While viennoiserie may be considered quintessentially French, it has its origins, as the name suggests, in Vienna. And we have an Austrian by the name of August Zang to thank for it.
He began his career as an artillery officer, but in 1837 or ’38, when he was about 30, this enterprising young man moved to Paris and opened up a bakery, which he called, apropros enough, Boulangerie Viennoise. Not only did he introduce to French cuisine the Austrian pastry called a kipferl — which the French then dubbed the croissant for its crescent shape — he also brought with him the steam oven, which made French baking and, more specifically, viennoiserie what it is today.
Never mind that he went back to Vienna 10 years later and completely reinvented himself again, this time as a journalist, Zang made an indelible impression not only on French baking but even on bakeries themselves, as the French began imitating the look of his bakery, leading to the iconic brass, glass and marble décor that French boulangeries are known for today.
Viennoiserie has been called the bridge between boulangerie and patisserie, the two categories of classic French baking — boulangerie generally used to describe breads and rolls, and patisserie describing the cream- and fruit-filled confections built around a pastry crust or cake. As the famous Escoffier culinary school’s website describes the difference:
“On the one hand, viennoiserie could be considered the hot work of a boulangerie baker. The perfection of a perfect brioche crust is surely under the purview of this master of heat. However, making the proper croissant dough so that the end product is light, fluffy and buttery falls squarely on the patisserie chef. That being said, should you be visiting Paris any time soon, you are much more likely to find viennoiserie in a boulangerie and not necessarily a patisserie.”
Viennoiserie are made with enriched dough. Some are laminated with butter to form the flaky, delicate layers epitomized in the croissant. In this category you’ll find the pain au chocolat, pain au raisin, chausson aux pommes and the palmiere. Other viennoiserie are simply yeast doughs with added milk, butter, eggs and sugar to make soft, rich breads like the brioche, pain au lait, pavé suisse and Vienna bread. They are often eaten at breakfast or as an afternoon snack (especially for schoolchildren).
For this challenge, the bakers in the Great White Tent were charged with making two types of viennoiserie, 12 of each. Nancy and Luis used laminated dough for both of their pastries, while Richard used laminated dough for his pain au chocolat and enriched dough for his pain au lait. I chose to make two laminated pastries of different shapes but both in the style of what we in the U.S. call Danish. These pastries can be shaped in many different ways, but they all contain fillings or toppings of fruit, cream, nuts or chocolate.
My two varieties include one made in the shape of a kite — like Nancy Birtwhistle’s apple and lemon kites — filled with spiced plums and frangipane, and one in a more traditional Danish shape filled with passion fruit curd and cream cheese filling. I used the pastry recipe from Veena Azmanov’s blog here. I also used her cream cheese filling recipe from the same post, but for the passion fruit curd, I used a recipe I found on TheJamLab.co. For the frangipane, I used a recipe from BBCGoodFood.com which calls for cardamom, a good complement to the spiced plums.
I’ve made laminated dough before, both for the kouign-amann technical challenge earlier this year and for my Puff Pastry Triple Play showstopper from the 2013 GBBO season. This time, I spread the bake out over a few days, making the passion fruit curd and poaching the plums on the first day, then making the dough on the second day, up to the point of completing the turns, leaving it in the fridge until I was ready to form the pastries two days later.
On the day I was ready to form and bake the pastries, I made the cream cheese filling and frangipane, then formed the Passion Fruit Curd and Cream Cheese Danish first, cutting the dough into squares and then folding the corners into the center. Before filling them, I left them to proof with a little parchment paper pouch of pie weights in the center to hold down the corners and create an indentation to hold the filling. They went in to the oven like that for about 5 minutes, just to keep the corners down and to seal the hollow in the center before adding the cream cheese filling. Then I removed the pouches, added a dollop of cream cheese filling to each one, and let them bake for another 20 minutes or so until taking them out of the oven. Once they were cool, I glazed them with apricot jam, topped the cream cheese with a bit of passion fruit curd and garnished each one with a few raspberries.
For the Spiced Plum and Frangipane Kites, I cut the dough into squares, folded each one into a triangle and made a cut about ¼ inch from the edge on two sides of the triangle, leaving the tip of the triangle attached. Then I unfolded the triangle, put about a teaspoon of frangipane in the center, topped it with a poached plum half, and brought one cut side over the plum to the other side, repeating with the opposite side to create a little box frame in the shape of a kite. These were then proofed, baked and glazed as well.
The only problem I encountered with these pastries was that a lot of the butter leaked out during the last proof. I’ve done some research on this, and plan to look into it more, but I think one problem was that the proof setting on my oven is too hot for puff pastry. GBBO 2014 finalist Richard Burr has a handy pastry troubleshooting guide, where he says croissants (and, presumably, other laminated doughs) should be proofed at room temperature. Another reason for the leakage might be that the ratio of butter to flour in this recipe may be too high, according to this thread. While my pastries still came out light and flaky, they didn’t have the distinct layers I was looking for. Like I said, I will continue researching this (and try, try again)! Baking is a lifelong learning process!
Aside from the leakage and layers problem, however, the flavors of these two pastries were outstanding! I can’t say which is my favorite. The cardamom in the poached plums and frangipane really made the flavors sing in the Spiced Plum and Frangipane Kites, while the fresh tanginess of the passion fruit curd provided an extra zing to the Passion Fruit Curd and Cream Cheese Danish. These were a special treat for a few friends who came for brunch on my screen porch on one of the last warm days before the fall chill sets in here in Wisconsin. The company of friends combined with good food and laughter made for a memorable day that will stay with me through the winter.
Laminated Pastry Dough
- In a measuring cup, combine milk, sugar, yeast, egg and vanilla. Leave for 3-5 minutes to make sure it foams up. (This tells you the yeast is still active.) In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment, combine 4 cups flour and salt. Add yeast mixture to flour mixture. Mix on medium-high speed until all the flour is incorporated. Mix for 1 minute more. Gradually add ¼ cup butter, one tablespoon at a time. Once the butter is incorporated, mix for 3 minutes on medium. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky. Remove from the mixer bowl and shape into a ball. Place in another bowl that has been lightly oiled and chill for 15 minutes.
- To make the butter block, first cut a piece of parchment paper approximately 13 by 14 inches. With the longer side facing you, fold in 3 ½ inches on the side closest to you and 3 ½ inches on the opposite side, then fold in 1 inch on each end, creating an envelope of parchment paper 12 inches by 6 inches.
- In the same mixer bowl that was used for the dough, use a paddle attachment to cream the remaining 1½ cups butter and 4 tablespoons flour just until combined. Unfold the parchment envelope and transfer butter mixture to the inside, spreading evenly with a spatula onto the 6×12 interior surface. Then fold up the envelope and use a rolling pin to spread the butter to the edges of the folds, creating a 6×12-inch butter block. Press a ruler across the middle to divide the butter in half crosswise, so there are two 6-inch squares. Chill for 15 minutes.
- Transfer chilled dough to a lightly floured surface. Roll to a 7×18-inch rectangle, using a ruler or bench scraper to straighten sides. Open the butter block and divide it into two halves. Place one half of the butter block on the center of the dough. Fold one end of dough over the butter, then place the other butter block on top and fold the other end over that, pressing to seal edges. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, place it on a baking sheet and chill for 15 minutes.
- First turn: Remove dough from fridge. With the short side facing you, roll the chilled dough lengthwise into a rectangle approximately 6×12 inches. Fold one-third of one short end in and fold the other end over it, like a business letter. Wrap and place on a baking sheet and chill for 30 minutes.
- Second turn: Remove dough from fridge. With the short side facing you again, roll the dough lengthwise to about 6×12 inches. Fold into thirds again, and place in the fridge for 30 more minutes.
- Third turn: Remove dough from fridge. With the short side facing you, roll the dough again to about 6×12 inches. Fold the dough into thirds again, and chill for at least two hours and up to 48 hours. While dough is chilling, make the fillings.
- When ready to shape into pastries, remove dough from fridge, roll dough into a 6×12-inch rectangle again, divide into two halves and place one back in the fridge while you work on the other. Roll the dough into a square approximately 13×13 inches. Trim edges so you have a 12×12-inch square with straight, sharp edges. This will give you a better rise. Cut into 16 3×3-inch squares. Place squares on a parchment-lined baking sheet and refrigerate until ready to form, working with only a few at a time. Repeat with other half of dough.
Passion Fruit Curd and Cream Cheese Danish
Credit for cream cheese filling: VeenaAsmanov.com
For the curd:
- ¼ c. passion fruit pulp
- 2 T. lemon juice
- ½ c. sugar, divided
- ½ t. vanilla bean paste
- 2 egg yolks
- 3 T. unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
For cream cheese filling:
- ½ c. cream cheese, softened
- 2 T. sugar
- 1 egg yolk
- ½ t. vanilla
- ½ t. lemon zest
For the pastries:
- ½ batch laminated pastry dough (recipe above)
- 1 egg
- 1 t. water
- 1 t. sugar
- ½ c. apricot jam (for glaze*)
- ¼ c.water
- Fresh raspberries (for garnish)
- Powdered sugar (for dusting)
- To make the curd: Add passion fruit pulp, lemon juice and ¼ cup of the sugar to a heatproof glass bowl. Bring a small saucepan with about an inch of water to a simmer on medium heat. Once the water starts bubbling, place the glass bowl onto the pan and let it warm up. (Bowl should fit over the pan without touching the water.)
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, whisk the egg yolks and remaining ¼ cup sugar until mixture is pale yellow in color and reaches ribbon stage.
- When the pulp mixture is warm, gradually pour about ¼ cup into the egg yolk mixture while whisking continuously to temper the yolks. Then add the entire yolk mixture to the rest of the pulp mixture in the bowl over the saucepan, and continue stirring over medium-low heat. Using a rubber spatula, stir continuously for 8-10 minutes, until it coats the back of a spoon and when you run your finger across the spoon it leaves a trail. Remove from heat.
- Remove glass bowl from saucepan. Add the butter to the curd and whisk until well-combined and the mixture is smooth and silky. Add vanilla bean paste and stir to combine. Cover surface with plastic wrap so it doesn’t form a film on top and refrigerate. Once cooled for 3 to 4 hours, it should be firm. It can be made ahead and stored in fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- To make the cream cheese filling, beat cream cheese and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk, vanilla and lemon zest and mix well. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- When ready to form the pastries, cut 16 pieces of parchment paper about 6 inches square. Put about 2 tablespoons of dry beans or pie weights into the center of each square, then gather the corners together and twist to make a pouch.
- Remove four 3×3-inch squares of pastry from the fridge at a time. Roll them out slightly larger, to about 4×4 inches. Fold the corners of each square almost to the center. Place a parchment pouch in the center to hold the corners down. Place the squares two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with remaining 12 pastry squares. Cover with clean dish towel and proof at room temperature for 2-3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 415°F. Remove cream cheese mixture from fridge. Make egg wash** by combining egg, water and sugar and whisking for 2 minutes until smooth. Dip pastry brush in egg wash, remove excess and lightly brush the border and sides of each pastry. Place baking sheets with pastries in center of oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes, then remove baking sheets from oven and reduce temperature to 375°F. Remove parchment pouches and place about 1 heaping teaspoon of cream cheese onto the center of each pastry. Bake for about 15-20 more minutes, until golden brown, rotating trays after 10 minutes for even baking.
- While pastries bake, make glaze* by heating apricot jam and ¼ cup water in a saucepan on low heat until dissolved. Strain through a sieve and set aside until ready to use. If necessary, microwave for 10 seconds before using. When pastries come out of the oven, brush sides and tops with apricot glaze. Once pastries are cool, top cream cheese filling with a teaspoon or two of passionfruit curd, garnish with raspberries and sprinkle with powdered sugar. These pastries are best when served the same day they are made, but they will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge.
**Egg wash makes enough for both pastry recipes.
Spiced Plum and Frangipane Kites
For the poached plums:
- 6-8 plums
- 2 c. water
- ½ c. sugar
- ½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 1-inch piece cinnamon stick
For the frangipane:
For the pastries:
- ½ batch of laminated pastry dough (recipe above)
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 t. water
- 1 t. sugar
- ½ c. apricot jam (for glaze*)
- ¼ c. water
- To poach the plums: In a large saucepan, combine water and sugar and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cut plums in half and remove pits, if possible. (If pits are too hard to remove, leave them in. They will come out easier after poaching.)
- Reduce heat, add vanilla bean, cardamom pods, cinnamon stick and plums. Simmer over moderate heat until just tender, about 10 minutes. (It may take 5 minutes more or less, depending on ripeness of plums.)
- Using a slotted spoon, transfer plums to a plate. When cool enough to handle, remove skin and remaining pits. Boil the poaching liquid until slightly thickened. Discard vanilla pod, cardamom and cinnamon stick, and return plums to poaching liquid. Remove pan from heat and let plums cool in liquid. Store, tightly covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use. (Plums can be poached two days ahead.)
- To make the frangipane, cream butter and sugar together, then add eggs and mix till well-incorporated. Add ground almonds, flour, baking powder and cardamom and mix well. Fold in flaked almonds.
- To form the kites, fold each 3×3-inch square of dough into a triangle. Make a 2½-inch cut about ¼ inch from the edge along each side of the triangle, from the base to about ½ inch from the tip, leaving the tip of the triangle intact. Unfold the triangle into a square again. The cuts should form a frame that is attached at two corners. Place about a teaspoon of the frangipane inside the frame in the center of the square. Lightly brush the edges of the frame with the beaten egg. Place a plum half on top of the frangipane. Lift one side of the frame over the plum half and place it on the other side of the square. Then take the other side of the frame and do the same, lightly pressing the edges together to seal. Place pastries on parchment-covered baking sheet and cover with a clean dish towel. Chill until ready to bake.
- Remove from fridge and let proof at room temperature for 1-1½ hours. Preheat oven to 375°F. Make egg wash** by combining the rest of the beaten egg used to brush the edges of the kites with 1 teaspoon sugar and 1 teaspoon water, whisking for 2 minutes until smooth. Brush tops and sides of pastries with egg wash. Bake about 15 minutes until rich golden brown, rotating baking sheets halfway through to maintain even browning.
- While pastries bake, make glaze* by heating apricot jam and ¼ cup water in a saucepan on low heat until dissolved . Strain through a sieve and set aside until ready to use. If necessary, microwave for 10 seconds before using. When pastries are done, remove from oven and leave on baking sheets to cool for 10 minutes, then glaze with apricot glaze and transfer to cooling racks. These pastries are best when served the same day they are made, but they will keep for a few days in an airtight container in the fridge.
**Or use egg wash left over from making Passionfruit Curd and Cream Cheese Danish.