Saturday, February 27, 2010

What's Cooking: "Coffee Cake" Part Two

This was originally published in the March, 2010 edition of the Left Hand Valley Courier, It was the second installment of the recipe that was started in the February issue. That article was was posted here.

What's Cooking?

Last month, I left you hanging with the pastry part of Danish pastry completed. But to make a filled coffee cake, you need the filling, and maybe some folding instructions.

The crafty among you may have realized that anything that might go into a pie would also work in a Danish pastry.

If you’re making your own fillings, start by making those and have them chilled and ready to go before you start working with the dough. This recipe uses both pastry cream and a fruit filling, but you could use either one alone, or use your own favorite fruit filling, thick jam, or canned almond paste.

Danish Slices
Adapted from “Baking with Julia” by Dorie Greenspan
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a rectangle 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Cut it in half so you have two strips, each 10 inches by 12 inches. (Or, if you prefer, cut the dough in half and make one pastry now and use the rest on another day. It will keep refrigerated for several days, or you can freeze it.)

Spread your pastry cream filling (recipe follows) down the center of each piece of dough, leaving a 2-inch wide border along the long sides of the two pieces. Spread the fruit filling (recipe follows) over the pastry cream.

Lift the pastries onto the parchment lined baking sheet (or, you can roll, transfer to the parchment, then fill and fold, if it’s easier) and cover the pastries with a clean kitchen towel. Let them rise for about 30 minutes. They’ll feel puffy, but they won’t double in size like a bread dough.Carefully fold the bare edges over the filling, leaving about an inch of filling showing through the center. Press the edges gently over the filling.

Bake for 18-20 minutes on the center rack, until the pastries are lightly browned. Transfer to rack to cool.

Drizzle the glaze (recipe follows) over the pastry and allow it to set for a few minutes before slicing the pastry into pieces about 1 1/2 inches wide.

Note: This pastry shape is one of the easiest, but you can also make a long braided pastry or individual pastries. After you’ve mastered the basics, let your imagination run wild.

Pastry Cream
1 cup half-and-half or cream
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together cream, cornstarch and sugar in a large microwave-safe container. Put the bowl in the microwave and cook at full power for 1 minute. Stir, and then cook 2-3 times more, a minute at a time, until the mixture boils and thickens slightly.

While the liquid is heating, whisk together the egg yolk and vanilla. Whisk a little of the hot liquid into the egg yolk, then add the egg yolk mixture back into the hot liquid, Cook the mixture another 30 seconds in the microwave and stir again.

Put the cream into a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap directly on the top of the cream, and cool to room temperature. Seal and chill in the refrigerator until needed.

Apricot Filling
1 packed cup dried apricots
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more, to taste
1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Stir apricots, water and sugar together in a large microwave-safe container. Cook in microwave for ten minutes at full power, stopping to stir a few times, until the apricots are soft and puffy and have absorbed most of the water.

Put the mixture into a food processor and process until smooth, then transfer to a bowl. Add lemon juice and almond extract and stir to mix. Cool to room temperature, then move to the refrigerator to chill until needed.

1 cup confectioner’s sugar
2-3 teaspoons milk

Stir sugar and just enough of the milk together to produce a smooth, shiny glaze that dribbles easily off of a spoon.

Note: for different flavors, you can substitute coffee or maple syrup for the milk. Or add a touch of vanilla extract or almond extract along with the milk.