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Shaping Danish pastries
July 16, 2017, 1:45 pm

Danish pastries make delicious morning coffee and evening teatime treats. There is a wide range of fillings and toppings, as well as shapes and sizes, to choose from, which can make the preparation of these pastries as much fun as eating them.

Like everything, making delicious Danish pastries at home is easy once you know how. Follow the given instructions for making and shaping the dough, pick your choice of filling and then it is simply a matter of baking and adding a glace icing when cooled.

Work with cold pastry: Whether you are using store-bought puff pastry or you have made your own, you will want the pastry to be cold. The colder the dough, the better the finished pastry will hold its shape.

Roll it out thin: For nearly all Danish shapes, you will want the dough to be around 1/4 inch thick. Remember: You are adding filling to it and, in some cases, folding it over itself to make more layers of dough, plus it will puff up in the oven. Dough that is too thick will lead to undercooked pastry in the center, but thin pastry will be crisp and buttery.

Use a sharp blade: You can use anything to help cut the pastry dough, but make sure your blade is nice and sharp so you get clean cuts. Pastry wheels, bench knifes, and paring knives can all work.

Try a piping bag for the filling: Put each filling in a separate piping bag and then mix and match when you go to assemble the pastries.

Allow yeast risen dough to rise after shaping: Transfer the shaped pastries to parchment-lined baking sheets and cover with greased plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until light and puffy looking, usually 30 to 45 minutes before baking. If you are using store-bought puff pastry, you can skip this step and head straight for the oven.

Bake hot: Exact temperatures will vary based on the dough and fillings you are using, but a high temperature such as 176 to 204 degrees Celsius, is best for achieving those flaky layers. If the pastries are browning too quickly, you can reduce the oven temperature for the remainder of the bake time. Larger Danishes will bake for 17 to 20 minutes, and smaller Danishes will bake for 13 to 16 minutes.

Fun shapes to try:

Pinwheel: To prepare, start with a 4 x 4 inches dough. Use a pastry wheel or bench knife to cut incisions on each edge, fully cut on the outside, but leaving it attached in the center by at least one inch. Pick one of the corners and 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. Pipe or scoop the filling into the center of the pinwheel, where the corners of pastry meet.

Easy Braid: Start with a square of dough about 3 x 3 inches. Pipe or spoon the filling down the center of the dough, filling about one inch of the space down the center of the pastry, and leaving about one inch on either side of the filling. Use a sharp blade to cut the dough on the right side of the filling into strips about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide. Repeat all the way down the dough. You should get about four to five strips. 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.

Diamond: This is a shape commonly seen in bakeries. To prepare, start with a square of dough about 3 x 3 inches. Use a pastry wheel or paring knife to cut the right side of the dough and the bottom of the dough. You want to make the cut about 1/2 inch into the dough, leaving it fully attached at the outside corners. Brush the uncut sides of the dough lightly with water, then fold the cut pieces over, pressing gently to adhere. Pipe or spoon filling into the unfolded part of the dough, leaving a small border around the dough where you place the filling to allow space for the filling to spread as needed.

Folded Square: This shape is great with multiple fillings because it can hold more than some of the other shapes. Start with a large square, about 4 x 4 inches. Pipe or spoon the filling in a circle in the center of the dough, leaving at least one 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.

Edged Rectangle: To obtain this shape, start with a 4 x 4 square dough and cut a small strip, about 1/2 inch wide, from each side of the dough. Brush the edges of the base pastry with water, then lay the strips across the top and bottom of the dough, pressing gently to adhere. Next, lay the strips on the left and right sides. Use a pastry wheel or knife to remove any excess dough. Fill the pastry. Remember, the sides of the pastry will rise higher than the base, so you can feel free to pile the filling on a bit more.

Swirled Spirals: Start with a large square of dough, about 4 x 4 inches. Pipe filling onto the dough, then use a small offset spatula to spread it evenly, leaving about 1/4 inch uncovered on all sides. Starting with the side closest to you, begin to roll up the dough into a tight spiral. Use a bench knife or paring knife to make cuts about three quarters of the way into the dough, leaving it attached on one side. Make the cuts about 3/4 to one inch apart.

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 at the un-cut portion.

Classic Turnover: Start with a large square of dough, about 4 x 4 inches. Pipe or scoop filling on one half of the square, leaving 1/4 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. Press any excess air out, then gently press on each edge to seal well. Crimp the edges as desired to seal. You can 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. 

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