Beatrice Ojakangas

Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef

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Location: Duluth, Minnesota, United States


Apricot-Almond Danish Pastry

December/January Woman Today
With the passing of Julia, I (and the world) lost a friend, a mentor, an instant, generous, source of information.

I recall the day my sister, Lil, relayed a question to me from her friend who was too shy to ask me directly. This friend had come home from France with fresh truffles, and didn’t quite know how to keep them. I’d never had this problem myself, so I called Julia Child. We chatted a bit first, then I asked the question “what would you do if you had fresh truffles from France, - how would you keep them?”.

“Of course, they do spoil like any mushroom” she told me, and then that she would freeze them, or put them into oil and into the “fridge” although most experts wouldn’t like that idea too much, she said, “but then you have that lovely oil to use”.

Often, I get asked for the recipe I made with Julia in the television series “Baking with Julia”. The recipe was published in the book, “Baking with Julia” written by Dorie Greenspan. This is a perfect time to offer the basic Danish Pastry recipe because if there’s any time during the year when we like to bake special goodies it’s during the Holidays. This is an easy refrigerator version of Danish Pastry. You can use a variety of fillings and shape the pastry many different ways although I have room for only one example here.

Apricot-Almond Danish Pastry

This refrigerator pastry needs to chill overnight, so plan accordingly.

1/4 cup warm water (105*F. to 115*F.)

1 package 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 unbleached all-purpose flour

2 sticks (1/2 pound) cold unsalted butter

Apricot-Almond Filling:

1 cup (packed) dried apricots

1 cup water

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

1 cup toasted, chopped almonds

For glazing and baking:

1 beaten egg white

Pearl sugar or sliced almonds

Powdered sugar glaze (1/2 cup powdered sugar, 2-3 tablespoons hot coffee or water)

For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the water and yeast; stir to dissolve and let stand 5 minutes until the yeast begins to foam. Add the milk, egg, sugar and salt.
Measure the flour into the work bowl of a food processor with the steel blade in place. Slice the butter into the flour, then using on/off bursts with the food processor, cut the butter into the flour until it is in pea-sized pieces. This takes about 8 bursts. Turn into a large bowl. Pour the yeast mixture over and fold the two mixtures together just until the flour is moistened. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

For the filling: Stir the apricots, water and sugar together in a large microwave-safe bowl or a 4-quart glass measuring cup. Put the bowl in a microwave oven and cook at full power for 10 minutes, stirring a few times, until apricots are soft and puffed and have absorbed almost all of the liquid. Turn the mixture into the work bowl of a food processor with the steel blade in place and process until smooth. Stir in the lemon juice, almond extract and the almonds. Cool. Can refrigerate up to 2 weeks before using.

Lightly flour a work surface and turn dough out onto it. Dust the dough lightly with flour and shape the dough into a rough square with your hands. Roll out to make a square about 16 inches on each side. Fold the dough into thirds like a business letter. Roll lightly to flatten the dough and fold it again into thirds, closing the ends (the dough will now be in a square). Wrap the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes. Roll again into a 16-inch square Fold into thirds again, business letter style. Roll out a second time to make a long, narrow rectangle and fold up again in thirds to make a square. Chill again (to work on it later), or roll out to make a square 20 inches on a side. Cut into sixteen 5-inch squares.

Place a pastry square on the work surface. Spoon a tablespoon of the filling onto the center. Brush the uncovered edges with egg white and lift the four corners of the pastry off the counter and seal in the center of the square. Squeeze the corners together to give them a little pinch and a twist to create a small topknot. Place on a parchment-covered baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 400*F. (375*F. for convection oven). Let the pastries rise, covered with a kitchen towel for 30 minutes until they look puffy (they will not double).
Brush the pastries with beaten egg white and sprinkle with pearl sugar or sliced almonds. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden. Transfer onto a cooling rack and drizzle with powdered sugar icing if desired.
Makes 16 pastries