Want to know how to make Danish pastry? The easy way? I did too, so I created this Danish pastry dough recipe that takes just ½ an hour of hands on time and just another 20 to turn it into buttery, flaky breakfast pastries.
Why you’ll love this homemade Danish dough recipe
- Buttery, flaky and a perfect layered texture
- Crispy on the outside, soft in the middle
- Can be made ahead so you can bake your pastries fresh when you want them
- Create your favourite pastry shapes and fillings
- It can be frozen as a slab or as already assembled pastries
- Assembled pastries can be baked from frozen
I can’t begin to tell you how amazing this recipe is. It’s easier than a traditional Danish dough but every bit as delicious. With just ½ an hour of hands on time, you can have this dough prepped and ready in the fridge or freezer for your breakfast whim.
Heads up, this post is loaded with information so here’s a table of contents to get you where you need to go or hit the jump to recipe button at the top to go straight to the recipe.
What is laminated dough?
Laminating dough is the process of rolling butter into dough, then folding and rolling a number of times to create layers. Puff pastry is a type of laminated dough and so is Danish pastry dough. As the butter is not worked into the dough but rolled through in layers, it melts, creating steam as it bakes which lifts and creates the layers.
While not laminated in the traditional way (aka a slab of butter gradually rolled directly into the dough), I use a simplified method (mainly because patience isn’t my thing) and this Danish pastry still results in perfect flaky, Danish pastries.
What is Danish pastry?
Danish pastry is a yeasted, buttery pastry of many layers. Used most often for sweet breakfast or dessert pastries, it’s cooked until crisp and flaky on the outside, while the centre stays soft.
Danish pastry was created in Denmark but it translates to Vienna Bread – this is because it was created by Austrian bakers in the 1840s (source).
Ingredients for Danish pastry
Danish pastry ingredients are very few and very simple. You just need 7 ingredients and, if you’ve made bread before, you likely have all of them on hand.
- Flour: Just plain (all purpose) flour is all you need. You can use bread flour if you like but it will make for a chewier texture.
- Yeast: Don’t be intimidated by using yeast. It’s easy and I’ll show you how to make sure it’s going to work. You can use instant yeast or active dry in this recipe.
- Milk: I recommend using full fat / whole milk in this enriched dough.
- Butter: A major part of this dough is the butter. Use unsalted, full-fat butter. This recipe has not yet been tested with alternatives.
- Sugar: Since we’re after sweet Danish dough, a little sugar is needed but not too much.
- Egg: Again, being an enriched dough, an egg helps to give that rich flavour.
- Salt: Always a little will add balance to any recipe.
How to make Danish pastry
While this recipe is very easy to make and only needs ½ an hour of hands on time, I don’t want to give the impression that it’s a quick recipe overall. This dough needs chilling time but further down in this post, I’ll give you tips on how to have it ready ahead of time so all you need to do on the day is bake.
- Grate the butter: This little trick is how we make this recipe super simple while still giving us perfect flaky Danish pastry. Use a course grater to grate the butter, then place it in a bowl (photo 1) in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.
- Activate the yeast: Heat some milk, then add the yeast and sugar and mix it together. Let it sit for 10 minutes until it looks frothy (photo 2).
- Combine the butter and dry ingredients: Take the butter from the freezer and add the flour, remaining sugar and salt. Give it a light toss to coat (photo 3), then use a pastry blender or your finger tips to work the butter into the flour until you have just small pieces about the size of lentils (photo 4).
- Add the wet ingredients: Add the yeast mixture (photo 5), remaining milk and egg to the butter and flour and stir together to a rough and sticky dough (photo 6). Chill 8 hours or overnight.
- Roll and fold: Turn the rough dough out onto a lightly floured surface (photo 7) then gently form it into a rectangle with your hands (photo 8). Roll the dough out to about a ¼ inch thick large rectangle (photo 9). Fold it like a letter by folding the top third down over the middle third (photo 10), then the bottom third over the top (photo 11). Turn it 90 degrees (photo 12) then roll and fold again 3 more times.
How to turn it into breakfast pastries
When you’re ready to turn your homemade danish dough into Danish pastries, roll the dough out, cut it into shapes, fill and bake. It’s that simple.
A simple square with the corners pulled in will give you a classic rounded pastry.
Pro tips and tricks
- Freezing the butter: Don’t skip this. The purpose is to make the butter very cold so that it doesn’t melt before you’ve finished cutting it into the dough.
- Activating the yeast: Technically, when using instant yeast, you don’t need to activate it (like you do with active-dry yeast) however I always take this step to check the yeast is good so I don’t waste time and a batch of ingredients on yeast that’s no good.
- Keep it cold: Try not to work this dough too much with your hands as you’ll melt the butter. It’s the small pieces of butter that will give you flaky layers, which, if the butter is melted, you won’t get.
- You can use your fingertips or a pastry blender to cut the butter into the dough.
- Don’t skip chilling: This is for two reasons. First, chilling the dough keeps the butter cold and in small pieces which equals flaky layers. The second reason is to rest the dough. When you knead or handle dough, the flour in it develops gluten and tightens up. Chilling the dough allows it time to relax again.
How to prep Danish pastry ahead of time
Yes, this is an easy recipe – not difficult to make and no special equipment required – however, it’s not a super quick recipe. Chilling and resting the dough is vital and there are three stages of this.
- Stage 1: Once you’ve made the rough dough, which takes all of 15 minutes, the dough will need to rest 8 hours or overnight. You could rest it for as little as 4 hours but I prefer the results from at least 8.
- Stage 2: After you roll and fold the dough, which again takes all of 15 minutes) you’ll need to rest the dough for 1-2 hours.
- Stage 3: Once you’ve rolled and made your pastry shapes they’re best rested for 30-60 minutes.
This sounds long winded but you can have breakfast pastries in the oven first thing in the morning, pinky promise! Delicious, buttery Danish pastries, made from scratch, ready to eat for breakfast? Yes and please. So here’s how you do it.
- 1-2 days before you want them: make the rough dough first thing in the morning.
- Late afternoon, same day: do your roll and folds.
- 1-2 hours after the roll and fold or first thing the morning you want them: assemble the pastries.
For instance, I made the dough first thing on a Saturday morning (15 minutes). I went about my day then about 4pm I did my roll and folds (15 minutes). An hour later, I assembled my batch of pastries and put them on baking trays in the fridge, covered (20 minutes).
When I woke up Sunday, I turned the oven on and baked them and had fresh baked Danish pastries for a sweet and delicious breakfast treat.
Danish pastries can also be baked from frozen. Assemble then place on a baking tray and place in the freezer. Once solid, wrap them well and place in an airtight container. Unwrap, then place on a baking tray and bake from frozen.
Yes, you can freeze Danish pastry dough. Form it into a smoothish rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Wrap 2-3 times in plastic wrap and store flat in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Frozen Danish pastry should be thawed overnight in the fridge. On the other hand, if you have already assembled your Danish pastries, they can be baked from frozen, but may take an extra 3-5 minutes.
There are so many methods to folding Danish pastries. A very simple method is actually no fold at all. Just cut out circles of dough, make an indent in the middle and add a filling. Another simple way is to cut squares, then fold the corners into the centre.
Other methods include braids and pinwheels among many more and I aim to add a post in the near future with a bunch of Danish pastry shapes you can make with this dough.
The difference between Danish pastry and puff pastry is essentially yeast and egg. Danish pastry is leavened whereas puff pastry is not. In addition, Danish has egg in the dough. Danish dough is layered like puff pastry but is crisp on the outside whilst being soft on the inside as opposed to puff pastry that is crisp all the way through.
If you try this homemade sweet danish dough, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.
More sweet breakfast recipes you’ll love
- Lemon Danish Pastry
- Custard Danish Pastries
- Blueberry Cinnamon Rolls
- Caramel Apple Cinnamon Rolls
- Jumbo Swedish Cinnamon Buns
- Jam-filled Cinnamon Sugar Donut Muffins
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How to make Danish Pastry
- 1 cup cold milk (250ml)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons instant or active dry yeast (1 sachet / 8g) (notes)
- 390 g plain (all purp) flour (3 cups)
- ⅓ cup white granulated sugar (66g / 2.3oz)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 226 g unsalted butter, full fat, no light versions, coarsely grated and very cold
- 1 large egg
- Pastry blender (optional)
- Rolling Pin
- If you haven't already grate the butter and place in the freezer to chill for 10 minutes. Grate it into a large bowl and don't press it down, leave it loose.
- Warm ½ cup of the milk in the microwave or a small saucepan, just until warm to the touch (not hot) or about 40C. Too hot and you'll kill the yeast, too cold and the yeast won't bloom.
- To the warm milk, add 1 tablespoon sugar and all the yeast and mix. Let it sit for 10 minutes to become frothy. If it doesn't look frothy, the yeast is no good and you'll need to start again with fresh yeast.
- To the large bowl of cold butter, add the flour, remaining sugar and the salt. Give it light toss to coat. Now very, very lightly with your fingertips or with a pastry blender, cut the butter into the flour until the pieces are about the size of a lentil. Be careful not to melt the butter. If it's warm where you are place it in the fridge for a few minutes to cool again.
- Whisk the remaining ½ cup milk and the egg into the yeast mixture until well combined, then pour it into the dry ingredients.
- Use a spoon or spatula to mix the ingredients together just until you have a very rough and sticky dough.
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 8-24 hours.
- Turn the dough out onto a very lightly floured surface – you don’t want to add too much flour as it will dry out the dough. Form a simple rectangle.
- ROLL AND FOLD: Roll it out to a large rectangle about ⅓ inch thick (about 27cm x 45cm). Fold, letter style in thirds (fold the top over the middle third, then the bottom third over that).
- Repeat this roll and fold 3 more times for a total of 4 times, ending with a much smoother folded dough. The last roll and fold, the dough will feel much tighter – it's ok if you can't quite roll it out to ⅓ inch. Add a touch of flour if you see it sticking to the counter or your rolling pin at any point but try not to add too much.
- Chill for 1-2 hours to relax before rolling and turning into danish pastries.
- Yeast: You can use instant or active dry yeast.
- Start this recipe the day before. You can put the dough together first thing in the morning which takes about 15 minutes. Late in the afternoon, you can do all the roll and folds which also takes about 15 minutes, then leave it to chill overnight and put the pastries together the following morning for a delicious breakfast or brunch. Assembling only takes about 20 minutes including and they will need a 30 minute rest once assembled as well.
- You can also make it two days in advance. Prep the dough on day one, roll and fold day two then assemble and bake on day three.
- This dough can be frozen. Wrap well in plastic wrap 2-3 times. Thaw in the fridge overnight.
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