Danish pastry is a laminated sweet pastry invented in Denmark. Like other pastries of that type, Danish pastry is a variation of puff pastry made of yeast dough that has been folded many times, thus creating a layered texture. Essentially, the dough is rolled out very thinly, covered in cold butter, then folded up and rolled out several times, creating layers. It isn't absolutely necessary, but it is recommended that you chill the dough between the folding. I have found that it is much easier to work with cooled dough, as the butter tends to melt into the dough at room temperature.
Traditionally, butter is used to create the layers and the rich taste, but there is a possibility of using other fats in the making. Danish pastries have different shapes and names in Denmark, and like other viennoiseries, Danish pastry is typically eaten for breakfast or as a snack. If you wish, you can freeze the raw pastries on a baking sheet lined with baking paper, then store them in the freezer up to a month. Just defrost them and bake as you normally would.
400 grams plain flour
250 ml whole milk
2 teaspoons dried yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1 medium egg
250 grams unsalted butter
Heat the milk so it's lukewarm, add the yeast and sugar, stir it well, and leave it for about 10 minutes, so the yeast can activate. Sift the flour twice and make a little well in the centre. Add the yeast mixture, and the beaten egg, then mix it with a wooden spoon until a soft and sticky dough forms. Lightly flour your work surface, turn the dough out and knead it for about 5 minutes, until it becomes smooth. If you need, add a bit more flour as you knead, to keep it from sticking to your hands. Place the dough into a clean bowl, cover it tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for about an hour and a half, or until puffy and doubled in size.
While the dough is rising, take the chilled butter and roll it up between two pieces of plastic wrap into a rectangle about 15x30 cm (6x12"). Return the butter to the fridge so it can firm up, as the handling and rolling will soften it up a bit. Once the dough has risen, knead it on a floured surface until it becomes smooth, then let it rest, covered with a kitchen towel, for about 10 minutes. Take a large rolling pin and roll the dough out to about 20x45 cm (8x18"). Take the chilled sheet of butter out of the fridge, and place it flat on the lower part of the dough. Turn the top third of the dough over the butter, press it gently with your hands, then turn the bottom third over the top third. Pinch the edges of the dough to seal it tightly. Rotate the dough about 90 degrees, then very gently roll it out to the starting dimensions (20x45 cm), and repeat the folding (top third to the centre, then bottom third over the top third).
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap (or place it into a large plastic bag), and place it in the fridge for about 30 minutes. Carefully wrap it, because the exposed parts will dry out in the fridge. Make sure you keep the dough in the fridge in the same position you folded it on the work surface, because before each rolling and folding, you need to rotate it about 90 degrees. Once the dough has chilled, take it out of the fridge and roll it out to 20x45 cm again, then fold it in the same way. Warp it in plastic and chill it for another 30 minutes. Repeat this two more times and let the dough rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours.
Take the chilled dough out of the fridge, place it on a floured surface and roll it out to a large rectangle and cut it into 16 squares. Fold them into desired shapes and place them on a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. Let them come to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes, then bake them in a preheated oven, at 200˚C (400˚F) for about 10-15 minutes. Let them cool until just warm, add some crème pâtissière, sprinkle with dark chocolate or fresh fruit, and serve. Yields 16 pastries.