Ina’s Easy Cheese Danish

We love cheese danishes so when I saw Ina Garten make them on one of her Back to Basics episodes, I thought how cool would it be to have freshly baked danishes! A few weeks ago I finally got around to making these for the family, getting into the holiday spirits and all. But these are really easy to make for anytime of the year really. I usually have all the ingredients on hand with the exception of ricotta cheese. Since I didn’t have any that time, I substituted cottage cheese (small curds). If you don’t have either, just leave it out completely.

These held up really well for 3 days in an airtight container. I actually preferred the filling after it’s been cooled instead of eating it warm. I think the flavor is better and I can taste the lemon zest. The cream cheese filling is not very sweet so that may appeal to some. If you like your filling a little sweeter, increase the amount of sugar by 1-2 tablespoons. I think any more than 2 tablespoons would be too sweet.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Makes 8 danishes

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar (vanilla sugar if you have it)
  • 2 large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese or cottage cheese 
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. You might be able to get all 8 danishes on one sheet pan but I could only fit 6 so I just split the batch in half.

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, mix until just combined. Don’t whip the mixture or else it will add air to it.

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. Try not to add more than a heaping tablespoon full or else the filling will overflow when baked. I tried adding a bit more to a couple of them and they sort of spilled out. Still good but not as pretty or clean.

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 pans once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

How about serving these up New Year morning with a nice hot cup of coffee or hot cocoa? Speaking of which, I want to wish everyone a happy and prosperous 2011!

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