Ben the Baker

Just a guy trying to get his kids to eat

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Danish Fun

Posted by osakaben41 on August 23, 2009


It’s a wonderful thing to be trusted, whether or not it’s warranted.  This Sunday we were invited to a Brunch party and since I’ve been pitching myself as a ‘Baker’, our kind and trusting hosts asked me to make something.  More than that though, I was given a blank check to bake whatever I wanted, no questions asked, which is the kind of freedom that just demands to be exploited.  So after setting some lofty expectations for something new and bold the only thing left was to get down and funky.


That said, to keep things ‘brunchy’ and partly in honor of Julia Child’s birthday (August 15th, belated perhaps, but she’ll never know), I decided to go with a series of small Danishes using her Baking with Julia Danish dough recipe.  I had previously done a large Danish Braid using this dough, and was very happy with the results, and under normal circumstances it would have been completely appropriate for this setting.  But I’d already done one, so what fun would that be?  And considering the free hand to be creative, the situation called for multiple approaches instead of a single set piece.

Overall I’m guessing people aren’t typically that adventurous with Brunch.  Save the Lobster Ice cream and Carrot gelee for evening-time, preferably after a few glasses of wine, but Sunday mornings are for comfort food.  So lets start with some traditional flavors, and make this about different dough shapes and presentations.


Prune/Cinnamon Danish

Prune/Cinnamon Danish

My first thought was to start with a pureed prune Danish in a pinwheel shape.  My folks used to get the best prune danishes from a patisserie around the corner when we were young, so the memories run deep with this one.  


Apricot danish on an almond paste base

Apricot danish on an almond paste base

The next ‘traditional’ filing would have to be apricot.  I had done an apricot puree before, but it seems a shame to ruin something so inherently beautiful.  Somehow the forces of reason got the better of me with this though, as I ended up with canned apricot halves.  A better man would have poached them himself, but it was a busy week for baking projects, so I chose to let this one slide.  Under each fruit was a dollop of almond paste and some pastry cream for sweetness.  I wasn’t sure about baking the danish with the fruit and cream already assembled, for fear it would all either dry out or just melt and run off.  Generally speaking it wasn’t bad, but perhaps could have used an apricot glaze before serving.


Caramel/wine poached pear danish

Caramel/wine poached pear danish

The pears though got the adult treatment, as in they were poached in a vanilla caramel zinfandel broth until tender.  I half expected the edges of each pear slice to brown more, but wasn’t up for applying a kitchen torch to get there.  These were a hit, with a nice subtle, unexpected approach, and some more sweet pastry cream as a base.  I could eat these all day.


Roasted Beet & Blue Cheese danish

Roasted Beet & Blue Cheese danish

In short, these were all going to be fairly sweet, small, three-bite fruit pastries.  Wanting a fourth type to round it all off I was for a time torn between a sweet cheese, blueberry, or frangipane (almond) approach.  However as often happens, one thing led to another and, yada-yada, here we are with a savory roasted red beet, blue cheese and thyme Danish.  I can’t claim credit for this one though, as it was borrowed wholly from Nami-Nami, an Estonia food blogger I’m very happy to have found.

The hope is that, with three sweet pastries, I could get away with squeaking in one peculiar savory one, if nothing else than for a conversation piece.  So what was intended to be a series that all worked together ended up with one noticeable discordant note.  This was actually an approach used in Architecture school when facing a studio jury; give them something you know they’ll focus on so you’re prepared for the comments.  (Otherwise, who knows where the conversation will lead.)

From a logistical standpoint, it helped to have an extra set of hands on deck this weekend, allowing me to do the majority of shaping, and baking on Saturday.  Ideally these wouldn’t have gone in the oven until Sunday morning, but I wanted to allow a cushion in case of catastrophic failure, or the kids not letting me bake that morning.  For the most part they were all well received, but actually the pears got more mention than the beets.  It could have been that they sat on the buffet table untouched, or maybe they weren’t as experimental as I thought.  

That said, this was perhaps more work than I expected, and more danishes than requested.  It remains to be seen whether I’ll ever be given a blank check like this again, but it sure was fun.


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