DANISH FROM THE SWAMPS OF BEVERLY HILLS
High end DIY Danish, who knew?
Alligator coffee cake is a Los Angeles thing. It’s a “Danish,” which as far as I know, was the original creation (the Alligator specifically, not Danish pastry in general, you big silly) of a local bakery, Viktor Benes Bakery, which was located in Beverly Hills adjacent West Hollywood. Benes was a Czechoslovakian bakery who started his business in Chicago, and emigrated along with it to Los Angeles in the mid forties. The Alligator’s carriage-trade popularity played an important role in Viktor Benes’ success and ultimate metamorphosis to an (upscale) chain.
An Alligator recipe was originally published in the Los Angeles Times, (I think) sometime in the eighties. This version reflects rewriting to make the whole thing read better, make better sense, create a better work flow, adjust for the near universal switch to instant yeast, adjust for my prejudices favoring lots of cling wrap, and to add some “how to” for the techniques. In short, Benes’ ingredients, Benes’ techniques, (mostly) BDL words.
As you may or may not have guessed by now, I’m a compulsive tweaker and reviser of recipes. That this one remains relatively intact should speak volumes.
ALLIGATOR COFFEE CAKE
VIKTOR BENES BAKERIES
Amount: 2 Alligator Coffee Cakes
Difficulty: Shouldn’t Be Your First Adventure with Dough
1/2 tbs instant yeast
1 cup warm milk (105-115 degrees)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons melted butter
2 1/2 cups flour
1 each egg, beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1 (7-oz) pkg almond paste
3/4 cup butter
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cups pecans, ground
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter
2 cups confectioner’s sugar, sift prior measuring
10.5 oz pecan halves, which about 3 cups, which is about 60 – 90 pieces,
Add the dry pastry ingredients to a mixing bowl, and combine them with a fork. Add the milk and melted butter, and mix until all of the flour is picked up. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead to make a smooth dough, about 8 minutes by hand, 5 by machine.
Transfer the dough to a clean, greased bowl. Cover with cling wrap, and let it rest for 30 – 45 minutes.
While the dough rests, make the filling and icing as follows:
Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the almond paste, and honey and stir or machine mix on low to form smooth paste. If working by hand, fold the flour in. Alternatively, if using a mixer, mix the flour in gradually at slow speed, in 3 additions. When the flour is blended in, add the pecans and mix them in as well. Cover and set aside.
Heat maple syrup and butter in small saucepan until butter melts. Add sugar, and stir until smooth. Cover and set aside.
Building and Baking the Alligator:
When the dough has rested, roll out on floured board into large rectangle. Spread top with 1/4 cup softened butter. Fold dough into thirds, letter style. Repeat 3 more times, making four “turns” in total, turning it 90* relative to the last turn before rolling it out. Then, as before, cover with 1/4 cup softened butter, and fold letter style each time. If the dough becomes too sticky to roll at any of these turns, allow it to rest, covered, for 30 minutes before rolling again.
In any case, after allow it to rest 30 minutes after the last before filling.
Before rolling out, preheat your oven to 375F.
Divide dough into two equal portions. Roll one portion of the dough as thinly as possible into a rectangle – about 12″ x 18″. Spread half of the filling evenly on the entire surface of dough. Fold the dough in thirds to make a 6″ x 12″ rectangle, so all the filling is inside the Alligator. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased baking sheet (or, you may use parchment or a silpat) and brush with beaten egg. Garnish the top with half of the pecan halves. Create a casual, windblown, tousled feeling with the nuts. No need to be geometric.
Repeat the rolling, filling and folding with the second portion of dough, transfer to the same or another sheet, and garnish as before.
Allow the Alligators rest 15 minutes before baking, lightly covered with cling-wrap.
Bake at 375 degrees 20 to 30 minutes or until GBD (Chefspeak for golden, brown and delicious).
Remove from the oven.
If necessary reheat the icing so it flows, and while the Alligators are still hot, drizzle each with icing.
Allow to cool as long as you can stand it – or until fully cool. Just, for heaven’s sake, remember that the sweet filling is going to be about 40 bazillion degrees hotter than the exterior.