Apple, Rhubarb and Apricot Danish Pastries

Not long ago I attended a pastry course where I learnt various techniques for making flaky pastries. During this course, I learned how to "laminate" - which means to incorporate butter into the pastry, which in turn creates the beautiful flaky layers of pasty. In particular we made various croissants - plain, ham and cheese, and pain au chocolat; as well as kouign-amann, and danish pastries. I came away from the class feeling inspired to have a go at home.

The recipe for the Danish pastry is one I took from the Australian Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook - 2013 Collector's Edition. I chose this recipe, as opposed to the recipe I received from the class I went to, as the process was a little simpler, and didn't require the butter to be laminated (or folded) into the pastry, but rather the butter is combined into the dough mixture using a food processor.

There are a few different components to this recipe, however some may be prepared the night before, such as the crème pâtissière, the apple compote, as well as the dough, which must prove overnight. However, like any recipe, if you take your time with each component the results will be worth it.

These pastries have a crispy melt-in-the-mouth texture and have just the right amount of sweetness against the tartness of the rhubarb as well as the apple compote. Perfect for brunch with friends or for an afternoon treat.

Let me know if you have any questions :)

Apple, Rhubarb and Apricot Danish Pastries

Recipe adapted from "Rhubarb and raspberry danish pastries" in the 2013 edition of Australian Gourmet Traveller Annual Cookbook

Prep time: 50 minutes. Cook: 45 minutes + time for proving, resting and cooling

Makes 12

400gm tin "pie-fruit" apricots in natural juice, drained

Eggwash (1 egg), for brushing

Apricot jam (for glazing)

Danish Pastry

125ml (1/2 cup) milk

1 egg

350gm (2 1/3 cups) bread flour

25gm caster sugar

7gm (about 1 sachet) dried yeast

1 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

250gm chilled unsalted butter, cut into 5mm-thick slices

Crème Pâtissière

375ml milk

1 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped 

110gm (1/2 cup) caster sugar

3 egg yolks

25gm cornflour

Rhubarb Compote

4 stalks rhubarb, trimmed, cut into 4cm lengths

110g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

Juice of half an orange 

1/2 vanilla bean, spilt, seeds scraped (other half will be used for apple compote)

Apple Compote

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and diced into 6mm cubes

1/2 lemon

75gm sugar

1/2 vanilla bean, split, seeds scraped

 

1. For the Danish pastry, combine flour, sugar, yeast and salt in  a food processor. Add butter and pulse until this has just combined - there should still be large chunks of butter throughout the flour mixture. Whisk together milk and egg in a jug to combine and add 60ml warm water.

Turn flour mixture onto a work surface, sprinkle with a little milk mixture and begin to mix with hands. Continue adding milk mixture and mix until a sticky dough forms. Place in a buttered bowl and refrigerate overnight to prove.

Once the dough has proved, turn out onto surface that has been dusted with a little flour. Begin to roll dough into a rectangle about 20cm x 60cm (1.5cm thick). Fold short ends into the centre to meet, then fold again in half to form a book-fold. Wrap in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Repeat this process of rolling and folding twice more, each time allowing it to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

2. For crème pâtissière, add milk and vanilla together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Whisk egg yolks together along with sugar and cornflour in a bowl until pale and thick. Slowly add the hot milk mixture to the eggs, whisking to combine. Transfer the mixture to a large saucepan and continue whisking over medium heat until it is brought to a simmer. It should thicken and start to become glossy at this point. Remove from heat and place in a bowl; cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator until chilled (I made this the night before).

3. For the rhubarb compote, preheat oven to 180˚C. In a small baking dish, combine rhubarb, sugar, orange juice and vanilla together. Cover with foil and bake until just tender (12-15 minutes). Set aside to cool.

4. For apple compote, combine the sugar along with 50ml water in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the apples and vanilla bean seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes. You want the apples to be tender, but not mushy, and the mixture to be chunky. If the apples are cooked before the moisture has evaporated, allow to drain over a strainer. Set apples aside to cool.

5. Increase oven to 190˚C. Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface to form a rectangle about 30cm x 40cm and about 6mm thick. Trim the edges a little to make the rectangle as straight as possible. Cut into twelve 10cm squares. 

I attempted to fold the corners of the pastry after adding the toping of choice (which is what the recipe suggested I do), however as you can see, the pastries had a mind of their own once I placed them in the oven. When we made danish pastries in class, we were told to fold the corners in before adding the crème pâtissière, which is what I suggest you do. Press the corners firmly in the centre, to create a small indent for the pastry cream and fruit to sit.

Top each square with about 1 teaspoon of crème pâtissière, a couple of rhubarb stalks and apple; apple on its own, or an apricot half (be creative!!). Place on trays lined with baking paper and brush with eggwash. Sprinkle pastries with almond flakes if you wish. Bake in the oven for about 16-20 minutes, or until golden and puffed.

In a small bowl combine about 2 tablespoons of apricot jam with about 1 teaspoon of water and microwave for about 20 seconds, until it starts to bubble. Using a pastry brush, brush the warm pastries with the jam - this brings them to life and adds that beautiful glisten. Allow to cool to room temperate. Serve with a spoon of whipped cream and dusted with icing sugar.