Few things approach the heights of waking up to fresh Danishes hot from the oven. Pair 'em with a cup of coffee, and, no matter what, you're suddenly ready to face the world. According to the optimist, the fact that you have to prepare the dough in advance means you don't have to do much more than shape and bake them, lickety-split, when you get up in the morning. The pessimist, on the other hand, points out that this means you have to spend a good chunk of the day before preparing that dough. Not the whole day, though. Just a little attention now and again. Just enough to keep the dough happy. Aside from the freshness and the wonderful aroma they give off, the other advantage of making them yourself is that you get to decide what to put on them or in them. In my case, that meant some with rum-soaked raisins and cinnamon-cardamom-nutmeg sugar, others with fresh plums and sugar, and one lone apricot jam-filled number. Now that sour cherries are in season, I strongly suggest someone whip up some sour cherry Danishes with toasted almonds. All you have to do is pit your cherries, and stew them gently with a little lemon juice and some sugar (preferably vanilla sugar)--add some almond slivers to the mix and you're off to the races. Top 'em off with a little fondant and you'll think you're dreaming. The key, though, is nailing that Danish dough. Traditional Danish dough recipes are unbelievably labor-intensive. By contrast, the recipe that follows is modern, streamlined, and relatively easy to prepare. It also produces terrific results.
Danish dough (enough for a dozen)
60 ml warm water
125 ml milk, at room temp.
1 large egg, at room temp.
350 g flour
7 g instant yeast
1 tsp. salt
25 g sugar
250 g unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 cm slices
Mix water, milk and egg together in a bowl. Place the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add butter and mix until the butter is pea-size. Empty the mixture into a bowl and add the liquids. Mix until combined, but not smooth. The dough will be chunky and sticky. Cover with plastic and chill overnight.
Bring dough to room temperature. Flour your counter and roll the dough out to a 50 cm x 50 cm x square. Fold the dough into thirds, like a letter, and roll out again. Repeat 3 times. Cut dough in half, wrap both halves in plastic and chill until ready to use. (Up to 3 days.)
Bring dough to room temperature. Roll out to about 1/8" thick on a floured surface. Cut into desired shapes, fill and place on a baking sheet.
Once you've shaped and filled your Danishes, it's time to brush them with the traditional egg glaze (1 large egg, beaten + 2 tablespoons milk). Let them rise until they've just about doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours. They should feel marshmallow-like at the end of this. Meanwhile, pre-heat your oven to 350º F. Add your filling and bake for roughly 15 minutes, just long enough so that the Danishes become nice and puffy, and perfectly golden-brown.
Let's be honest: unless you're able to get by on very little sleep or you have an unbelievable amount of composure and self-discipline, this probably isn't going to be an everyday recipe for you, but it sure makes for a nice weekend breakfast.
[The dough recipe comes from Nigella Lawson's How To Be A Domestic Goddess. ]