There probably isn’t a breakfast item out there that feels more indulgent than a good Danish. Sure, doughnuts are sweet, omelettes are eclectic, and French toast is filling, but there’s something about those laminated layers of pastry stuffed with fruity filling that feels like a really special treat. Want to have them more often or without having to run to the local bakery? Make them yourself! It’s simpler, and more fun, than you could ever imagine. Our friends at Food52 are teaching us how.
At its heart, a Danish is simply layers of yeast-leavened dough with a sweet, tangy filling. What that means for you? When you make them at home, they can be anything you want them to be! Just make sure you follow these tips:
- Yes, you can use either store-bought puff pastry, or make your own. Use whichever is easiest for and most appealing to you!
- If you do make your own yeast-leavened dough, allow it to rise after you shape it, for about 30 to 45 minutes on a parchment-lined baking sheet and covered with greased plastic wrap.
- Dough should be cold and thin so that it comes out crispy and buttery, but still holds its shape.
- Make sure whatever you use to cut your dough – pastry wheel, bench cutter, paring knife – is sharp.
- Have fun with the fillings! Pretty much the sky is the limit when it comes to what fruits and other ingredients you use. Just consider the shape of your chosen Danish style and the ratio of filling-to-dough it will give you when you’re considering flavor profiles.
- Control the placing of the filling by using a piping bag.
- Bake at 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 13 to 16 minutes for small Danishes or 17 to 20 minutes for large Danishes, until the dough is golden brown and any visible filling is bubbling.
You’ve got some decisions to make, but luckily, they’re all tasty ones. Plus, we haven’t even discussed the biggest, and most fun, choice: which Danish shape to make! You can get super creative here, but we and our friends at Food52 are partial to these classics.
9 Danish Shapes
- Start with a square of dough with 4-inch sides. Using a pastry wheel or bench knife, cut incisions on each edge, moving from each corner toward the center. Fully cut the outside, but leave a 1-inch area in the center whole and attached.
- Pick one of the corners, fold it in towards the center, and press gently to seal.
- Skip the next edge, then do the same with the following piece. Repeat all the way around the pastry, alternating edges to achieve the pinwheel shape.
- Pipe or scoop the filling into the center of the pinwheel where the corners of the pastry meet.
- Start with a square of dough with 3-inch sides. Pipe or spoon the filling down the center inch of the dough, leaving about 1 inch on either side of the filling.
- Use a sharp blade to cut the dough on the right side of the filling into 4 to 5 strips about ½-to-¾-inch-wide. Repeat all the way down the dough, then repeat the cuts in the same places on the other side of the dough.
- To begin the braid, fold the top strip on the left side of the dough over the filling. Fold the top strip on the right side over the filling, slightly overlapping with the left strip.
- Repeat this process all the way down the pastry, then tuck the ends under at the top and bottom.
- Start with a square of dough with 3-inch sides. Use a pastry wheel or paring knife to cut the right side of the dough and the bottom of the dough, forming a L-shaped-cut. You want to make the cut about a ½-inch into the dough, leaving it fully attached at the outside corners. The square should still be in one piece, just with an L-shaped cut.
- Brush the uncut sides of the dough lightly with water, then fold the cut pieces over, pressing gently to adhere. The corner from the L-shaped should align with the uncut corner.
- Pipe or spoon filling into the unfolded part of the dough, leaving a small (about ¼-inch) dough border around the filling to allow space for it to spread as needed.
- Folded Square
- Start with a large square of dough with 4-inch sides. Pipe or spoon the filling in a circle in the center of the dough, leaving at least 1 inch on all sides.
- Fold the top right corner of the dough onto the filling and press lightly to adhere. Do the same with the top left corner of dough, overlapping slightly with the first folded piece.
- Repeat with the two bottom corners.
- If you like, you can pinch the edges gently to seal them, or you can leave them slightly open and allow the possibility of the filling bubbling out of the corners.
- Edged Rectangle
- Start with a large square of dough with 4-inch sides. Cut a small strip, about ½-inch wide, from each side of the dough.
- Brush the edges of the base square of pastry with water, then lay the cut strips across the top and bottom of the dough, pressing gently to adhere.
- Lay the strips on the left and right sides. Use a pastry wheel or knife to remove any excess dough.
- Fill the pastry. The sides of the pastry will rise higher than the base, so the filling can be slightly taller than usual.
- Swirled Spirals
- Start with a large square of dough with 4-inch sides. Pipe or scoop filling onto the dough, and use a small offset spatula to spread it evenly across the dough, leaving about ¼-inch of uncovered border on all sides.
- Starting with the side closest to you, roll the dough into a tight spiral.
- Use a bench knife or paring knife to make cuts ¾-to-1-inch apart, and only deep enough to go about three quarters of the way through the dough. Do not cut all the way through, and be sure to leave the roll unbroken on one side.
- Use your hands to pull one section to the right, then alternate with the next piece, twisting it to the left. You should expose the spiral shape when you twist, but the dough should stay attached on the un-cut side.
- Start with a square of dough with 3-inch sides. Pipe or scoop filling into the center, leaving at least 1 inch on all sides.
- Rotate the pastry to look like a diamond rather than square, with one set of points facing up and down, and one set on the left and right.
- Fold the right corner in, pressing gently to adhere to the filling. Fold the left corner in, overlapping the first folded piece of dough a bit, and press gently to seal. Press a bit so the filling oozes out slightly from the unfolded sides.
- Start with a large square of dough with 4-inch sides. Pipe or scoop filling onto one half of the square, leaving ¼ inch uncovered at the edge.
- Brush the edges of the dough near the filling with water, then fold the unfilled portion of pastry over the filling to form a triangle. Press any excess air out, then gently press on each edge to seal well.
- Crimp the edges as desired to seal. You an use a fork or make a sort of rope edge by folding the excess dough over itself and pressing to seal, then repeating all the way around the pastry.
- Use a paring knife to score the top of the pastry as desired.
- Scored Rectangle
- Start with a large square of dough with 4-inch sides. Pipe or scoop filling onto the bottom third of the pastry, leaving at least ½ inch on the base and the sides.
- Brush the edges of the dough near the filling with water, then fold the top portion of pastry down over the filling to form a rectangle. Press any excess air out, then gently press on each edge to seal well.
- Use a paring knife to make score marks, being careful not to cut all the way through the dough.
So many delightful choices to make, and yet once you decide, the actual process is quite simple. If you decide to make Danishes using store-bought puff pastry, you can probably get these done in under half an hour! So go forth, give these pastries a try, and bake. Grab more guidance from Food52 if you need it, and tell us how it goes.