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Old-Fashioned All-Butter Cheese Danish

Ingredients:

  • Dough
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 3/4 cup warm milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 tablespoons sour cream
  • 5-7 cups all-purpose flour
  • Butter Roll In
  • 1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, in 1/4 pats or squares
  • Cheese Filling
  • 3/4 pound baker's cheese
  • 4 ounce package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • Tiniest pinch salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 yolks
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract ¼ teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice Pinch salt
  • 1/2 cup apricot jam
  • Simple Syrup
  • 1 cup water, 1 cup sugar
  • Apricot jam, optional
  • Egg wash (1 egg, whisked)
  • Fondant
  • 1 cup confections' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • Water, as required

Instructions:

Stack two large baking sheets together and line top one with parchment paper.

For the dough, in a large mixer bowl, hand whisk the water and yeast together and let stand 3 minutes. Quickly whisk in the milk, vanilla, lemon juice, sugar, salt, butter, eggs, egg yolks, sour cream and most of the flour. Mix and then knead on slowest speed of mixer (or by hand) on slowest speed, gently to make a soft dough. Do not rigorously knead; just make the dough come together and get smooth. Remove dough hook, spray dough with non-stick cooking spray and cover entire bowl/machine with a large plastic bag. Let stand 30 minutes and then gently deflate on a well-floured work surface. Have butter prepared nearby, in pats - ready to use.

For the Cheese Filling, in a food processor, blend the baker's cheese, cream cheese, flour, sugar and salt and blend slightly. Then add in the egg, yolks, butter, vanilla, lemon extract and juice and blend to make a thick filling or paste. Refrigerate until needed.

To make the Simple Syrup, simmer sugar and water for 10 minutes until sugar is completely dissolved. Cover if using within the day or put it in a jar and seal in the refrigerator.

For the Butter Roll-In, place the butter all over the dough surface in snug rows and press butter down slightly to stick (somewhat). Fold the left part of the dough to the center as if it was a letter you were folding. Fold over the right side (the remaining third). Press with a rolling pin and then turn dough so the open seams are now outwards (facing horizontally) and roll gently but firmly to make the dough a rectangle of about 16 by 14 again. If it is smaller, it is fine.

Again, taking left hand side of dough, fold into center and then take right hand side and fold on top of this - again, to have a 'letter' folded in thirds. Wrap well in plastic and chill 45-60 minutes. Repeat the folding twice more with a 45 minute rest in-between folding. None of this has to be perfect; you will still have great Danish. It is important however not to flour the board too much lest you have heavy Danish. Chill 1 hour or more (overnight is fine) and then deflate a bit with rolling pin.

To make the Danish, divide dough in two and working with one piece at a time, roll out on a floured surface to a 12 inch square (again a few inches here or there is fine). Transfer to the baking sheet.

Smear on some apricot jam if using, and then smear on the cheese filling to within 1/2 inch of borders. Fold the top side in towards the center. Brush this with egg wash. Then fold the bottom side upwards and overlap onto the egg-washed part. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Using a sharp paring knife, make diagonal snips (like a series of gills) on each side. Brush whole pastry with egg wash and dust with sugar (if desired). Cover gently and let rise 30-60 minutes until a bit puffy but not a lot. This is also where you can make a flour-butter streusel and top pastry with this if you like (but then don't use the syrup or apricot jam finale later)

Preheat oven to 350 F. Bake until well browned, about 35-45 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush several times with the Simple Syrup. Afterwards, you can also brush the not-quite-cooled pastry with apricot jam. For a fondant finish, mix fondant ingredients in a small bowl and then drizzle over top of cooled pastry.

Makes two medium large pastries.

Alternatively, divide dough in two and freeze the second half of the dough, wrapped well. To use, defrost in the fridge overnight, then roll and fill as per directives for fresh dough.

Comments:

This real Danish dough isn't difficult but it is delicious and it is authentic Danish. It takes a bit of time but you can break up the steps. The real challenge is finding dry or pot style cottage cheese for the filling. If you cannot find it, use ricotta cheese well drained (overnight, cheesecloth/strainer deal). Because this is a rich dough, it is stale-resistant - making it a wonderful hospitality treat (tea and coffee time) as well as the center piece for a Shavuot brunch.