Tuesday, January 26, 2016

cheese danish.

I am a cheese danish fanatic.  

It's not that surprising.  I have an affinity for cheese and pastries so eating them together, as a socially acceptable breakfast, is pretty much my idea of heaven.   

Unfortunately, most of the cheese danishes in this world are awful.   Cloyingly sweet or lacking enough cheese to have them even be worth eating.  So many of them are just wrong and that surprises me.  In New York, it's no longer difficult to get a good croissant but it's incredibly difficult to find a good cheese danish; one with a tender, buttery, yeasty pastry, a sweet yet cheesy center. and a smattering of glaze strewn haphazardly over the top. Where is it?!

For a while I gave up.  I convinced myself that cheese danishes were like finding the perfect pair of jeans - something everything one wants but few rarely find.   And then back in December the NYTimes wrote an article about Danishes and included a recipe for cheese danish and I had a moment where I wondered if this was going to be the recipe that provided me cheese danish nirvana. I was apprehensive.  It all seemed a little too easy (or as easy as making faux puff pastry can be) and I grew skeptical.  Over the last couple of weeks, I kept going back to the recipe and I started reading the comments and all anyone could say was how delicious the recipe was and how easy it was and at that point I was sold (or at least needed to try it myself).  

So this past weekend, during the Great Blizzard of 2016, I set out to make the cheese danish of my dreams and I did!  The dough is a breeze, the process is simple, and the resulting pastry is everything I've ever wanted.  I'm already dreaming of new riffs on the old classic but for now I'm content to know that anytime I want a good cheese danish I can have it.       

Danish Dough
Recipe from the NYTimes

This is not a labor intensive process in the slightest, but it does involve some planning.  I started by making the initial dough on Friday evening and letting it rest overnight.  On Saturday I made my folds, let it rest, and made my filling.  On Sunday morning, I formed my pastries, let them rise, and baked them up.  They make for one hell of a an awesome breakfast after treking around outside in the snow with your dog.   

1 ½ cups/6 3/4 ounces/192 grams bread flour, plus more for the work surface and the rolling pin
2 tablespoons/24 grams granulated sugar
2 teaspoons/6 grams active dry yeast
¾ teaspoon/3 grams kosher salt
14 tablespoons/198 grams cold, unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), roughly cubed
1 large egg
¼ cup/60 milliliters cold whole milk

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse to combine. The butter should be the size of small marbles and peas. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk and 2 tablespoons/30 milliliters water.

Add the egg mixture to the 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. At this point, the dough will be rough and shaggy with visible butter pieces; as you roll and fold the dough it will come together. 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 at least 1 hour.

Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time for a grand total of six turns. If the dough starts to fight you and become difficult to roll at any point, just pop it in the fridge for an extra rest. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

Cheese Danish Filling
Recipe from the NYTimes

Makes 9 danishes

8 ounces/226 grams cream cheese
1 ¼ cup/160 grams confectioners’ sugar
1 large egg yolk
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 batch Danish dough (see recipe above)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons/30 milliliters whole milk

In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese, 1/4 cup/32 grams confectioners’ sugar, the egg yolk, the salt and the vanilla until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a resealable plastic bag; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12 1/2-inch square. Trim 1/4 inch off each edge. 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 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

Cut the tip off one corner of the filled plastic bag so you have a 1/2-inch hole. Use the bag to pipe the cheese filling onto the center of each dough square. Loosely cover the pastries with plastic wrap and let stand until slightly puffed, about 1 hour to 1 hour 20 minutes. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the plastic and gently brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg. 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 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 cup/128 grams confectioners’ sugar and the milk. Let the Danish cool slightly on the sheet then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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