Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quick Cheese Danish (with variations)

Photo by lamiacuchina, Flickr
Dont you just love those cloudy, cool, overcast days in summer when you can fire up the oven without overheating both yourself and the house? I've just had a few mornings like that and started some experimenting with puff pastry...and look what I've discovered! Ten different kinds of Braided Danish Pastry! TEN!!

This is so much easier than it looks! You can buy frozen puff pastry in the super market (not phyllo dough...completely different thing) and stirring up the filling only takes a minute or fact, this goes so quick, you might even have trouble getting your oven up to temperature in time. And this is sooo good! Give it a will be glad you did!
1 packet (two sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed and chilled in refrigerator
Sliced almonds (optional)

Cheese Filling
8oz (224g) full or medium cream cheese, room temperature
1 egg yolk
¼ cup granulated sugar (or equivalent sucralose)
1 tsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla

⅓ cup icing (confectioners) sugar (or equivalent sucralose)
1 tbsp milk
¼ tsp vanilla
(if using sucralose, you may have to heat this on the stove to get it to fully dissolve)

Preheat oven to 350F (180C) and lightly oil (or spray) a large baking sheet.

Keep dough refrigerated until ready to use.

Prepare the filling: Combine cream cheese, and egg yolk in a bowl and beat on medium speed until smooth. Add sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until thoroughly mixed.

Remove first sheet of dough from packaging, keeping the second refrigerated while you work with the first.

Lay out pastry dough on oiled baking sheet (leaving room for the second sheet of dough). Using a dull knife, gently mark (do not cut) the dough into thirds. Onto the centre third spread half the filling.

Now, using a sharp knife, pastry wheel, pizza cutter or kitchen scissors, snip the dough on either side of the filling as shown in the photo. Work quickly because you don’t want the dough to get soft or sticky. Now, turn up the ends of the centre section and begin braiding by alternately folding one snipped piece of dough over the filling. When you get to the middle, stop and begin braiding from the other end. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if desired.

Repeat this process with the second sheet of pastry. Put baking sheet in top third of preheated oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top of the pastry begins to brown. If you live above 5000 feet, as I do, the baking time may be extended by as much as 10 minutes. When pastry is done, remove baking sheet to a cooling rack.

While pastry cools, prepare the glaze by stirring all of the ingredients together. When the pastry has cooled for about 1 minutes, drizzle the glaze lightly over the pastry. Best served warm.

Almond Danish:
Substitute almond flavouring for the vanilla in both the cheese filling and glaze. Sprinkle the top of the pastry generously with sliced almonds before baking.

Almond and Cherry Danish
Substitute almond flavouring for the vanilla in both the cheese filling and glaze. Spread a can of cherry pie filling over the cheese filling before braiding. Sprinkle the top of the pastry generously with sliced almonds before baking.

Apple Danish
Before braiding, spread a can of apple pie filling on top of the cheese filling. Dot with raisins if desired. Braid and finish as usual.

Chocolate Chip Danish
Before braiding, sprinkle the cheese filling with semi-sweet chocolate chips. Braid and finish as usual.

Cinnamon Danish
Mix ½ tsp of ground cinnamon into cream cheese mixture during preparation.

Lemon Danish
Substitute lemon flavouring for the vanilla in the cheese mixture. Once cheese mixture is spread onto dough, spread a layer of lemon curd on top. Braid and finish as usual.

Berry Danish
Generously sprinkle top of cheese filling with fresh blueberries, raspberries or black berries (or a combination of them). Braid and finish as usual.

Jam-filled Danish
Reduce the amount of sugar in the cream cheese mixture by at least 50% if using jam in the filling, otherwise it will be too sweet. Spread a layer of your jam of choice (apricot jam and pineapple jam are especially good) over the cream cheese filling, then braid and finish as usual.

Savoury Danish
Do not add sugar or sweetener or flavouring to the cream cheese, although you may add a teaspoon of herbs, finely minced. Beat it well with the egg yolk and lemon juice, then spread onto the pastry. Make savoury fillings such as herbed mushrooms, chopped spinach, caramelized onion (with a little garlic in the cream cheese), sundried tomatoes and olives (with some basil in the cream cheese), smoked salmon and capers (with some dill in the cream cheese), or even your favourite paté. Braid and bake, but do not glaze. Serve hot.

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