Sourdough Danish Pastries

20 May

This is the first post in a series of three – click to read Part II and Part III.

In my last post, I was extolling the virtues of making something simple from scratch. Now I am going to extol the virtues of making something rather complicated from scratch: Danish pastries using sourdough starter. Yes, we are doing this!

At the end of April, I wrote a list of stuff I wanted to make for this blog over the summer, and Danish pastries was on it. I had my first taste of making laminated dough when the Daring Bakers made croissants a while back, and I wanted to try it again. But I was kind of putting it off because it’s a lot of butter and a lot of work: all that rolling and folding and rolling and folding and resting and waiting. Then, during the Daring Bakers reveal last month, I came across Sourdough Surprises, which is another baking group that a few Daring Bakers members have created to bake together once a month using their sourdough starters. And their recipe for May was sourdough Danishes! Well, it seemed like fate. I was in.

The recipe is from txfarmer on The Fresh Loaf. txfarmer is a laminated dough expert and has turned out some of the most gorgeous croissants and Danishes I’ve ever seen (and check out these laminated sandwich loaves: are they not exquisite?!). For this recipe, sourdough starter is used to make a levain (a sourdough preferment, for those of you with bread baking lingo) that is mixed into an enriched dough, which then encases a square of butter and gets rolled and folded three times before being shaped into Danishes. Apparently this dough is a little drier and richer and has more roll-in butter than croissant dough, which makes it flakier and crispier and perfect for Danishes. This is the first time I’ve used my sourdough starter for anything other than no-knead bread and pancakes, but I beefed it up with proper feedings for a few days beforehand and it performed very well :).

I am incredibly proud of how these turned out! I think they look awesome, and they taste amazing – crispy, flaky, and very rich and flavourful, which I’m going to say comes from the sourdough. I filled them with a cream cheese filling and fruit or jam, and they are probably the best Danishes I’ve ever had. (Granted, the only Danishes I usually come across are of the stale, mass-produced, breakfast meeting variety. These are definitely better than those ones!) I had trouble not eating them all in one sitting!

Making the laminated Danish dough is a lengthy process and I have a billion photos and comments to make about it all, so I’m going to cover that in this post, and then cover shaping the Danishes and the cream cheese filling recipe in another post in a few days (here it is!). So here we go!

My blog won’t let me include the code for the link-up widget, so please check out the Sourdough Surprises blog to see the other Danish pastries that were made this month :).

Sourdough Danish Pastry Dough

From txfarmer on The Fresh Loaf: recipe here, method here. This recipe is in grams, so if you want to try it out yourself and you don’t already have a kitchen scale, now would be the perfect time to go shopping. I finally bit the bullet and bought a proper digital kitchen scale a little while ago and it’s been really useful. Makes 16 Danishes.

Levain

The night before making the dough, combine:

44 g sourdough starter (100% hydration, ie: equal parts water and flour)

75 g water

134 g bread flour

Mix it all together and knead with your hands until it comes together into a dryish ball. Cover with plastic and leave at room temperature for 12 hours or overnight, after which time it should have expanded and gotten bubbly inside.

Final Dough

In a mixer bowl, combine:

361 g bread flour

135 g milk

77 g beaten egg (about 1 1/2 eggs – save the leftover 1/2 egg for making the filling or for the egg wash before baking)

60 g sugar

5 g salt

7 g instant yeast

41 g softened butter

Add the levain and knead with a dough hook just until gluten formation starts, about 3 minutes on low speed and 3 more minutes on medium speed. The gluten will be further developed with all the rolling and folding that comes later, so don’t over-work the dough now. Stop the mixer a few times to pull the dough off of the hook and make sure the levain is incorporating. The dough should be slightly elastic, tacky to the touch, and fairly smooth. Flatten it out, wrap it in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours or longer (or overnight).

While the dough chills, prepare your butter block. Between two pieces of parchment paper, place:

361 g unsalted cold butter, cubed

(I used waxed paper and had major problems with it disintegrating and sticking to the butter, which I then had to painstakingly pick out. Parchment is stronger and will be much easier to deal with!)

Tap and roll the butter with a rolling pin to soften it and shape it into a 7.5″ square.

Take the chilled dough out of the fridge and roll it on a lightly floured surface into an 11″ square. At this point you want the butter and the dough to be about the same consistency, so chill/rest at room temperature one or the other as needed. Place the butter in the middle of the dough and fold up the dough so that it completely encloses the butter.

Roll it out evenly into an 8″ x 24″ rectangle. When rolling, start from the middle and roll in one direction so that the butter gets evenly dispersed between the layers of dough.

Make your first fold: trim the short edges of the dough to expose the butter layer within, then fold the bottom third up and the top third down, like a letter. The neater and more precise your cuts and folds, the better the layers in your final dough will be. Wrap the dough in plastic and chill for about an hour, which allows the gluten in the dough to relax and keeps the butter firm so that it doesn’t melt and squish out between the layers (my kitchen wasn’t very warm so the dough didn’t need the full hour to chill).

Repeat the trimming, rolling, folding, and chilling twice more, for total of three folds. When you roll out the dough, orient it so that the “closed”/folded edge of the dough rectangle is facing the same way each time (in my case, it faced left) and that one of the short ends is facing you. Roll it out so that the long sides of the rectangle get even longer. This will ensure your folds and butter layers are even. Try to aim for an 8″ x 24″ inch rectangle each time you roll it out.

(After the third and final fold, I left the dough overnight in the fridge and continued the next morning. Feel free to do this at any point during the process that calls for chilling.)

Roll the chilled dough out on a lightly floured surface into an 8″ x 24″ inch rectangle and cut it in half lengthwise. Continue rolling each half into a 9″ x 18″ inch rectangle. Trim all the edges neatly to expose the butter layers, then cut each half of the dough into 8 pieces as pictured, each about 4″ square.

Shape the dough as desired and place it on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover lightly with plastic and proof somewhere warm for at least a few hours, until puffy and the butter layers are visible. Place about 1 tbsp of filling in each Danish and brush the dough with an egg wash (1 egg and 1 tbsp water), trying to avoid the cut edges if possible. Click here and here for tutorials on shaping the Danishes and for the Cream Cheese Filling recipe. Bake in a preheated 425˚F oven for 10 minutes, then at 375˚F for 10-15 minutes more (10 minutes was perfect for me). Cool on a rack.

Submitted to YeastSpotting.

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51 Responses to “Sourdough Danish Pastries”

  1. frugalfeeding May 20, 2012 at 11:16 am #

    Korena, those are simply wonderful. What a fantastic way of making pastries – the Belgians would be so proud!

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 20, 2012 at 11:19 am #

      Belgians?! Ha, thanks Nick ;)

      • frugalfeeding May 20, 2012 at 11:23 am #

        They look like Belgian pastry you see! I’m not mad enough to say entirely random things yet! But I am tipsy, so perhaps Belgian is wrong?!

  2. Jenni May 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm #

    Oh My Holy Goodness, Korena!!!! Your Danish look absolutely spectacular!! I loooove all the different shapes that you made! I agree with you, these are simply the most flavorful, rich, flaky pastries that I have ever had (totally due to the sourdough, haha). I will probably never be able to look at a boxed pastry the same way again. We are so glad that you joined us for Sourdough Surprises this month, and hope you will continue to play along! :)

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      Thanks Jenni, you are too kind :) I loved making these and I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s in store for next month!

  3. Choc Chip Uru May 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

    This looks absolutely stunning my friend! Perfectly crispy and flaky, I would eat many :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  4. Shelley C May 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    WOW – I am in awe of your gorgeous pastries!! I am so glad you joined us, and am amazed, impressed and totally in love with the results you got. I wanted to try different shapes, but was a little pressed for time, so didn’t go for it… Now I totally want to try to recreate these beauties you produced!! And I am so with you – these were definitely the tastiest pastries I’ve ever had – definitely one to repeat!!

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 20, 2012 at 4:05 pm #

      Thank you Shelley! It was super fun, and yes, super tasty!! I still have half the dough in the freezer so I’m looking forward to making some more :)

  5. eclectic faerie May 20, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

    i am bookmarking this for *if* and when i’m brave enough to attempt ~

    they look and sound fabulous

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

      I hope you do try them! Honestly, it wasn’t as difficult as it may look or sound, and you’re going to end up with something delicious no matter what ;)

  6. Kathryn and Ross May 20, 2012 at 4:11 pm #

    Korena, those pastries look beautiful. The photographs really show the details of the gorgeous crusts. I’ve always wanted to try Danish pastry, the different shapes always look so appealing and fun to create. Bravo!

  7. Cher May 21, 2012 at 5:12 am #

    I love, love, love the thought of using sourdough starter in the pastry dough. I am constantly looking for things to do with my starter.
    Beautiful pastries.

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 21, 2012 at 9:24 am #

      Thanks Cher. I was a bit worried about the strength of my starter for these, but the main dough contains yeast as well so it didn’t really matter. They definitely had much more flavour because of it though!

  8. Sibella May 21, 2012 at 12:54 pm #

    Wow, wow, wow, abosultely fabulous looking pastry! :) All this beautiful shapes and fillings! This definitely goes on my ‘To try’ list!

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 21, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

      I’m sure you would turn out some beautiful pastries, Sibella :)

      • Sibella May 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

        Oh I am definitely inspired after visiting your blog! :)

  9. wendyjv May 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    Incredible, Korena! You just keep getting better and better at this! :) Way to go!

  10. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide May 21, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    Wow, those are amazing.

  11. Suz May 22, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    Those pastries are beautiful! I love that twisty one so much, and the before and after baking photos are fantastic. Wow!

  12. Sawsan@ Chef in disguise May 23, 2012 at 10:41 pm #

    I was just telling Jenni that I love what you guys are doing with sourdough, I didn’t follow through with my sourdough but I think I should start up again and join you.

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 23, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      You definitely should, it’s pretty fun! I wasn’t using my starter for anything exciting so this is a good reason to keep it going, and I’ve been really impressed with how easy it is and how tasty the results are :)

  13. Just A Smidgen May 24, 2012 at 9:02 am #

    This is really something! I’ve been nervous about trying a sourdough bread.. I’ve just got to try now, these are just so pretty!!! xo Smidge

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 24, 2012 at 12:47 pm #

      This was my first “real” baking experiment with sourdough and it was just as easy as using yeast, honestly. It takes a little more forethought and planning to refresh the starter, etc, but so worth it for the flavour!

  14. My Italian Smörgåsbord (Aka Barbara) May 26, 2012 at 11:49 pm #

    this was amazing!!

  15. Divya June 4, 2012 at 2:03 am #

    Wow, what an impressive array of pastries. Love that it has sourdough in it, and I’ll be book-marking this for my next brunch gathering!

  16. Barbarainnc June 12, 2012 at 11:27 am #

    They look so good, perfect in shape!!! I’ve made Danish Pastry before, lots of work, but fun in the end when you get to eat them!!!! :) :)

  17. christinajane August 5, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    Wow. That IS impressive! Puff pastry has always taunted me. I need to suck it up and try this. I am very familiar with sourdough for bread (love it), but I always thought it was in order to create a natural yeast from the flour without commercial yeast. So I am wondering why you add yeast to make the pastry?

    • Korena in the Kitchen August 5, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

      You’re right about natural yeast in the starter and I’m not exactly sure why there is commercial yeast as well. I think the sourdough starter is mostly there for flavour, and I suspect that it is not used exclusively because the acidity in the starter would weaken the gluten too much, which is important to get proper lamination. The recipe comes from a baker who is *extremely* experienced with both sourdough and laminated dough so I trust that she had a good reason ;) That being said, you should give these a try – not as intimidating as you might think, and the results will be totally worth it :)

      • christinajane August 5, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

        Ah ha – that makes sense that the sourdough is more for flavour than anything – a wonderful flavour at that! PS I love that you don’t spell it flavor :P When I can get my hand on a block of butter than doesn’t cost $7 (as it does up here!) I would love to make these for a gettogether with friends – thanks for instructions!

        • Korena in the Kitchen August 5, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

          Butter is unfortunately an expensive habit! But I do hope you get to give these a try – any friends that you feed them to will be very grateful ;)

  18. Laura November 18, 2012 at 7:20 am #

    I just found your blog and everything looks amazing! Do you know if it would be possible to form the danishes and fill them and then freeze them that way and bake them later? And how you’d bake them from frozen? I was thinking of sending some frozen ones back to university with my brother.

    • Korena in the Kitchen November 18, 2012 at 8:36 am #

      Hi Laura, welcome :) You are a very thoughtful sister! I think they would be fine to freeze – after shaping and filling but before proofing. Then they would just need to be thawed and allowed to proof before baking. Let me know how they turn out!

  19. Taryn February 28, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    Random tip on butter packages. If you have your butter cold on your work surface, and then use just a few tablespoons of flour and a bench scraper, no paper is required! Might slightly effect the end product slightly… but I’ve never noticed a difference. A William Sonoma recipe I have, for danish pastries, actually calls for 1/4c to be worked into the butter package and turns out tasty flaky results.

    Also have to speculate commercial yeast can be added to ensure a fast and reliable rise, without making your sweet pastry dough taste San Francisco tart.

    Regardless… they look lovely! I’m going to try sourdough danish sometime soon with pineapple jam filling. A second attempt trying to recreate a pastry I had in Thailand… I’ll keep this post handy. :)

    • Korena in the Kitchen February 28, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      I’ve also seen recipes that call for some flour worked into the butter – I’m sure that any difference in the final product is pretty slight! Trying this with sourdough was pretty fun, it felt even more “homemade”, you know? And it gave the dough a nice depth of flavour that you don’t always get form commercial yeast – which, depending in your starter, doesn’t have to be tart or sour. Mine is usually quite mild. But you’re absolutely right, commercial yeast is fast and reliable and will give results that are just as good. :) The pineapple jam danish sound wonderful.

      • Taryn April 17, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

        Its gotta be the speed. Just made a sourdough croissant recipe from txfarmer at the fresh loaf, forgot to add the yeast. It took almost 20 hours for them to rise. This is one of those times that a recipe gets started then put on the back burner and neglected… started the dough, forgot I had used the last butter so held it over night, did the folds, held it overnight… shaped and set them out to raise… it took all night. So if ever there would be sourdough flavored croissants it would be these. Most reccomendations for getting all the sour from a sourdough culture involves holding the dough for longer periods of time, which I’ve definitely done here >.<

  20. Lector El May 1, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    I’m trying to make this recipe with a gluten-free flour blend instead, which will probably end poorly. (insert rueful smile here. What can I say, I’ve got a thing for hopeless causes.) I don’t suppose you can tell me anything about why exactly gluten formation is important for this recipe, could you? It’ll make it easier to modify the recipe if I know what the gluten’s supposed to be doing. Is it a taste thing, a dough structure thing, a volume thing, you know?

    • Korena in the Kitchen May 1, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

      Hi! The gluten formation is definitely a dough structure thing – it makes the dough elastic enough to catch the gas from the yeast, which makes it rise. I think most gluten-free flour blends have some kind of gluten-substitute (xanthan gum?), but I have no idea if it will give the same results…? A quick Google search gave me this article, which seems to have the GF croissant down to a science… http://www.glutenfreecanteen.com/2012/05/06/croissants-gluten-free/. Good luck and please let me know how it turns out!!

  21. Laura Creates May 31, 2013 at 7:57 am #

    Hi, I really like this blog on the Danish pastries I followed every step and the result is on my blog lauracreates

  22. Ayesha (Miss Spicy Hat n' Sugar Socks) January 8, 2014 at 6:15 am #

    I heart these……That is just plain Aw-Wee-Somee! :)

  23. priya20g April 5, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Can you use puff pastry dough instead?

    • Korena in the Kitchen April 5, 2014 at 9:53 am #

      You definitely can. The difference between this danish dough and puff pastry dough is that puff pastry doesn’t contain any yeast (and in this case, sourdough starter), so the end product will be a bit different (more crisp probably) but still good!

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