Traditionally, Danish pastry, a slightly sweet, very rich yeast dough, is made the way croissant dough or its unyeasted cousin, puff pastry, is made. That is, you make a dough that acts as a wrapper for a block of butter, then you roll and fold the dough several times to create layers. Here, in a quick method, the butter is cut into the dough in the food processor, making it easier and faster; the yeast and liquid are mixed into the dough and then the chilled dough is given the traditional rolls and folds. Don't think you're cheating by taking the fast track this is the way it's done these days all over Denmark, where they know great Danish when they taste it.
1/4 cup warm water (105ºF to 115ºF)
Mixing the Dough
Pour the water into a large bowl, sprinkle over the yeast, and let it soften for a minute. Add the milk, egg, sugar, and salt and whisk to mix; set aside.
Put the flour in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Cut the butter into 1/4-inch-thick slices and drop them onto the flour. Pulse 8 to 10 times, until the butter is cut into pieces that are about 1/2 inch in diameter. Don't overdo this the pieces must not be smaller than 1/2 inch.
Empty the contents of the food processor into the bowl with the yeast and, working with a rubber spatula, very gently turn the mixture over, scraping the bowl as needed, just until the dry ingredients are moistened. Again, don't be too energetic-the butter must remain in discrete pieces so that you will produce a flaky pastry, not a bread or cookie dough.
Chilling the Dough
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 4 days, (if that better suits your schedule).
Rolling and Folding
Lightly flour a work surface (a cool surface, such as marble, is ideal), turn the dough out onto it, and dust the dough lightly with flour. Using the palms of your hands, pat the dough into a rough square. Then roll it into a square about 16 inches on a side. (A French rolling pin, one without handles, is best here.) Fold the dough in thirds, like a business letter, and turn it so that the closed fold is to your left, like the spine of a book. (if at any time the dough gets too soft to roll, just cover it with plastic wrap and pop it into the refrigerator for a quick chill.)
Roll the dough out again, this time into a long narrow rectangle, about 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold the rectangle in thirds again, turn it so the closed fold is to your left, and roll it into a 20-inch square. Fold the square in thirds, like a business letter, so that you have a rectangle, turning it so that the closed fold is to your left, and, once more, roll the dough into a long narrow rectangle, 10 inches wide by 24 inches long. Fold in thirds again, wrap the dough well in plastic, and chill it for at least 30 minutes, or for as long as 2 days. (Depending on what you plan to do with the dough, you might want to divide it in half now.)
The dough is now ready to be shaped, filled, and baked, following the recipes of your choice.
The dough can be kept covered in the refrigerator for 4 days or wrapped airtight and frozen for 1 month; thaw overnight, still wrapped, in the refrigerator.
Yield: Makes 2 pounds of dough
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