Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Reuben Danish

Three words that rocked my world: rye puff pastry.

In the immortal words of my mother-in-law, "I never heared of such a ting."

I had never seen a rye puff pastry before the idea took root in that nagging part of my brain where recipes grow, and I had no idea if it was possible.

Okay, maybe someone has done it before - I'm sure most ideas have been done at some point - but I'd never seen or tasted rye puff pastry before I went into the kitchen with the idea firmly stuck in my head.

It took a little tweaking to get it to work right. You see, rye flour doesn't have the same amount of gluten as wheat flour, so it has trouble stretching thinly around the butter. But that can be fixed with a little extra gluten.

This isn't a true puff pastry - it's based on my "cheater" recipe that uses the food processor to cut in the butter, just like you'd do for pie dough.

Sure, you can do it by hand. It's probably not worth hauling the food processor out of a cabinet just for the few minutes of processing time, but mine lives on my counter, and I throw it all in the dishwasher so cleanup isn't a big deal, either.

I might try a real puff pastry using rye flour soon. Meanwhile, I have this recipe, and a perfect use for it - Reuben Danish. Yes, a Reuben sandwich wrapped up like a danish pastry.

No corned beef left? Then make it with ham and cheese instead. Or anything else you like on rye that you'd eat warm. Because really, this is at its best when it's warm from the oven.

If you've never made pie dough or puff pastry and you're a little afraid of the recipe, let me put you at ease. If you mess up and the butter gets incorporated into the dough rather than forming thin layers, you'll end up with a really buttery rye bread, which isn't such a terrible thing.

And if you don't want to make all four Danish, you can let the dough rest another day, or make croissants from the dough. Yes, rye croissants.

And just for the record, when I made these sandwiches, I used my home made sauerkraut, my home-cured corned beef, and my own Thousand Island dressing.

Reuben Danish

For the pastry:
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 1/4 cups cold water
2 cups (9 ounces) medium rye flour
1 cup (4 1/2 ounces) bread flour
2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter
Eggwash (1 egg, plus 1 tablespoon water, beaten together)
1 tablespoon caraway seeds (more as desired)
For the filling:
Corned beef, thinly sliced or chopped
Thousand Island dressing
Swiss cheese, grated

To make the pastry:
Combine the yeast and water in a medium bowl. Stir to combine.

Place the rye flour, bread flour, gluten, sugar, and salt in the bowl of your food processor. Pulse several times to combine.

Cut the butter into chunks and add it to the food processor. Pulse until you have pieces about the size of a garbanzo bean. It's fine if there are some larger and smaller pieces.

Add the flour/butter mixture to the bowl and mix gently until all the flour is moistened. Try not to break up the butter any more. At first the mixture might seem too dry, and after it is mixed it might seem too sticky. Don't worry about it. Cover the bowl with a plastic bag and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, remove the bowl from the refrigerator, flour your work surface generously, and turn out the dough. Flour the top of the dough and pat it into a rough square shape. Roll the dough to about 10x18 inches. The exact measurement isn't critical - what you're trying to do is flatten the pieces of butter so that you'll end up with very thin layers of butter and very thin layers of dough. Flour the dough as needed to keep it from sticking to the counter and the rolling pin.

Fold the dough in thirds, like a letter, so it is now about 9x10 inches. Roll and fold the same way two more times. Do this quickly, so the butter doesn't soften. If you do feel the butter getting squishy, put the dough in the refrigerator for a while before continuing. After the third roll and fold, fold the dough in half so you have a square, flatten it a bit, wrap it in plastic, and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour - you can leave it until the next day, if that works better for you.

To make the Danish:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Flour your work surface and cut the dough into 4 pieces. (If you work fast, you can leave them on the counter. Otherwise, refrigerate them until you're ready for them.) Roll the first piece into a rectangle about 9x12 inches. Layer the corned beef, sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and cheese on the sandwich in the proportions you like, keeping it within the center third of the dough, lengthwise and leaving about an inch uncovered at each end. If you're a big fan of the Thousand Island dressing, I suggest being less generous on the sandwich and having some at the table to add as needed. If you use too much, you risk having a soggy sandwich.

Using a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or pastry cutter, make slits about an inch apart along the long ends of the dough, up to the filling. I make the cuts at an angle, but you can make them straight.

Fold on of the uncovered ends over the filling, then begin folding the strips over the filling one at a time, alternating sides and crossing them at the top. If they look a little too short to reach, don't worry - they'll stretch. When you get to the far end, fold the end over the filling first, before you fold the strips over.

Transfer the Danish to your prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and continue with the other three pieces of dough.

Let the Danish dough rest until it feels puffy when you touch it - about 30 minutes. It won't rise a lot, but it will feel soft and puffy.

Remove the plastic wrap from the dough, brush with the egg wash, and sprinkle with caraway seeds. Bake at 400 degrees until the pastry is nicely browned, about 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and put them on a rack (this keeps the bottoms crisp. Serve warm.

This has been submitted to YeastSpotting.