Over the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough, authors of Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese. Their cookbooks are unique and filled with funny and charming anecdotes that will have you reading them more like a novel than a cooking guide. And as I was expecting, Weinstein and Scarbrough were equally charming in person, equal parts cooking science and stand-up.
So, what do charming and informative personalities and writing styles have to do with Goat Cheese Danishes? This is the kind of recipe where you're going to need plenty of detailed info and a good dose of humor to get through it since making your own puff pastry is not the easiest of undertakings. The recipe's intro begins by saying, "after a gazillion hours in the kitchen, you'll emerge covered with flour, holding a platter of eighteen filled sweet rolls"—every bit of which was true but entirely worth every flour-covered second.
Instead of walking you through the steps of the recipe, I'll leave it to expert Weinstein and Scarbrough since their recipe was spot on, making for a perfectly light and flaky dough with countless layers of rich goat butter. The nutmeg-flecked filling was just sweet enough and puffed up slightly during baking, making for amazing, just-bigger-than-bite-sized Danishes that are sure to be making several encore appearances in my kitchen.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese to give away this week.
Adapted from Goat: Meat, Milk, Cheese by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough. Copyright © 2011. Published by Stewart, Tabori & Chang. Available wherever books are sold. All Rights Reserved.
- Yield:18 Danishes
- Active time: 2 hours
- Total time:4 hours
- For the dough:
- 1/2 cup (70 g) cake flour
- 16 tablespoons (that is, 1 cup [225 g] or 2 sticks) cool goat butter, cubed
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) plus 1 tablespoon (15 ml) regular goat milk (do not use low-fat)
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 2 2/3 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting your work surface
- 1 large egg, well beaten in a small bowl
- For the filling:
- 9 ounces (250 g) fresh chèvre or soft goat cheese, at room temperature
- 1 large egg, at room temperature
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Put the cake flour in a big bowl, then drop in the cool butter cubes—that is, right out of the fridge, just now cut into little pieces. Use a fork or a pastry cutter to push the fat through the flour, continually working it all around the bowl, cleaning the tines often, then going at it again. There’s way more fat here than flour, way more butter than you’d use for a pie crust, so the resulting mixture will be about the consistency of the stuff in a jar of elementary-school paste that’s been left uncovered overnight.
You can also do this task in a food processor fitted with the chopping
blade. Add the flour and butter, and process until the mass starts to
adhere into a ball.
Line a clean, dry work surface with wax paper. Gather the dough together, then turn it out onto the wax paper. Set another sheet of wax paper on top. Roll the dough into a 9 x 12-inch (23 x 30.5-cm) rectangle. Note the missing words "about" or "approximately." Don’t cheat; use a ruler and make the rectangle exactly the right size by repositioning the rolling pin repeatedly and rolling just once or twice in each direction before changing and rolling in another set of directions. Once you’ve got the rectangle, pick it up still between its sheets of wax paper, set it on a large baking sheet, and put the whole thing in the fridge for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
Heat the milk in a large saucepan over low heat until the milk is between 100°F and 105°F (38°C and 41°C). It’s important to be accurate. Use an instant-read meat thermometer to be sure, taking the milk’s temperature without letting the probe touch the pan itself.
Once the milk is at the right temperature, take it off the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons sugar and the yeast. Set the pan aside for 5 minutes to proof the yeast—that is, to make sure it’s bubbly, even foamy, starting to come alive and producing the fizzy carbon dioxide that will eventually make the pastry rise.
Dump in the 2 cups (330 g) all-purpose flour and 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg (reserve the rest of the beaten egg in the fridge for later in the recipe). Stir a bit; then once the stuff starts to form a dough, turn it out onto a clean, dry, lightly flour-dusted work surface and knead for 2 minutes, pulling it with one hand while twisting the stretched lump and at the same time digging the palm of your other hand into it. Basically, you want to create a smooth dough, not as silky as good bread dough, but still coherent and cohesive. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
Clean up your work surface so it’s got no sticky bits of dough, dry it well, then dust it lightly with flour. Set the lump of dough in the center and use a rolling pin to roll it into a 14 x 20-inch (35.5 x 50-cm) rectangle.
Take the chilled butter dough out of the fridge and set it on top of and at one end of the flour dough so that the 12-inch (30.5-cm) side of the buttery rectangle is an inch (2.5 cm) or so from but also parallel to the 14-inch (35.5-cm) side of the larger sheet of dough. Turn the dough so that the buttery rectangle is farthest from you. Now fold the larger dough sheet up and over the buttery one, thereby encasing it. Work around the dough to seal all the edges.
Roll it out again into a large rectangle, about 14 x 20 inches (35.5 x 50 cm)—not exactly this time, just close enough. If you knead it during this step, you can dust your work surface with a little flour, but do so as infrequently as possible, using as little as possible. More flour = more gluten = the possibility of a tougher dough.
Take one short side of this rectangle and fold it over until it comes to the two-thirds mark on the rectangle’s long side. Now take the other exposed side and fold it over the other way, thus folding the piece of dough into three equal sections on top of each other. Roll this piece of dough out into a large rectangle, about 14 x 20 inches (36 x 51 cm). Then do this three more times: folding it into thirds and rolling it back out, and then again, and then again. Fold the dough into thirds one last time, then set it in the refrigerator to chill for 1 hour.
Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Mix the fresh chèvre or soft goat cheese, the large whole egg (not the reserved beaten egg), the sugar, all-purpose flour, and nutmeg in a bowl until creamy and smooth. Take out that remainder of the beaten egg from the fridge and whisk it with 1 tablespoons water.
To make the danishes, take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator and slice it into 3 equal pieces. Clean and dry that work surface yet again. (Is it any wonder why pastry chefs are so irritable?) Give it a light dusting with flour. On that surface, roll each piece of the dough out to a 6 x 8-inch (15 x 20-cm) rectangle, about inch (.6 cm) thick. Be fairly precise but not obsessive—because once all 3 are rolled out, you will trim them to perfect 5 x 7 -inch (13 x 19-cm) rectangles with perfectly straight edges. (The excess dough can be thrown out or baked on its own for little puff pastry twists or braids.)
Cut each of these rectangles into six 2 x 2 -inch (6 x 6-cm) squares. In other words, make one straight cut parallel to the 7 -inch (19-cm) sides, and two even cuts parallel to the 5-inch (13-cm) sides.
Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling in each square. Fold the corners
of each square toward the center to meet in the middle over the filling. Dab a little of the beaten-egg-and-water mixture on the dough to seal it at the center point. Once all the little packets are made, line a large baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper, and put the filled packets on a large baking sheet, cover them with a clean kitchen towel, and let them rest at room temperature for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F (205°C).
Bake until the danishes are puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool for a minute or two on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack and continue cooling. Once they’re at room temperature (if they make it that long), they can be stored on the counter in a zip-sealed plastic bag for a couple of days or in the freezer for several months.