I have been keeping up with the baking project.  I’ve just done a crummy job of keeping up with blogging it.  I’m shooting to be caught up by the end of the month. My last project for February was danishes.  I learned a whole lot doing these.  That’s a pleasant way of saying, “Holy crap, these almost didn’t work out about a hundred times.”  The first thing I learned was that danishes require a lot of butter.  A whole lot of butter. That much butter.  The recipe said to shape the butter into a rectangle with dimensions that would make it cover about 3/4 of the danish dough once you rolled it out to the correct dimensions.  There was a lot of measuring involved in this recipe.  Fortunately, I keep a tape measure in the kitchen.  No lie – I actually do keep a tape measure in the kitchen. The second lesson I learned was that you want all of your various sticks of butter to be the same temperature, and that you do not want that temperature to be frozen.  Cold, yes, or the dough will get mushy.  Frozen, though, means that the dough tears instead of the dough getting pressed into layers for to create flaky goodness.  You’ll be shocked to discover that I learned this because half my butter was frozen when I decided to try folding it into the dough. The weird lumps you see in the dough?  Yeah, that’s butter that didn’t get pressed into the dough correctly.  You will, however, observe that I rolled out the rectangle of dough perfectly, conforming strictly to the dimensions described in the recipe with straight, even sides.  (Now you know why I keep a tape measure in the kitchen, namely, can you imagine what would have happened if I didn’t?) In three pictures and a few paragraphs, I’ve just described something I worked on over two days.  I started the dough on Thursday, thinking that I’d finish up the danishes Friday night and bake them for brunch on Saturday morning.  Then Friday got busy, but I figured I could finish them up on Saturday, only to re-read the recipe Saturday morning and realize there was another rising phase I’d left out.  Woops. Third thing I learned – do not try to make danishes while already overwhelmed with everything else you’re trying to do.  Just admit that the day you make danishes, you’re doing that all day and not accomplishing much of anything else.  It’s not quite true, but you’ll feel better. This was the first point where I felt at all confident that these were going to turn out.  Mostly it was that I rolled out the roll of dough to the correct length, cut the individual danishes at the correct depth, and came up with the right number of danishes.  That might sound like what would, of course, happen, but when it comes to me and measuring things, especially after the fiasco that was trying to fold this dough over frozen butter, that was not at all reliable. This recipe made so many danishes that I had to spread them across two trays, and probably should have used three.  I’d like to point out that this was the half recipe.  Another thing I learned?  Quarter recipes out of this book are your friend, whether they’re actually printed in the book or not. There are reasons other than “ugly lumpy dough” that you don’t want to use frozen butter for danishes.  And it can best be explained with a picture: That’s the butter I poured off the trays when the danishes were supposed to be done baking.  It melted out of the danishes rather than getting absorbed into them.  Woops.  (Butter with hints of cinnamon and sugar makes for an interesting popcorn topping, by the way.  Not sure I’d do it again, but it was definitely worth trying once.) Danishes wound up being a snack for the March meeting of my monthly crit group.  That’s like Saturday brunch, but with more requests for me to please learn how to clearly deliver exposition already.  But look at what they got to eat to console them through their confusion!

There were way, way too many danishes.  They got taken into the office and fed to Realtors on Monday.  For some reason, everybody has been much nicer to me since then…

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