Espresso Cream Cheese Danish Pastries are a sure path to a great morning. Warm flaky pastry dough filled with a lightly sweetened and coffee-boosted cream cheese, these are a great way to start baking pastry from scratch!
Matchmaking 101: When people ask what you’re looking for, don’t try to deflect by responding “the bathroom.” People don’t think it’s funny.
Matchmaking 102: Everyone is going to try and set you up with a Nice Jewish Boy. Just accept it.
Matchmaking 103: Brownie points if your NJB is Danish, since then you only need to wait one hour between eating meat and milk. And you know that when it comes to dessert butter is better.
For the longest time if you asked me what a Danish was, I’d have told you it’s the boy I’d marry. Pastries were miles off my radar, but can you imagine getting to have ice cream after lunch on Shabbat? You can wave goodbye to fleish-o-phobia, the crippling indecision caused by a craving for chicken when you know that you won’t be able to have anything dairy for the rest of the night.
At least, that’s how it was until a few months ago, when I tasted my first fresh croissant. Layers upon layers of flaky dough crunched between my teeth. Step aside, NJBs, because this was a case of love at first bite.
Croissants aren’t the only things to boast super flaky layers. Aside from being one of the best things that will happen to your kitchen, these Danish pastries are perfect for breakfast. First thing in the morning, when you don’t need to worry about when you finished eating meat (because finding a boy who waits one hour is tougher than working with yeast doughs). Embrace the buttery goodness filled with espresso cream cheese. If this is the only kind of Danish in my life, I’m not complaining.
Danish pastries are traditionally made with a laminated dough, like puff pastry. Lamination is how you get that dough-butter-dough-butter-dough pattern by repeatedly folding butter into your dough. The water content in the butter turns to steam in the oven, pushing the dough up to create distinct, flaky layers. Cut one in half and take a look at the cross-section. It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ll ever see.
You could take danish pastries many different ways. Fill it with a sweet jam for a fruity punch or sharp cheese for a savory palate. I love a good cup of coffee, making this a no-brainer. Beating ground espresso into the cream cheese with just a touch of sugar creates a flavorful, light filling. These aren’t very sweet, which is one of the reasons I like pastries so much. The doughs are a great canvas for flavor without overpowering battling a super sugary taste.
I’ve never made pastry before. If I ever needed some, then I just headed to the freezer aisle and bought puff pastry. While researching how-tos, I found Sarah Kieffer’s Easy Danish Dough. Her dough skips the traditional lamination, instead beating in cold chunks of butter. Similar to making flaky pie crust, these cold butter chunks will form pockets of steam during baking to push up the dough. Although you won’t achieve the same flaky layers as a true laminated dough, it’s a great entry point. I adapted Sarah’s recipe for these Espresso Cream Cheese Danish Pastries.
In case pastry baking intimidates you, take this as a challenge for 2019. Embrace the butter. Tackle the layers. Then reap the rewards with homemade Danish pastries.
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- ¾ cup whole milk
- 2 tbsp sugar, divided
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 1 tsp vanilla extract, optional
- 2½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 4 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
- 12 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cut into ½-inch cubes
- FOR THE FILLING:
- 8 oz full-fat cream cheese
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp ground espresso
- 1 egg yolk
- FOR THE GLAZE:
- 3 tbsp powdered sugar
- 2 tsp milk or water
- Heat the milk until it is warm but not too hot to touch, about 30-45 seconds in the microwave. Stir in the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar, then let sit for 5-7 minutes until foamy and nearly doubled.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, stir together the flour, salt, and remaining sugar. Add in the room temperature butter and beat until you cannot see it anymore. Mix in the cold butter chunks on low speed so that the chunks are smushed but still visible and about the same size.
- Pour in the yeast mixture, eggs, and vanilla. Mix on low until the flour is completely incorporated. The dough will be very sticky.
- Grease a large piece of plastic wrap with the butter wrappers. Transfer the dough into it and wrap tightly. Refrigerate overnight or up to 2 days, but if you're in a hurry then you can freeze it for 30 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto a well-floured surface and sprinkle more flour on top of the dough. Knead until it forms a smooth ball, adding flour as needed. If you leave the dough in the freezer for the shorter time, you'll probably need to add more flour than if refrigerating the dough overnight. Shape into a rectangle, then roll into an 11x16 inch rectangle.
- Starting with the short ends, fold the bottom third up, then the top third down. This is the first turn. If the dough sticks, sprinkle more flour on the surface. Flip over and roll out again, repeating this step a total of four times. After the final turn, flip the dough seam-side down and gently press the folds together with the rolling pin. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour up to 2 days.
- in the meantime, prepare the filling. Cream together all ingredients until fully combined and smooth. Refrigerate in an airtight container until ready to use.
- When ready to use, preheat the oven to 425ºF and line 3 sheet pans with parchment paper. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface or wax paper into a ¼-inch thick rectangle. Divide into 16 even pieces. Stretch each piece into a square and cut a small slit in each corner. Spread about 2 tablespoons of filling in the center of the square. Starting on one side, take the triangular corners and wrap each one around the filling. Repeat on the opposite side, then the remaining 2 sides, tucking under the last pieces. Do this for every square of dough, transferring to lined sheet pans when finished. Cover the prepared danishes loosely with plastic wrap or a towel until ready to bake.
- Brush each danish with egg wash. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and puffed up. I found 18 minutes to be perfect in my oven. Allow to cool on the pan for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.
- While the danishes cool, make the glaze. Stir the powdered sugar and milk together until smooth, adding the milk 1 teaspoon at a time. Drizzle over the danish pastries.
- Best served warm. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.