Damson season

Things have been pretty quiet on the blog baking-wise lately. But I’ve been trying my hand at some new recipes, including spanakopita (delicious), chocolate eclairs (deflated) and strawberry cheesecake (GNAM). Today I’d like to share a recipe I’d been wanting to try out for a while, only it felt too…well, Autumny. Signe Johansen’s lovely book Scandilicious Baking is packed full of beautiful and tempting treats; I’ve written about it before, here. Pastry and dough-making pops up a lot in the book, which may sound time-consuming, but the results are well worth it. And this week I attempted, for the first time, jam pinwheels.

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First off, to explain my reasons behind baking such an Autumnal treat when we’re still in sunny August: although I was a Summer baby, my favourite season is Autumn. Perhaps it’s because UK Summers are always so half-hearted nowadays, but by this time of year I’m always craving Autumn, anxious for it to arrive. Although other people hate the early dark nights, there’s something I love about leaving work in the dark, wrapped up in layers and walking home to find the fire lit and delicious smells filling the kitchen. I love fireworks, bonfire night, and Halloween, and the promise of Christmas just around the corner. I love the warm, comforting smells of Autumn, the layers, coats and colourful knitwear. I have a coral pink wool coat that I bought over the Summer and am itching to wear. I know I may sound a bit mad wishing the Summer away, but at this time of year, when the weather is gradually turning, I feel ready for crunchy leaves, hot chocolate and roast dinners. I prefer tights to bare legs (mine are perpetually white), I love warm fairisle jumpers and woollen miniskirts and layering. I really am an Autumn girl at heart.

Sorry if I’m bringing you down, but think about the other upside to Autumn: the baking. I baked this cake last week and am feeling ready for another delicious dark batch of this. I’ve had enough of pavlovas and strawberries. The apples and damsons are ripening in our garden and I’m feeling the urge to bake crumbles and pies, desserts to eat warm with ice cream and a cup of tea.

So to pay homage to my favourite season a little early, here’s the recipe for Signe’s jam star Danish pastries – or, pinwheel pastries. This recipe does take a bit of preparation; you have to make the dough the night before baking the pastries. But if you have the time (and take your time), the results are definitely worth it. Next time I think I’ll make a large batch and freeze it for when I have the pastry itch. You can use any jam you like, and as the photograph in the book shows, these pastries look especially pretty with different-coloured toppings. I used damson jam, however, as we had a large jar in the fridge, made by Jim using fruit from our damson trees.

I made these pastries for my pals at knitting club, and they went down very well. I will roll the dough a bit thinner next time, though, as my pinwheels turned out a bit, well, beastly! I’m really pleased I took the time to make these sweet pastries, and will definitely be making them an Autumn staple in my baking repertoire. After all, it is nearly damson season.

Jam star Danish pastries
recipe from Scandilicious Baking by Signe Johansen
Makes 12-15

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Ingredients:

for the Danish pastry – prepared the day before baking the pinwheels
250-300ml whole milk
500g strong white flour
10g fine sea salt
2 tbsp caster sugar
2 tsp freshly ground cardamom
15g fresh yeast or 7g fast action dried yeast
1 medium egg, beaten
250g unsalted butter, chilled

– Scald 250ml of the milk by heating it in a small pan until almost boiling and then allow it to cool. Scalding the milk makes the finished pastry softer.

– Sift the flour, salt, sugar and cardamom together in a large bowl, sprinkle in the dried yeast (if using) and stir through. If using fresh yeast, cream it with a teaspoon of the sugar in a small bowl and once it is liquid (after about 30 seconds) add to the dry ingredients.

– Make a well in the middle, add the beaten egg and then the milk mixture, which should be warm rather than hot to the touch, as otherwise you risk killing the yeast. Stir everything together until the mixture comes off the sides of the bowl, adding as much of the remaining milk as you feel is needed until the dough looks – for want of a better word – doughy. Shape into a rough rectangle shape, cover with lightly oiled clingfilm and refrigerate overnight.

– Take the dough out of the fridge and allow to come to room temperature (30-60 minutes depending on how cold your fridge is). Use a cheese slicer or a very sharp knife to cut 250g chilled butter into thin slices. Lightly flour the surface you’re going to roll the dough on and the dough itself. Roll out to a rectangle about 45cm x 15cm and roughly 1cm thick. Starting at one end of the pastry rectangle, place the butter slices across two-thirds the pastry, leaving a border of a couple of centimetres around the edges. Make sure the butter is evenly distributed and that there are no large lumps sticking out.

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– Fold the unbuttered pastry third over to sit on top of half of the buttered pastry, and then fold the remaining buttered third on the top of that, so that you end up with a rectangle of pastry a third of the size but three times as thick as when you started. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again to a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways again, cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for one hour.

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– Remove from the fridge, place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a long rectangle (roughly 50cm x 10-15cm) when it again should be about 1cm thick. This time fold both the shorter ends in so they meet in the middle and then fold of half on top of the other, as if you’re closing a book. Turn the pastry 90° and roll out again into a rectangle about 1cm thick. Fold in thirds lengthways one last time, cover with clingfilm and leave to chill for another hour or so before using to make Danish pinwheels.

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for the pastries
1 batch of Danish pastry (as above)
12-15 tbsp jam
1 medium egg, beaten

– Lightly oil a large baking sheet or line with parchment paper. Roll out the chilled Danish pastry on a lightly floured surface until it forms a rectangle about 30cm x 40-50cm. Slice into 12-15 equal squares of pastry, until 10cm x 10cm each, and place about 3-4cm apart on the baking sheet.

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– Use a sharp knife to split each corner of the squares by cutting a couple of centimetres in from the tip towards the centre, leaving the middle of each pastry square uncut (to make room for the jam).

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– Dollop a tablespoon of jam on the centre of each square. Lift one side (left or right, whichever you prefer) of one of the split corners of the pastry square and fold it in towards the middle, pressing gently in to the jam so that it stays put. Repeat with the same side of each of the remaining split corners, pressing the pastry tips together in the middle, to create a pinwheel star shape. Brush the exposed pastry surfaces with beaten egg (dabbing a little on the points where they meet in the middle to stick them together), cover and leave to prove in a warm place for 20 minutes. While they are proving, preheat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/gas mark 7.

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– Bake on the upper shelf of the oven for 5 minutes before reducing the heat to 190°C/170°C/gas mark 5 for a further 3-5 minutes or until the pastries look golden brown and feel crispy and firm to the touch.

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– Leave to cool slightly on a wire rack, sift icing sugar over the top for a pretty touch and eat while still warm (but not immediately out of the oven, as the jam gets very hot).

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2 thoughts on “Damson season

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