The only trick to making the pastry is that you absolutely must keep the dough cold. Earth Balance melts much, much quicker than (dairy) butter, so I cannot stress enough how important it is for the dough to be chillled. If the EB begins to look soft or melty at all, pop the whole thing into the freezer for a few minutes. This sounds fussy, but trust me, if you want your pastry to be flaky the butter must be kept cold. (All the folding and rolling creates layers of dough separated by layers of butter. When you put the pastry into the hot oven, the butter melts, leaving spaces between the dough layers, which is what makes the pastry flaky. If the butter isn't kept cold, these layers will not form, and instead the butter will get mixed into the dough. You'll have a tender, bread-like creation-- it won't be flaky.)
Even leaving the dough at room temperature to rise makes the earth balance too soft, which is why the dough needs to rise overnight in the fridge.
Anyway, if you keep everything cold enough, I think you'll find this fun and easy to make.
Apricot Danish Pastry (makes 12-- but it's easy to freeze half the dough and make just six at a time)
2 tablespoons of sugar
¼ cup of tepid water
1 tablespoon of dry active yeast
3/4 cup of (soy) milk at room temperature
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
8 oz. (two sticks) of butter (I used Earth Balance)
about 1/2 cup of apricot jam (100% fruit type)
12 preserved apricot halves, syrup reserved
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tbsp reserved syrup
Place the water, milk, sugar, and yeast in a bowl and leave for a few minutes to foam.
Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes and mix into the flour mixture. Create a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the yeast mixture. Fold the dough together with a few gentle strokes. Be careful to handle the dough as little as possible. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and leave the the refrigerator to rise overnight, or for 8 or so hours.
(The closed fold is on the right in this photo.)
After the dough has risen (it won't have risen dramatically), lightly coat a large cutting board, pastry cloth, or wax paper taped to the table with flour. Place the dough on the surface, and shape into a rough square. Roll it into a 16 in. square, and fold into third, like a buisness letter. The closed fold--like the spine of a book-- should face your left. (If the butter begins to soften at any point in the rolling-folding process, imediately pop the dough in the freezer for a quick cool-down.) Roll the dough out again into a 10x24 in. rectangle. Fold it in thirds again, the closed fold to your left, and roll out into a 20 in. square. Fold the square in thirds, so that you have a long rectangle, and turn the closed fold to your left. Roll the dough out once more into a 10x24 in. rectangle, and fold it in thirds again. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before proceeding.
After the dough has chilled, take it out of the fridge and cut in half. If you want to freeze half the dough, now is the time. (Note-- the apricots are enough for the full amount of pastry, so if you're only using half the dough, you'll only need 6.)
Lightly butter a cookie sheet. Roll each half of the dough into a 10x15 in. rectangle, and cut into 6 5 in. squares. Use a ruler. Put a dollop of jam in the center of each square, and an apricot half on top of the jam. Turn each corner of the dough up, so that they form a frame around the apricot. Use a bit of force to press them in. Place the pastries on the cookie sheet(s), and leave to rise for about half an hour, until the pastry is slightly puffy. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400 F.
Right before baking, brush each pastry with the reserved syrup. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown. Place on a rack to cool.
Mix the confectioners sugar with the syrup, and drizzle on each pastry after they have cooled a bit.
These are best enjoyed right away, but if you must keep them for a longer period, refresh them in a 350 F. oven before eating.