The Danish broke my heart

Having a Hungarian father meant I grew up eating only “European” food at home, which meant the odd salami crept into my school sandwich and Sunday breakfast was smelly blue cheese. You can imagine the horror my Australian friends had when my mother was cooking cabbage soup. My father saw me as his Hungarian daughter. And I, having been born and raised in Australia saw myself naturally as a dinky-di Aussie.

So, where does the Danish come in? The Danish comes into the gammet of all European food products my father was constantly seeking out. Australia in the 1980’s and prior, was not exactly known for its culinary variety. But as Europeans began to settle and open up small family businesses, my father eventually found his Europe. He found an Italian coffee shop owner in Rockdale who made killer expresso’s. He found a Frenchman (or was he Italian?) who sold smelly french cheeses. He found an Italian delicatessen in Ramsgate, selling everything from Italian, Spanish to Hungarian salamis and cold meat cuts. He found the Macadonian butcher who would give him kilos (when the English only served slices). He found the Chinaman in Coogee who opened at the crack of dawn to sell him his cheese and bacon bread. He found an Austro-Hungarian cafe and pastry shop in Bondi who made his favourite Hungarian, Viennese and German pastries.

On my school holidays, it was a must that I go to work with my father. My father, a mechanic, got up at a chirpy 4am. This meant I accompanied him to work at 5am (from the South to the East of Sydney) and as my reward we’d visit the pastry shop in Eastgardens/Coogee where he was known like family. There, I was introduced to croissants, Danish’s, Vanilla slice (known as Millefeuille in France), Blackforest, you name it. The Danish croissant was my father’s favourite. We’d pick up a bag of them before work. He preferred the one with peach. I loved my Danish with cherries.

So, when it came time to make the Danish in class I knew I had to make the very best. Afterall, this was my childhood thing. What I didn’t forsee is that I would be the only one in my class not to have succeeded, at all. I blame it on that bastard of a dough. I think I started this recipe with too much emotion and high expectations because before I knew it I was upset to not get the result I wanted, eventually throwing it all in the bin before even making it to the oven.

The dough that we make for Viennoserie is a real stubborn shit. He doesn’t like to stretch out when you roll him out. You are rolling that damn dough FOREVER! Chef starts a new demonstration just as I’m fighting my dough. So, I’m like, ‘hell with it!’. I put the dough in the freezer on the advice of another to go watch the demo. The freezer idea was to stop the dough from shrinking. So, on removing my dough from the freezer I noticed it had shrunk, solidified and dried out. The sheet of dough, or shit of a dough, is supposed to be rectangle, the size of the wire rack and smooth like a babies bottom. Mine wasn’t rectangle and it had the skin of a reptile. I went into, “I can save you” damage control, and I tried to roll out the damn thing once more. It tore. I then tried to mend it. I figured I better get a move on and start cutting my dough into the pieces required for a the Danish. As I cut, my pieces shrank, again. Then, we were to fold and make beautiful little Japanse origami looking designs (not at all the Danish I remember). And when I folded my shrinking dough my pastry origami were Barbie size. If I was going to put half a peach over the top of my origami, you wouldn’t be able to see the pastry. I wanted to cry. Instead I threw my dough in the bin. If I wasn’t going to produce the perfect Danish, then I wasn’t going to produce any at all! I watched all my classmates produced gorgeous little origami Danishes. I was envious and heartbroken. My mini internal tantrum will now have to calm down, and eventually I’ll have to face the Danish once again, preferably in the privacy of my own kitchen.

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The Kougloff. A part of Alsace.

This week we’ve done a sharp turn (from Millefeuilles) into regional and international pastry. Welcome to the region of Alsace and its Kougloff.

The Kougloff, kougelhopf , is said to have originated from the famous Baba au Rhum. Like the Baba au Rhum, the Kougloff is a sort of Brioche.

When preparing the Kougloff dough we begin to talk about types of flour. We will use a Type 45 flour.

We throw all the ingredients into the KitchenAid bowl: flour, yeast, salt, granulated sugar, eggs and gradually add the milk as the machine is on slow to medium speed. The machine will mix for 15-20 minutes before we add the softened butter. In the meantime, we butter our large towering triangular shaped donut looking mould and follow this with sprinkles (or lashings) of peeled almonds. Once the dough is well mixed and elastic we are going to measure its temperature, we want 23 – 25 degrees celcius. We then add rum infused raisins to the dough and mix it through with our hands – you see why the dough has to have strength because the raisins hold a lot of liquid.  Then, line only 60% of the mould’s interior. The dough must rest in the mould before baking. When the Kougloff is well baked and out of the oven, we will then turn it upside down into a bowl of melted clarified butter. Then turn it back upright. Wait for the Kougloff to cool down before showering it with icing sugar. Think of the snowy alps.

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The image is all there: the snow is falling & you’re inside your cabin retreat with a cup of rum infused red tea. You’re wearing wool and all cozy in front of the fireplace snuggled in the arms of your partner. The Kougloff is baking, and in any moment you will open the oven door, and then remember, why it is you love winter in Europe.