Making puff pastry is no picnic. The butter has to be the same temperature as the dough. You have to be pretty stellar with a rolling pin. And, at least for me until I’m more practiced, it’s not always a pretty picture. This recipe uses a fake-out puff pastry, which you make by leaving bean-sized butter pieces in the dough rather than a block of butter. You do a couple of turns—rolling and folding the dough—but they can be done in quick succession without resting. And the results are marvelous. You can make individual pastries or a beautiful braid with this recipe, but rolling up the dough and slicing it into rounds which nestle in a kugelhopf pan transforms the pastry. This is so much soft Danish pastry, layered with almond paste filling, crispy at the edges, chewy where the almond paste has oozed out and caramelized, and incredibly buttery. You whip up the dough in five minutes before you scurry off to bed. Then it takes a few minutes of rolling and folding in the morning. It rises while you have a little coffee and then bakes for 45 minutes. Just make it.
A kugelhopf pan is a fancy shape usually reserved for Alsatian kugelhopf, a cakey, brioche-like bread. If you don’t have one, any tube pan or bundt pan will work just fine, too. Since I have my grandma’s kugelhopf pan, I like to put it to good use, and the shape is quite pretty.
Danish Pastry Tips
Cardamom seeds must be removed from their pale green pods. Simply pry them open and then use a mortar and pestle or a dedicated coffee grinder to crush the little seeds.
The water you add to the yeast should feel barely luke warm, just above body temperature. If it’s too hot you will kill the yeast.
When this dough comes out of the refrigerator, don’t panic. It’s okay that it’s kind of a misshapen rock. Give it a few good bashes with your rolling pin on a well-floured surface until it begins to yield. Then begin rolling. It will become more supple as you work it. Keep moving the dough and adding a bit of flour to your work surface as necessary, and use a bench scraper or run a knife under it if it begins to stick.
To cut the dough into eight equal parts, begin by cutting it in half. Then cut each half in half, and each piece in half again.
Find a toasty warm spot in your home for the pastry to rise. I balance mine on a bin of mittens and hats on the top shelf of a closet where there is a heating duct.
Almond Danish Kugelhopf
Adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas’ The Great Scandinavian Baking Book
Yield: one pastry crown in eight parts
1 ¼ c. chilled unsalted butter cut into ¼ “ slices
3 c. all purpose flour (I prefer King Arthur.)
2 packages active dry yeast
¼ c. warm water, 105 to 115 degrees
½ c. milk at room temperature
½ t. freshly crushed cardamom seeds
2 eggs at room temperature
1 t. salt
¼ c. sugar
½ c. sugar
½ c. unsalted butter at room temperature
½ c. almond paste
1 t. almond extract
½ c. sliced almonds (optional)
confectioners’ sugar for dusting the top (optional)
- Place the butter slices and the flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the butter is the size of small beans. If you don’t have a food processor, cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or two knives, or by pinching it together with your fingers.
- Turn the mixture into a large bowl and chill it while you proceed.
- Measure the yeast into a medium bowl and add the water. Allow it to rest for five minutes, or until it is foamy.
- Add the milk, cardamom, eggs, salt, and sugar and mix well.
- Pour the liquid over the flour and butter and fold together carefully just until the flour is moistened throughout.
- Cover and refrigerate four hours or overnight.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and dust it lightly with flour. Pound it and then roll it out to a 20” square. Fold the square into thirds, so that it is shaped like an envelope.
- Turn the dough so that the short end faces you. Roll it out a bit longer and fold it into a square. Allow the dough to rest while you make the filling.
- To make the filling, in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the almond paste, butter, sugar, and almond extract and mix until smooth.
- Roll the square of pastry into a rectangle 11” by 14” and smear it with the almond filling almost to the edges.
- Roll up the dough so that you have a long roll and slice the roll into eight equal parts.
- Butter a kugelhopf or other tube or bundt pan well with butter, sprinkle in the sliced almonds if you are using them, and nestle the pastry slices into the pan
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Place the pan in a warm spot to rise until it is doubled, about one hour.
- Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the pastry is golden brown.
- Tip the pastry onto a serving platter while it is still hot.
- Dust it with confectioners’ sugar if you wish and serve it while it is warm.