Makes 11⁄2 dozen
1⁄2 cup milk
1⁄2 cup water
11⁄4 ounces yeast
21⁄4 cups all-purpose flour (divided), plus additional for rolling the dough
1⁄2 cup cake flour
1⁄3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1⁄2 teaspoon mace
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
2⁄3 stick butter (5 1/2 tablespoons), softened
21⁄2 sticks butter, softened
The dough in most danish is called lamination dough, which means “layers”; it’s what gives croissants and great French pastries their light, flaky goodness.
To make it, combine milk and water, heat until warm (approximately 120 degrees). Add yeast to milk mixture, and proof for 5 minutes. Put yeast mixture into a stand-up mixer; add all-purpose flour, cake flour, sugar, salt, and spices. Mix until the dough begins to form a shaggy mass. Begin adding in eggs one at a time, including the egg yolk, until incorporated. Add in 2⁄3 stick of butter (divided in four parts), one quarter at a time until all incorporated. Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Place dough in a well-greased stainless steel bowl, cover with cling wrap, and refrigerate until doubled in volume (approximately 21⁄2 hours).
Remove dough from bowl and place on a well-floured board. Roll out to about 12-by-20-inch rectangle, three-quarters of an inch thick. Square off edges with the rolling pin. Return dough to refrigerator.
Take the remaining two-plus sticks of softened butter and mix with a quarter cup all-purpose flour. On a well-floured board, roll out to approximate size of previous dough. With a spatula, lift the butter square and place on top of the cooled dough; it will only cover about a half to three-quarters of the dough’s area. (Leave a half-inch gap between the butter and the dough’s edge at one end.) Fold the whole thing into thirds, starting by folding the unbuttered portion of the dough onto the layered portion. Return to refrigerator. Chill for 10 minutes.
Roll dough out again, squishing the butter into a 12-by 20-inch rectangle, three-quarters of an inch thickness. (See photo at left.) Fold in thirds, like before, and return to the refrigerator for another 10 minutes. Repeat twice more. At this point, freeze or proceed to make the danish. It will have 81 layers when finished!
Roll dough out to a quarter-inch thick, and sprinkle or slather on various fillings (jams, spiced nuts with sugar, or sweetened cream cheese). Roll up like a jelly roll and slice into one-inch-thick rounds with a serrated knife; bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees or until golden brown. Brush the danish with melted apricot jam for that professional glazed look.