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danish puff pastry

February 28, 2012

I knew I had to make this recipe as soon as I saw it in Cook’s Country. I mean, helloooo, giant color photo of what looks like a big croissant, doesn’t require any laminating, and uses an intriguing cooking method. How could I possibly resist you?

Answer: I couldn’t. So during my next lazy afternoon (and by “lazy,” I mean “running back and forth between the oven and my reading notes”), I conquered the pastry. And it was fun. You basically just make a big batch of pie dough (or two little ones, if you’re like me and only have a mini food processor), split it in half, roll one half into rectangles, and melt the other half with eggs n’ stuff. That other half then turns into a custardy, cake batter-like batter–at this point, I was thinking, “Well, there’s no way this could turn into anything but a big fail,” as I glopped the goop onto the pie crust rectangles.

But. But! I was wrong. Because during all that oven time (and there was a lot of oven time), the air in that goop raised it up into a big, pillowy bar of wonder. And as a result, I had a crunchy-bottomed cross between a croissant and a donut, riddled with air pockets and tasting slightly of almond, on my hands.

But not for long. We may or may not have demolished it.

Danish Puff Pastry
2 cups (10 oz.) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
16 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled (I took the sticks straight out of the freezer)
1 1/2 cups cold water
4 large eggs
3/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons milk or water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. For the pastry, adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside. Pulse flour, sugar, and salt in food processor until combined, about 3 pulses; then add butter and pulse until mixture is a coarse meal, about 10 pulses. Add 1/2 cup water and pulse until mixture forms dough, about 10 pulses. Alternatively, if your food processor is too small to fit all the dough at once, use 1 cup flour, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 scant teaspoon salt, 1 stick butter, and 1/4 cup water the first time around, proceed through step 2 with the whole batch, then go back and repeat this step with the remaining ingredients before moving on to step 3.
2. Transfer half of dough (if you’re making it all at once) to lightly floured counter, knead a few times until dough comes together, and roll into two 12-inch ropes. Transfer ropes to prepared baking sheet and press ropes with your fingertips into 12-by-3-inch rectangles. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
3. Meanwhile, lightly beat eggs and almond extract in 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Bring remaining 1 cup water to boil in medium saucepan over high heat. Add remaining dough to boiling water and cook, stirring constantly, until ball forms, about 2 minutes. Then, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is shiny all the way through and pulls away from the sides of the pan, 3 to 5 minutes. If your stove has a heat demon in it like ours does, this might only take a minute or two.
4.  Transfer hot dough to large bowl and slowly drizzle in egg mixture, beating with a large spoon until incorporated. Divide warm dough mixture between chilled dough rectangles and spread evenly. Don’t worry if the batter runs over the sides of the dough a little bit; it’ll all look lovely in the end.
5. Set baking sheet with pastry inside second rimmed baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and bake until pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 65 minutes. (Yes, really. Keep an eye on it for the last ten minutes or so, though; the original recipe calls for 75 minutes at 350, but I really thought it was going to burn if I left it in for much longer.) Turn oven off and, using a sharp paring knife, make four 1/2-inch horizontal slits in each long side of both pastries, kind of like a perforated line. Prop open oven door with wooden spoon or, if your oven door stays open by itself, leave it open a few inches. Leave pastries in turned-off oven for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely on baking sheet, about 1 hour.
6. For the glaze, in a medium bowl, whisk together the cocoa and sugar. Then, slowly stir in the vanilla and milk until you reach a pourable consistency. Drizzle glaze over each pastry and top with toasted almonds. And watch out for that glaze as you wolf down the pastry; somehow, after a day or so, it got super-liquidy (maybe it’s the extra dark cocoa I used?), which was not really a problem except that I kept forgetting about it and casually carrying dripping pieces over clean carpet. Oops.

Source: pastry from Cook’s Country; glaze from Joy the Baker

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