’t bother to rewrite it here, because we’re lazy and would rather eat Danish than transcribe them. Suffice it to say that you make a brioche-like yeast dough (I especially like the part about putting the yeast on one side of the flour in your mixing bowl, and the sugar and salt on the other before giving it the hook) with warmed milk and a couple of eggs, and a butter block that we will all remember fondly from making croissants. Unlike most yeasted products, you never bulk proof this dough, but wrap it up quick and get it into the fridge so it won’t puff up. The only time it properly rises is just before you egg-wash and bake it. You make a butter block, the same as with croissants (putting a nice, high-fat European butter into a large ziplock bag, and then bashing and rolling it into a square with a rolling pin is a fun technique for getting the right shape), and then laminate it like a croissant dough, making three turns over three hours before resting it overnight.
After that, it was straight to YouTube for tutorials on shaping Danish pastries (there are a million videos, and nearly that many shapes), making a little sweetened cheese for a filling, experimenting with fruit or jam on top of that, and off we went. The result the first time around were these slightly homely, if delicious pastries — one with apples poached with honey, another with gingered pears, a third with raisins. Eating these fresh and warm out of the oven, where they puffed up and made a soft, buttery roll with the creamy filling and tart dollop of fruit on top, is almost as wonderful as popping off to England, or Denmark for that matter, and making droll comments with the locals over tea.
Or you could just watch another season of the Great British Baking Show. They never argue with each other! They’re never mean or cutting, like American bakers would be. They just want to bake something nice and get along. We love them for that. Thanks, Paul Hollywood. Thanks, bakers. Look for more of these Danish at the Pastry Ranch this summer. If we don’t eat them all first, I mean.