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The glory and the butter

There was a lot of cooking going on Chez Spoonfully last night, and, not coincidentally, a lot of AWESOME. M wanted to find out if he could make apple danishes, I wanted muffins. (M’s recipe follows at the end.)

A strong start...

There’s no denying that M’s venture was the more aesthetically satisfying. Here’s the apple and sultana filling, stewing with cinnamon and sugar. See? You’re already dribbling.  M got this going while the dough had its first rise. Meanwhile:

Branslop.

Hooray for bran! I love this recipe: it makes soft, moist, fairly ugly, dense muffins. You mix most of the ingredients (everything except the flour) and soak for an hour to soften the bran before adding the flour and cooking. I must admit, it’s not much to look at. But what it lacks in glamour, it makes up for in BRAN! On the other side of the kitchen:

Magic hands!

M does the first fold on the danish dough. The recipe mimicked M’s standard croissant dough, with a few short cuts (more yeast, shorter rising times) — but don’t skip folding in the flattened butter! If you skip that, you might as well piss off and eat a Pop Tart, you good-for-nothing waste of pants. Layers of butter and layers of dough, for maximum flakiness. After resting it a little longer, M cut squares of pastry and put a spoonful of the chilled apple-and-sultana mix in the middle, then origamied the squares into danishes. They rose for a while, getting used to their new-found fruitiness, and then had a holiday in the oven and came back all tanned and luscious…oh, mama.

A chaotic universe of buttery appley wonder

I tooled around with the camera for ages, trying to get the perfect angle that would show off every flake of pastry, every soft, moist apple, every glint of honey glaze (did I mention the honey glaze?), but it was impossible. They’re too beautiful. And delicious! Oh, God, yes. The pastry beneath the apple filling didn’t puff up as much as the rest, so each has a tender and stable base, and the rest of the pastry is crisp and light. This makes for a breakfast the likes of which you can never hope to understand unless you’ve been there. And I have.

MARVEL AT MY BREAKFAST

Behold M’s works, ye mighty, and despair.

Money shot

Meanwhile: in Bran City, I am queen!

Or at least the elected holder of a Bran City executive office

They’re not in the same league as the apple danishes, but they’re pretty spot on: dense, nobbly and chewy-soft. Sweet potato and sultana bran muffins. (Featuring Bronson the Exuberant Toaster in background role.)

How to make awesome danishes:

Dough:
3 cups plain flour
295 mL water
3 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp milk powder
pinch of salt
60g sugar
250g unsalted butter

Filling:
3 apples, peeled, cored and chopped
handful of sultanas
vanilla extract
cinnamon
sugar

Extras:
egg for eggwash
honey for glazing
water for cooking filling

Dough:
1. Cube 50g butter and put aside to soften. Mix flour, water, yeast, milk powder, salt and sugar until combined, then begin kneading until dough becomes cohesive and smooth (about ten minutes by hand). Work the softened butter cubes into the dough and knead in until the dough is smooth again (about five minutes by hand) — it should have a uniform texture and be not too sticky to touch.

2. Rise dough for about 20 minutes, then do the first fold: handling the dough as little as possible, fold it into thirds like an envelope, rotate 90 degrees and fold into thirds again, then return dough to its bowl and rise for another 20 minutes. Pop the dough in the freezer until it is cool to the touch — it should be about doubled in size.

3. Flatten your remaining 200g butter by putting it in a plastic bag and whaling on it with a rolling pin until you have a more-or-less flat, rectangular slab of butter. Take out your cold dough and roll it out flat and put the butter slab in the middle. Fold the dough from the top and bottom thirds of the dough over the butter, roll it out flat; turn it 90 degrees, fold into thirds again, roll it out flat; turn 90 degrees again, fold into thirds again. Pop this flat parcel of dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Filling:
(Note: if you can get the filling ready in advance, all the better; you want it to be cold when you are ready to fill the pastries before baking.)
1. Mix the filling ingredients in a saucepan, add water and boil. You can choose to cook the apples until they’re al dente or until they are as soft as applesauce.
2. You can cool the filling quickly by spreading it out on a plate in a thin layer and popping it in the freezer.

Dough again:

4. Take your chilled dough out of the fridge: roll it out flat, fold into thirds, roll out flat again. Roll it out to about 1cm thick, then cut into squares. Put a spoonful of filling in the middle of each one, then fold two opposite corners to the middle.

5. Let the filled pastries rise on their cooking trays for about 30 minutes. When your oven reaches 200°, brush them with eggwash and in they go. While they cook, mix some honey with a little warm water: zap it in the microwave just before using, so it’s hot. When they look ready — flaky and browned — take them out and brush with the honey glaze while they’re still hot. It’ll evaporate and become sticky and sooo good yes it will oh yes.

6. Devour. (When cool.)

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