Before having kids, I really enjoyed daily dinner prep. Both my husband and I are fairly adventurous eaters, so I had fun scouring the internet and cookbooks finding new dishes and techniques to try, or riffing on our fridge contents to create interesting meals.
Nowadays, I still enjoy making dinner but my methods and priorities have definitely shifted. Speed and “will the kids eat it?” are of the essence; new recipes and unusual flavors are typically saved for the weekends or side dishes. While both my kids like to eat, we do experience the typical toddler pickiness that often changes from meal to meal. So finding meals that are palatable for both three-year-olds and thirty-somethings can sometimes be a challenge.
One thing I can always count on my kids being willing to try is anything that involves dipping. So when I was flipping through Jane Hornby’s new cookbook Simple and Classic this breaded fish and tartar sauce recipe caught my eye.
Homemade fish sticks might sound a bit fussy and labor intensive, but these actually come together fairly quickly — totally doable for a busy weeknight. And — more importantly — they are delicious! Using a firm white fish means the fish sticks are mild enough for the little people, and the flavorful crust and punchy dip makes it interesting enough for the older ones. This definitely earned a spot in the regular dinner rotation!
I’m looking forward to trying some of the other dishes in Hornby’s book — it’s packed full of straightforward, easy-to-follow recipes that are simply photographed with step-by-step shots. There’s a nice blend of familiar dishes — such as Sticky BBQ Chicken, Chocolate Profiteroles, and Cheese and Onion Tart — interspersed with more adventurous ones — say, Raspberry & Passion Fruit Mallow Meringue, Lemon Basil Gnudi with Fava Beans, and Shrimp and Mushroom Laksa. Thanks very much to Phaidon Books for sending it along!
A couple of notes:
Instead of using day-old white bread, I used panko (about 175g to account for the discarded bread crusts). I just mixed all the coating ingredients together in a bowl instead of using a food processor.
This recipe makes quite a bit of coating; I had a bit leftover. I recommend just putting some of it on a plate to coat the fish and refilling as necessary. Extras can be frozen; in fact, Hornby suggests making a double batch and freezing the remainder for the future.
4 thick slices white bread (day-old bread is best), about 7 oz. (200g)
1 handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp mild olive oil
2 oz (50g) Parmesan cheese (2/3 c grated)
1 3/4 lb (800g) sustainably sourced thick white fish fillet, such as cod, haddock, or pollack
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 large egg
2 tsp capers
1 large or 5 small pickles (gherkins)
1/2 c (100g) good-quality mayonnaise (swap half for sour cream, if desired)
salt and pepper
salad greens or peas, to serve
Preheat the oven to 425F (220C). Cut the crusts from the bread and discard. Put the bread into a food processor with half of the parsley — stems (stalks) too — and all of the oil.
Blend everything together to make oily, herbed bread crumbs. Finely grate the Parmesan and the lemon zest, then mix into the crumbs with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl.
Cut the fish into chunky sticks about 1 1/4″ x 1 1/4″ x 4 inches ( 3 x 3 x 10 cm).
Put the flour onto a plate and season it generously with salt and pepper. Break the egg into a bowl, add salt and pepper to this, too, then beat it with a fork. Dust a piece of fish with the flour, then dip it into the egg. Let the excess egg drip off into the bowl below, then roll and pat the fish in the crumbs until covered in an even layer.
Place it onto a nonstick baking sheet and repeat with the rest of the fish. Rinse and dry your hands every now and again, because they can get sticky.
Bake the fish for 12-15 minutes, or until crisp and golden. Meanwhile, make the tartar sauce. Cut the lemon in half, squeeze one half, and cut the other into wedges. Finely chop the remaining parsley leaves, the capers, and pickles (gherkins), and put into a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and 1 Tbsp lemon juice. Season the sauce with salt and pepper.
Serve the fish with the tartar sauce, lemon wedges, and some salad leaves or just-cooked peas.
Laminated dough is the perfect blank canvas for a baker. It can go sweet or savory, and you can shape it in so many ways. I’ve used this sourdough danish dough previously to make these delicious morning buns, and in this post I’m giving just a couple more ways to put this pastry to work.
While there are a ton of ways you can shape danishes, I’m partial to the pocket and diamond shapes because they accommodate a good amount of filling. I almost always fill my sweet pastries with either cream cheese filling or frangipane — both are simple to whip up and complement any number of fruits. I like using cream cheese with berries (or a dollop of jam or lemon curd) and frangipane with plums, pears, rhubarb, and apples — but experiment with what you have and come up with your own favorite combos! Enjoy!
A few notes:
The proofing time for these danishes can vary quite a bit depending on the temperature of your kitchen. For me it usually takes about 2 hours at warm room temperature (about 80F). Proof them until they’re double in size, very puffy, and jiggle when you shake the pan. The oven with the light on and a pan of warm water is a great proofing spot — just make sure to take the danishes out when preheating the oven!
To make sure the bottoms of the danishes don’t get too dark before they bake through, I bake these pastries on a two baking sheets stacked right on top of each other. If you like the bottoms extra crisp, this isn’t necessary.
I like finishing fruit danishes by brushing the fruit with a bit of simple syrup right after the danishes come out of the oven. It gives the fruit a little bit of shine and your pastries that special little bakery touch.
1 recipe cream cheese filling or frangipane filling (see below)
Fresh fruit such as berries or plums — depending on type/size of fruit, you may need several berries or several slices of fruit per danish; can also use a not-too-runny jam/preserves
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp milk or water and a pinch of salt for egg wash
Turbinado sugar, optional
Simple syrup, optional
Powdered sugar, optional
For the cream cheese filling:
113g cream cheese, softened (about half a block)
2 Tbsp sugar
Dash of vanilla extract
Pinch of kosher salt
Squeeze of lemon juice
For the frangipane filling:
100g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g almond flour
15g AP flour
For the cream cheese filling:
Combine the cream cheese, sugar, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (a hand mixer also works). Mix on low until smooth. Scrape down the sides and add lemon juice a tsp at a time to taste. Transfer to a pastry bag. Filling can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before piping onto danishes.
For the frangipane filling:
In a small bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the egg, salt, and vanilla, and beat until combined. Add the almond and all purpose flour and fold in using a silicone spatula or wooden spoon. Transfer to a pastry bag. Filling can be prepared up to 3 days in advance and refrigerated; bring to room temperature before piping onto danishes.
For the danishes:
On a lightly floured surface, roll the danish dough into a large rectangle about 10″ x 14″. Trim the edges so you have a neat rectangle measuring 9″ x 13.5″. Cut dough into eight 4.5″ inch squares. Stack, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 10 minutes to relax the gluten.
Stack two large baking trays together (see notes above) and line the top tray with parchment paper. Remove the pastry from the refrigerator (I like to work with 2-3 squares at a time, leaving the rest refrigerated). Shape into pockets or diamonds as desired and transfer to prepared baking sheet. (See below.)
Brush the shaped pastries with egg wash and cover loosely with lightly oiled plastic wrap. Place in a warm area of the kitchen (around 78-80F — no hotter than 80F or the ) to proof until doubled in size and layers are very visible — about 2-3 hours. Prepare your filling of choice while the pastries proof, if you haven’t already.
When the pastries are nearly finished proofing, preheat oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. Pipe desired filling into the center of the pastries, about 1-2 Tbsp each. Top with fruit, pressing lightly to adhere. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar if desired.
Bake at 425F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 375F and bake for another 10-20 minutes, or until well risen and browned. Brush the fruit with simple syrup after removing from oven, if desired. Cool for about 10 minutes before dusting with powdered sugar and serving. Danishes are best eaten the day they’re baked, but reheat well the day after in a 350F oven for 5-10 minutes.
For the “pocket” shape, dab a little filling or egg wash in the center of the square. Fold the two opposing corners into the center, pressing fairly firmly to stick. Repeat with the opposite corners. If the corners pop open during proofing, gently press them back down before adding filling.
For the “diamond” shape, gently fold the pastry square on the diagonal to form a triangle, making sure the corners line up. Using a sharp knife, make two cuts parallel to the sides of the triangle, leaving about 1/4″ of pastry on the edges. Don’t let the cuts meet or you will end up with two pieces of pastry! Unfold the dough and orient the square so it is like a diamond. Fold one edge over so it meets the cut you just made. Repeat with the other edge to form a diamond. You can watch me forming this shape in my Instagram stories — look for the Diamond Danish highlight.