Back in my corporate days, I was never one to grab for a Danish when the pastry tray arrived. Yes, I was more of a donut gal back then. Is it just me or did the bakery Cheese Danish sometimes seem dry?
Of course, back then I’d never had one of these! Made with frozen puff pastry dough and loaded with creamy cheese, they are flakey, tender and delicious!
What is a Cheese Danish?
But, I had to wonder, did my version truly qualify as a Cheese Danish?
Well, according to Wikipedia, the Danish pastry or Danish “is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the viennoiserie tradition… Danish pastry is made of yeast-leavened dough of wheat flour, milk, eggs, sugar, and large amounts of butter or margarine.”
So, the classic dough is slightly different from puff pastry, instead made with yeast and more croissant-like. But it’s close–and making cheese danish with puff pastry makes this recipe super easy. Plus, as I’ve said, I think they are even tastier!
I also learned that the Danish isn’t even originally from Denmark but from Austria. “When bakery workers in Denmark went on a strike in 1850, their employers hired pastry workers from Vienna. Not familiar with the Danish recipes, the latter started making their traditional goodies including what is today known as the ‘Danish’. When the strike ended the flaky Austrian pastry had already become popular in the country, so Danish bakers had to learn how to make it themselves.” (source: Culture Trip)
What Makes This a Winner
This recipe if fun and tasty and can make an impressive pastry tray with ease. And when you’re busy (you’re not busy now are you?), how important is that!
Yes, they are:
- Easy and Impressive. While not quite a “5-ingredient recipe” (this has 7), this recipe is one of the easiest ways I know to make an impressive breakfast pastry tray!
- Flexible in number. The way the pepperidge farm sheets are frozen, you can pretty easily cut off 1/3 of a sheet to make 2 pastries then slide the rest back into the freezer. I love being able to have a treat even when it’s just my husband and me! See below for more detail.
- Easy to vary. If you’re making 6 pastries, you can make two with pears, two blueberry danish and two strawberry danish. Won’t you look organized then!
- Takes little pre-planning. If you are like me and always have puff pasty in the freezer and cream cheese in the fridge, you probably have everything you need to make this. Then anytime can be time for something special!
What You’ll Need
- Puff Pastry. This is readily available frozen and so easy to keep in your freezer! I especially like the Pepperidge Farm (not an affiliate) because it is so easy to break off a piece and make two at time (see Tips and FAQs)
- Cream Cheese or Mascarpone. I use either cream cheese or mascarpone for the “cheese” part of the Danish. My first choice is mascarpone (Trader Joe’s is a good source), but I know that can be more expensive and harder to find. So I tested cream cheese this batch and it’s an excellent option as well. I should note that the 8 ounce tubs of mascarpone freeze beautifully.
- Coarse sugar. Coarse sugar can add sparkle and a sweet accent to many baked goods including these. I generally prefer this to icing since it keeps the sugar and calories a little lower and is easier too. But icing is very traditional on these so I cover making it under Variations below.
- Egg. The egg has two purposes here—to help the cheese filling set and to create an “egg wash” (mix of beaten egg and water) that helps the pastry brown. I just take out a spoonful of beaten egg to use for the egg wash rather than use an additional egg.
- Sugar. The sugar sweetens the cheese filling. White granulated sugar or organic raw cane sugar both work well here.
- Fruit and/or jam. I try never to miss a chance to add fruit to a dessert, so I like to include fruit in these, especially sliced pears if I have them. A spoonful of frozen blueberries or dollop of jam are others fun ideas. Or mix fruit and jam for a chunky and glossy topping.
- Vanilla extract. This adds flavor to the cheese topping!
Step by Step Directions
This recipe comes together quickly and easily.
You beat the eggs and remove about a tablespoon to a separate small bowl (to use later for the egg wash). Pour the remaining egg, mascarpone or cream cheese, sugar and vanilla into mixing bowl and beat with electric mixer until well-blended.
Cut the puff pastry sheet into 6 sections. Roll each section of pastry sheet on wax paper to approximately 4 x 5 inches.
Make a shallow cut (score) about a half inch from the edges of the tart. Prick the inside with a fork or knife.
Spread the inside section with a heaping spoon of the cheese mixture. Top with thin slices of pear (or other fruit).
Mix the reserved egg with a teaspoon of milk or water to make an egg wash. Brush the tart edges with egg wash and sprinkle decorating sugar.
Using a thin spatula, transfer to a lightly sprayed or parchment covered baking sheet. Bake at 400 F for approximately 10-15 minutes, until golden.
One of the nice things about these cheese danish is that is easy to do different variations. Here are some ideas:
Toppings. I always add fruit to mine since I love it so much. But jam works too–or a blend of fruit and jam. And if you are completely out, plain is fine or toss in some chocolate chips—yum!
I even do an Apricot or Peach Danish with puff pastry and no cheese!
Sugar vs. icing. If you don’t have any coarse sugar or simply prefer using icing, you can easily make a simple drizzle. Just melt 1 Tablespoon butter and whisk in 1 Tablespoon milk or water, ½ teaspoon vanilla and ½ cup powdered sugar. Drizzle lightly over the pastries.
Shaping. I make my Cheese Danish with puff pastry that’s formed into approximately 4 x 5 inch rectangles—which I chose because that works out so well with the frozen pasty sheets. But you can make it into squares or circles, or change the size if you prefer.
Tips and FAQs
If you want to add additional shine to your fruit, you can melt some jam in the microwave and brush it on the fruit, even after baking.
Making the number of pastries you need. The pastry sheets come two per box and each sheet makes six pastries. If you want to make fewer than six, a pasty sheet can be cut into thirds by cutting along the “fold” while it’s still mostly frozen. Just thaw slightly, slice off what you need, then return the rest to the freezer.
Cause don’t you deserve a nice Danish pastry, even if you’re home alone?
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