Cheese Danishes

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Danish 10

Laura’s post last Friday offered some tips she learned about making danishes and croissants while taking a class from Provence Bakery.  We thought it would be helpful to follow up with a recipe for danish dough and a suggestion for how to use it.

I had this post written.  I was going to tell you about blackberry streusel pinwheel danishes, and how wonderful they are.  I started the dough on Friday, turned it several times on Saturday, and had plans to shape and bake the danishes Sunday morning, just in time to write a post for Monday.   All I needed to do was bake them to get a few more pictures.  But we all know what happens to the best laid plans of mice and men.

My beautiful little pinwheels went in the oven at the cookbook’s suggested 375 F.  Danishes are delicate, and because I haven’t done much baking (beyond pies) in my new PA oven, I checked on them fifteen minutes into the 20-25 minute suggested baking time.  The pinwheels were burnt to a black crisp on the edges and the bottom.  The blackberry jam had melted down the sides in goopey puddles, and the streusel was crusty.  Guess my oven runs a bit hot?

Luckily, the recipe makes enough dough for two batches of danishes, and I had enough left over to try something else.*  After the epic pinwheel failure, I wasn’t up for trying those again.  So I went with cheese danishes.  They aren’t as visually stunning, but still taste incredible.

Fair warning: This recipe takes a couple of days to make.  It isn’t all that hard or labor-intensive, but you need to start two days in advance to give the dough time to rest in between all of the steps.  They ‘re worth it!

* You can use all the dough and make two dozen danishes, or freeze half of it for up to two months as long as it’s double-bagged.

Danish 8

Cheese Danishes

adapted from The Sono Baking Company Cookbook

Makes enough dough for 24 danishes. Cheese filling makes enough for 12 danishes.

For the danish dough
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
5 tsp. dry yeast (or 2 envelopes)
4 1/2 cups flour, with extra for rolling dough
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cardamom
6 tbs. cold unsalted butter, cubed, plus 1 1/2 cups cold butter (three sticks)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks

For the cheese filling
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
a dash of salt
2 tbs. flour

To finish the danishes
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup apricot jam

1. Two days in advance, start the dough.  In a small saucepan, heat the water and milk to 110 F.  Place the yeast in a medium bowl, them pour the milk mixture over the yeast.  Let it stand and proof for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the following to the bowl of a standing mixture: the flour, sugar, salt, cardamom, and 6 tablespoons of cold cubed butter.  Mix everything on low speed until the butter is completely incorporated into the dry ingredients, about 3-4 minutes.

3. Add the eggs and egg yolks to the bowl with the yeast and stir briefly to incorporate.  Add the wet ingredients to the mixer bowl and beat on the lowest speed for 1-2 minutes, until the dough is completely blended.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead seven or eight times, until the dough comes together.

4. Shape the dough into a ball, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate it overnight.

5. The next day, lightly flour a working surface.  Lightly flour the three remaining sticks of butter, and pound them with a rolling pin to flatten and combine them into a single large flat piece.  Fold the flattened chunk of butter in half and continue pounding and rolling, sprinkling the butter with flour to prevent it from sticking to the table.  Work with the butter until it is the consistency of the dough, but not melted.  Shape it into a 9×9 inch square and set it aside.

6. Lightly flour the working surface again, and roll the dough into an 18×10 inch rectangle.  Brush off the extra flour.  Place the butter square on the bottom half of the dough, and fold the top half down over it, pressing the sides to seal.

7. Roll the dough out again into an 18×10 inch rectangle, being sure that the butter spreads through the dough.  Fold the rectangle in thirds, like a letter.  This is called a turn.  Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for an hour. (See the images below for a visual step-by-step.)

8. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and give it another turn: with the seam on your left, roll it out into an 18×10 inch rectangle.  Then fold it like a letter.  Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for an hour.

9. Give the dough one final turn: with the seam on your left, roll it out into an 18×10 inch rectangle.  Then fold like a letter.  Cover with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of four hours, or overnight.

10. To make the danishes: Set out the cream cheese until it reaches room temperature.  Then, in a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and salt.  Once the ingredients are combined, beat in the flour and set aside.

11. Cut the refrigerated dough in half.  One half will be used for the cheese danishes, and the other half can be frozen for up to two months, double-bagged. If you plan to use the other half right away to make an additional dozen danishes more filling, cheese or otherwise, will be needed.

12. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough into 12×16 inch rectangle.  Cut the dough into 12 4×4 inch squares using a pastry cutter or pizza cutter.  Place about 1 1/2-2 tbs. of the cheese fixture in the center of each square.  Fold the corners of each square into the middle and pinch them together.  They will likely separate out again while baking, but this gives the danishes some shape.

13. Place the danishes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, with a few inches of space between them.  Cover the tray loosely with plastic wrap and let them rise (in a room around 70 F or higher) for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 F.**

14. Brush the danishes with the beaten egg wash, and bake for 15-20 minutes, checking the danishes to be sure they don’t burn.  They are ready when the edges are light golden brown.

15. Before the danishes cool, heat the apricot jam in a small bowl until it is liquid. (You can do this in the microwave or heat the jam in a saucepan on top of the stove.)  Brush the tops of the danishes with the jam, and let them cool completely. (If you want to be really fancy, you can strain the jam so there aren’t any apricot bits.)

16. These are best served the day they’re made. Enjoy!

** This is the temperature that I ended up baking the danishes. The cookbook calls for 375 F. If you know that your oven runs warm, it’s best to go with the lower temperature. If you decide to go with 375 F, be sure to check on the danishes to be sure that they aren’t browning too quickly.