This month our pick was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. We chose it because it met two of our essential requirements. The story was set in Sweden offering a new cuisine for our food laden meeting and heck, Swedish meatballs were on our minds
I offered to make dessert but couldn’t come up with a single Swedish idea, let alone recipe name. So I opened up my two-inch thick, 10 pound heavy copy of The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg and found two measly entries: Swedish Lenten Buns (which fellow member Jann had already snagged) and Swedish Apple Tart. Besides, both of these recipes were incredibly complicated (duh, it’s for pros)!
So I made a simple geographical jump, reasoning that those southern neighbours of Sweden had a good thing going on.
In other words, a Danish could go Swedish.
That’s where Baking with Julia came in. On page 50 there’s a recipe by contributing baker Beatrice Ojakangas for Danish pastry.
I am here to tell you that it works like a charm — all you need is courage.
I had never made a Danish before and had been dreaming of danishes for weeks. My friend Nora had told me about The Danish Shop on Pape Avenue and my food brain had been on overdrive, wrapped up in crispy, buttery fantasies. It was time to make one!
Danish dough, it turns out, is made with yeast, milk, egg, sugar, salt, flour and lots of cold, unsalted butter. Beatrice’s user-friendly recipe uses a food processor to incorporate the butter into the dough into pieces she calls “discrete”. Later in the recipe she gets more graphic and says “no smaller than half an inch”.
The resulting dough looks very unappealing: a two-tone, yellow lumpy mess. Fortunately, you can store it in the fridge for four days and forget about it.
I admit, I was avoiding the roll-out. I’ve got a marble counter but am bereft of pastry-rolling skills. Besides, Beatrice was as exacting as an army sergeant. She wants you to roll, fold, roll, fold, until you’re ready to scream. The first roll is a 10 x 24 inch rectangle. The second is a 20-inch square. In between, she wants you to fold it all up like an envelope and be sure “the closed fold is to your left”.
Fumbling with my fogged-up reading glasses, an excess of unbleached pastry flour and a ruler with most of the numbers wiped off, I was clearly handicapped. But somehow, I managed to fold up something that looked like Danish dough. I folded it once more (don’t tell Beatrice) and left it in the fridge another day.
Next day was Book Club day, so I whipped up some apricot filling (dried apricots, water and sugar all boiled up then whirled in the food processor with some lemon and almond extract) and some confectioner’s cream (half-and-half cream heated up with some corn starch until it thickens then egg yolk, sugar and vanilla is added).
Beatrice offered four different Danish shapes. I chose pinwheel and learned in the process that you’ve got to go light on the filling. (I didn’t with my first try and needless to say, it’s not what you see in the photo.) Plus, the recipe called for “pearl sugar” to sprinkle on the finished, egg-white-basted-product but crushed up sugar cubes work just fine.
My 16 danishes cooked up in 10 minutes and made my house smell like a French boulangerie.
Besides, the Book Club girls said they’d never tasted a Swedish Danish before.