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Begin by cutting 1/4″ butter off the end of each of the four sticks in the pound; you’ll have about 2 tablespoons butter. Cut each stick of butter in half lengthwise, to make eight long rectangles. You should now have two butter rectangles, about 6″ x 9″ each.
On a piece of floured parchment or plastic wrap, line up four of the butter pieces side by side, to form a rectangle. Set them aside while you make the dough; if it’s really hot in your kitchen, stick them in the fridge to keep cool.
Awhile ago, I polled our Facebook fans about what new recipes they’d like to see us write about here in the blog. At last, I opened my King Arthur Flour 200th Anniversary Cookbook – the go-to on my bookshelf for all kinds of baking basics – and found the recipe. Think “cut to the chase.” I have an advantage in this blog that Brinna Sands, the wonderful baker who wrote our original cookbook (and my dear friend), didn’t have: Photographs. Danish pastry is all about the butter; there aren’t many yeast pastries that are as buttery as this one.
File this blog post under: be careful what you ask for. I dutifully added “Danish pastry” to my list of future blog topics. And sat, buried under a blizzard of duties, deadlines and the detritus of social media. You know, much as I love baking, I’m just not a 10-page-recipe kinda gal. But I sighed, pulled my virtual socks up, and dove in. In the end, I discovered that the 10 pages it took to explore Danish pastry in our cookbook could actually be boiled down to many fewer steps.
Don’t worry about being ultra-precise; this is just a guide, but do try to get fairly close to those dimensions.
Place one of the butter slabs onto the center third of the dough. Place the other butter slab atop the folded-over dough, and fold the remaining dough up over it.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the following: 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup cold milk 1/3 to 1/2 cup lukewarm water* 2 large eggs *Use the greater amount in winter, or in a dry climate; the lesser amount in summer, or when it’s humid out.
I’ve added another little touch here: 1/2 teaspoon Buttery Sweet Dough Flavor, which you see in the photo at upper left, above.
Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients, beating or stirring to combine.Wrap loosely (but completely) in plastic, and chill for 2 hours, or up to 16 hours; we prefer the longer refrigeration, as it gives the dough a chance to relax and rise.