God bless the pastry gods that invented puff pastry, as if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be able to make treats like this one. Well…I probably could if I really wanted to. But that would mean making puff pastry from scratch. And after seeing how much butter goes into it, I may not want it anymore.
Seriously though – for anyone who still thinks they can’t bake, puff pastry is an excellent way to get your feet wet with little effort. But I promise whatever you end up making with it will leave you feeling like a rock star. Ok, well, maybe not a rock star but you will be pretty darn impressed with yourself.
Puff pastry are sheets of dough made with flour, butter, salt and water. Although a leavener is missing, it is the way these ingredients are combined that makes the pastry rise. And combining these ingredients is a true labor of love. The dough begins like pie crust with cold butter mixed into the flour to a cornmeal consistency. The dough is rolled around a thick slab of butter. Through a process of folding, turning, and rolling, the butter is dispersed throughout the dough creating hundreds of very thin layers of dough separated by a film of butter and this butter layer is what causes the pastry to rise. When the pastry is heated, the butter melts and boils, creating steam which lifts the successive layers higher and higher. At the same time, the heat is cooking the flour, hardening it around those minute air pockets, creating the puff.
Maybe one day I will make puff pastry from scratch. For now, I am perfectly content (as are many, many others) with the store-bought variety to make treats like these wonderful danishes I bring you today. This Ina Garten (aka my hero) recipe combines puff pastry and a delicious cheese filling to make a danish that will knock your socks off. The secret to the delicious filling is a hint of lemon zest that makes the flavors pop and have a party in your mouth. Another slam dunk recipe from the Queen of all things food.
Enjoy these with breakfast, afternoon tea or as a post-dinner dessert and you won’t be disappointed.
Easy Cheese Danish
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!
Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.