This recipe is adapted from a recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas, from the wonderful cookbook "Baking with Julia."
What the dough will look like before you put it in the refrigerator to rest. Did you ever wonder why the dough needs to "rest" overnight? Me too. Seriously, I'm the one that's doing all the work, so what does it need to rest for? Crazy Danes! They may be crazy, but they know a bit about danish pastry, so just do what they say. You won't regret it. I know I didn't.
The blueberry preserves I made in the microwave. Simple! 2 cups of blueberries, 1 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Cook on high for 18 minutes, stopping to stir every once in awhile.
Danish Pastry Dough
1/4 Cup of warm water (105ºF - 110ºF)
2-1/2 Teaspoons of active dry yeast
1/2 Cup Milk, at room temperature
1 Large egg, at room temperature
1/4 Cup Sugar
1 Teaspoon Salt
2-1/2 Cups of unbleached all purpose Flour
2 Sticks (8 ounces) cold unsalted butter (Do NOT use anything but real butter)
Pour the water into a large bowl, and sprinkle the yeast over it. Let it soften for a minute or two. Add the milk, egg, sugar and salt. Whisk to mix, and put aside.
Put the flour in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch slices and drop them on the flour. Pulse 8 to 10 times, until the butter is cut into pieces that are small. Don't overdo this. The pieces should be about a half an inch in diameter.
Empty the contents of the food processor into the bowl with the yeast, and working with a spatula, very gently turn the mixture over just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Don't be too vigorous with this. The butter must remain in discrete pieces to produce a flaky crust.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Rolling and folding the dough: Lightly flour a cool work surface, such as marble. Turn the dough out onto it and dust it lightly with flour. Pat the dough into a rough rectangle. Roll it out to a square, about 16 inches on a side. Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, and turn it so the closed fold is to your left - like the spine of a book. Put it back in the refrigerator and chill for 1/2 hour. Take out the dough and this time roll it into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches by 24 inches. Fold the rectangle in thirds again, and turn it so the closed fold is to your left. Chill it again if it gets sticky. Now roll it into a 20 inch square. Fold the square in thirds like a business letter, so that your have a rectangle, turning it so that the closed fold is to your left. Once more roll it out into a long narrow rectangle 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold the dough in thirds again, wrap it well, and chill for at least 30 minutes or for as long as 2 days. If you're going to make 2 braids you can divide it in half now and wrap separately.
Confectioners CreamYou can make the confectioners cream anytime during this process while the dough is resting.
Take 1 cup of Heavy Cream
Add 1-1/2 Tablespoons of Cornstarch
2 Tablespoons of Sugar
Mix Separately in a small bowl:
1 Large Egg Yolk
1 Teaspoon of Vanilla
Whisk the cream with the cornstarch and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook for 1 minute on high. Stir the mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes more, until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens slightly.
While the mixture is cooking whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla. Very Slowly pour a little of the hot liquid into the yolk, whisking all the time. Pour too fast and you might have scrambled eggs. Once you tempered the egg mixture you can pour it all into the cream mixture and cook it for another 30 seconds. The consistency should be like lemon curd. You should put a piece of plastic wrap over it to prevent it from forming a skin. Cool to room temperature. You can store this up to 3 days ahead. It must be kept refrigerated.
Fresh Berry Jam Filling
2 Cups crushed fresh berries. (I used blueberries)
1 Cup Sugar
2 Tablespoons of freshly squeezed Lemon Juice
Stir the berries and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 10 minutes on high, and stir. Then cook for 8 more minutes until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is glossy. Stir in the lemon juice. Seal the container and chill until you're ready to use.
Assembling the BraidYou'll need 1/2 recipe for each braid you want to assemble.
To shape the dough: Work on a lightly floured cool surface. Roll the chilled dough into a rectangle 10 inches wide by 16 inches long. Left onto a sheet of parchment paper. Spread some of the fruit filling down the center. Then spoon some of the confectioners cream on top of it. Using a pizza cutter cut 12-14 slanting lines down each side, angling the cuts from the center of the pastry to the edge. Then fold the strips of pastry into the center, crisscrossing the filling by alternating one strip from the left side of the pastry with one from the right side. Lightly press the ends together to seal.
Brush the pastry with the some egg white. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes at room temperature. It will NOT double.
Cook at 400ºF for 15-20 minutes until golden.
You can glaze it now if you want. I didn't because I felt it was already pretty sweet with the confectioners cream inside. I know this has been a lot of work with all that rolling and folding, but it's totally worth it. You'll see!