Everyone wants to know why I’m making cheese danishes. They make comments like “Wow, so much butter!” or “These are a little more involved than brownies, aren’t they?”
Yes. Yes, they are. And no, I don’t have a reason for these, other than: it’s February. It’s snowy and cold. And there’s butter in the fridge. Where there’s
a will butter, there’s a way.
So, cheese danishes it is! Ándale!
I had a vision of these, all done, before I even began. They were golden brown and lofty with layers. Soft, cheesecake-y insides were topped with bursting, violet blueberries and they were all drizzled with a mess of lemony icing. To be honest, it’s that vision alone that kept me going through all the rolls and folds and turns and refrigerations. Puff pastry is kind of a pain in the neck!
But it’s a very worth it pain in the neck. Because magic happens when you combine chunks of butter with flour, and give them a little time to mix together. In the oven, those simple ingredients rise, and tower with layers and layers of flakiness. Here, it’s even simpler. While classic puff pastry calls for a big block of butter to be folded into a yeasted dough, here the butter’s directly combined with the dough. That skips a whole extra step and allows for less overall rising time. Meaning? Dough by night and danish by morning!
These are wonderful, with shattering, buttery bases and creamy insides. They’re reminiscent of the danishes I used to have as a kid in Brooklyn, bought on the way to school, but they’re better- maybe because they’re fresher, or topped with sweet blueberries, or maybe because they’re the work of my own two hands.
Either way, starting the day with these is as sweet as the icing they’re topped with and it makes me wish I’d made these earlier. By the way they disappeared, I’d imagine everyone around me agreed.
I’ve decided not to tell them how much butter is in these. If anyone asks, I’ll just stuff another danish into their mouth.
Yields: 9 danishes
Lightly adapted from The New York Times
Why I love this recipe: with a lemony cream cheese filling and a scattering of blueberries, these are ideal breakfast pastries: small, rich, and taken over the top with a lemon icing. The puff pastry is simple and flaky with just a few turns, and makes the perfect base for these danishes, allowing for fresh treats in the morning by way of little work at night.
For the danish dough:
- 1 ½ cups flour, plus more for rolling
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold, unsalted butter, roughly cubed
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup cold whole milk
- 2 tablespoons water
For the filling:
- 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 6 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup blueberries
For the icing:
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- juice of half a lemon
- Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in a bowl. Add the butter to the bowl and with your fingers, work it in until it is the size of small pebbles.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and water.
- Add the egg mixture to the butter/flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture until it is evenly moistened.
- Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a small rectangle, and wrap well. Chill for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.
- On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to an 8-by-15-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the dough in thirds like a letter, bringing the top third of the dough down, then folding the bottom third up. Use a bench scraper to help lift and fold the dough if necessary.
- Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the rolling and folding process, then rotate the dough once more and roll and fold again.
- As you work, dust the work surface, your hands and the rolling pin with flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time for a grand total of six turns. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.
- After the second rise, remove the dough from the fridge and make the filling: in a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, confectioners’ sugar, egg yolk, salt, lemon juice and vanilla until smooth. Set aside until needed.
- On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12 inch square. Trim each edge so it is perfectly square. Cut the dough into nine 4-inch squares.
- Brush the corners of each square with a bit of the beaten egg, then fold each corner into the center and press down gently. Transfer the squares to 1 or 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Gently spoon a dollop of the cheese filling onto the center of each dough square. Loosely cover the pastries with plastic wrap and let them stand until slightly puffed and jiggly, about 1 hour.
- Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the plastic and gently brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg. In the center of each danish, place a few blueberries.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. Continue to bake until pastries are puffed and deep golden brown, another 8-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and the lemon juice for the icing. Let the Danish cool slightly on the sheet then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.