This is a yeasted foundation dough that will be used to make several recipes in the MSBH, including danishes, sticky buns, and sugar buns.
This dough has pretty much the exact same ingredients as brioche, but the process to bring these ingredients together is totally different. Instead of kneading the butter into the dough, it is placed between layers of dough and then the entire batch is folded over and over to incorporate the butter without ever fully mixing it into the dough itself.
It is all quite a process and takes several hours, as you have to chill the dough between each of the folding stages.
So, you begin with a lump of dough that has been mixed briefly in the electric mixer.
This is then kneaded by hand just enough to create a smooth ball that will be wrapped and placed in the refrigerator to chill. Here is where I think the wording of this recipe should be clearer: the text says to “wrap well with plastic and refrigerate.”
Now, I read and re-read that sentence over and over again because I knew that this dough had a fair amount of yeast in it because, you know, I had just made it. There was a lot of yeast mixed with lots of things yeast loves: warm milk, flour, and sugar. I knew that this dough was going to be growing. Even in a cold environment, it was going to expand. “Wrap[ping] well with plastic” was a bit ambiguous. Surely it should have read, “Place in a bowl and top with plastic,” right? But “wrap well with plastic” implies what one would do with a disc of pie crust dough – wrap it up so it doesn’t dry out. But I knew that was a bizarre thing to do with yeasted dough.
But in the end I decided wrapping “well” meant wrapping tightly enough to keep it from drying out but loosely enough to give it room to expand. That’s not an easy thing to do with plastic wrap, and here’s what happened within an hour of my placing it in the refrigerator:
So I placed it in a bowl and covered that with plastic, which is what I should have done in the first place.
Once it has chilled several hours (or overnight), the majority of the butter the recipe calls for is incorporated through the folding process. The dough is rolled out into a large rectangle and the butter is distributed onto 2/3 of the surface area. Then the rectangle is folded into thirds like an envelope.
Once folded, it’s rolled out again into a large rectangle just like before. No more butter is added at this point, but it is folded into thirds again and refrigerated.
After chilling for an hour, it’s rolled out into a large rectangle and folded into thirds and then chilled again. You repeat this several times.
The butter becomes more and more incorporated until the dough can be rolled out into a very flat and smooth rectangle. You can still see some of the light-colored butter patched through the dough, but there are no bumps at all. It takes a lot of muscle to roll out the large rectangles, as the dough gets very cold in the refrigerator. This is definitely a labor-intensive recipe.
Once it has gone through all its rolls and folds and chills, it must chill again overnight before it can be used for any recipes. It’s wrapped up in plastic wrap and it does continue to rise a bit in the refrigerator due to the yeast, but not too much.
All of the recipes in MSBH calling for danish dough require only half a batch be used, so at least you can get two recipes out of your efforts.
You can see the thin layers once the final “envelope” is cut in half.
(Recipes using this dough will be posted soon!)