Processor Danish Pastry & Cheese Danishes

just-baked cheese danish

You know what I hate? When I stumble upon this line in a recipe: refrigerate overnight.

‘Stumble upon’ being the key here. As in, surprise! Gotcha! You thought you’d have me in your belly this morning? Ha! Nice try. Let’s reconvene tomorrow, K?

This past Sunday I was expecting my Auntie to arrive in the early afternoon. She was making a special trip to help me out with the kids, and I wanted to welcome her with something extra special. Nigella Lawson’s cheese Danishes, a recipe I had spotted in How to Be a Domestic Goddess the night before, sounded ideal for a number of reasons: the pasty is made in the food processor; the filling contains lemon zest and ricotta cheese, two of Auntie’s favorite ingredients; and at one point in the recipe Nigella notes that the cheese Danish is her all-time favorite.

It was the intro to the recipe that got me. Nigella describes the practice of making this sort of pastry dough in the food processor as revolutionary not only because the dough comes together in seconds but also because it produces an authentic Danish pastry. She even includes a word of encouragement from Beatrice Ojakangas, the Scandinavian chef who taught her the method via Dorie Greenspan: “Don’t think you’re cheating by taking the fast track — this is how it’s done these days all over Denmark.”

Fast track. I never suspected the phrase ‘refrigerate overnight’ to be in a ‘fast-track’ recipe. Lesson learned. And truthfully, I should have known better — these sorts of recipes almost always require a lengthy rest period.

Or do they?

Remember now, Auntie would be arriving around 2 pm. Perhaps I still had time. Perhaps the true test of the domestic goddess was making croissant-style pastries in one quarter the amount of time? I would have to make a few changes, the first being to give the yeast a little push — instead of processing it with the flour, sugar and salt, I would “bloom” it with the water and milk and a little bit of the sugar. The overnight refrigeration would have to be condensed to two hours, and a 30-minute chill period, omitted. And most importantly, under no circumstances would I be allowed to throw a tantrum when the pastry did not behave, bake, or taste as I had hoped. Disposition of a true domestic goddess would foremost be preserved.

When Auntie called to tell me she was passing IKEA — just 20 minutes out — I placed the Danishes in the oven. And when Auntie walked through my door, I pulled a tray of beautifully golden, feather-light, lemon-ricotta filled, flaky parcels from my oven. Truly, of all the baking efforts I have made over the years to transform my kitchen into one of my favorite cafes, none has succeeded more than this food processor Danish pastry — it was as if we were dining at 18th and Guerrero or 23rd and Lombard or 6528 Washington Street. These Danishes are spectacular.

Now, do I advise taking this extra-fast-track route? For the sake of keeping stress to a minimum, maybe not. Because what is actually really nice about this recipe is that the dough in fact can be — wait for it — refrigerated overnight. What’s more, the dough can actually be refrigerated for as long as four days, which means if you were to make the dough today or tomorrow, cheese Danishes could, with little effort, be in your Saturday or Sunday — both even — mornings.

It’s a beautiful thing. Planning ahead. Reading instructions. One day I’ll learn.

baked cheese danishes

processor danish pastry ingredients

yeast-milk-water mixture, egg

With a food processor, the dough comes together in seconds:
making the processor pastry

It then rests in the fridge overnight or for as long as four days:
pastry dough, ready to be chilled

In the meantime, make the filling, a mixture of ricotta, lemon zest, salt and sugar:
lemon-ricotta filling ingredients

lemon-ricotta filling

Assembling the parcels requires rolling and folding and filling and pinching:
rolling out the dough

ready to be pinched

pinching the danishes

pinched cheese danish

assembled cheese danishes

The assembled Danishes make one last 1.5-hour rise before baking for 15 minutes:
egg washed and ready for last rise

just-baked cheese danishes

cooling cheese danishes

cooling cheese danishes

This video is not particularly interesting — it’s completely tedious in fact — but I had a couple of comments/questions regarding the rolling out process and how to do it without adding too much flour. I hope this video offers some guidance:

Processor Danish Pastry & Cheese Danishes

Source: Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess

Notes: As noted above, the dough for these Danishes should rest in the fridge overnight. I have included notes below if you need to rush the process along. The Danishes can be made start to finish in as few as 6 hours. Also, three glazes — an egg wash, a clear glaze and a sugar glaze — accompany the recipe. The only one I feel is really necessary is the egg wash, which helps the pastries brown beautifully in just 15 minutes. Finally, day-old pastries reheat quite nicely at 350F for 10 minutes or so.

processor danish pastry:

1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
1/2 cup (125 ml) milk at room temperature
1 large egg at room temperature
2 1/4 cups (10 1/8 oz | 286g) all-purpose flour*
1 package (2.25 tsp. | 1/4 oz | 7g) rapid rise yeast or 1 tablespoon fresh yeast**
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon (1 oz. | 25g) sugar
1 cup (8 oz | 250g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into thin slices

* Nigella uses white bread flour
** I used active dry and let it stand with the milk and water for about 10 minutes until it was a little foamy (see notes in recipe).

cheese danish:

1/2 quantity of the processor danish pastry
1 cup ricotta cheese (I used homemade bc it’s SO easy and SO delicious)
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon lemon zest
6 tablespoons sugar
1 large egg*, beaten
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled*

*As I type this, I realized I never added the egg or butter…so perhaps they are optional? Honestly, before you go through the trouble of melting butter and beating an egg, taste the mixture without it. It is unbelievably delicious, and while the egg and butter probably provide additional flavor and structure, I really don’t think they are critical. Both the baked and unbaked filling tastes divine.

egg wash:

1 egg beaten with 2 tablespoons of milk

Note: You will have a lot of leftover glaze if you are only making 6 pastries, but if you are prompt about putting it back in the fridge, you can save it until you get around to making the remaining six pastries.

clear glaze:

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Note: I made a half recipe, which was more than enough for 6 pastries, and next time around, I won’t even make this. Seems unnecessary.

sugar glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 to 2 tablespoons warm water

Note: I skipped this one. I was a little glazed out by this point.

make the pastry:

1. If you are using rapid-rise yeast or fresh yeast and have planned ahead such that you know you will be refrigerating the dough over night: Pour the water and milk into a measuring cup and add the egg, beating with a fork to mix. Set aside. If you need to speed up your cheese-danish-making process or want to make sure your yeast is alive and well: Sprinkle yeast over the warm water and milk with a little bit of the sugar (I took 1/2 teaspoon from the 1 tablespoon) and let stand until the mixture starts to foam a little bit. Then, beat egg with a fork until broken up and add to milk-yeast mixture. Beat mixture with fork again until just combined. Set aside.

2. Place a large bowl near your food processor. Then put the flour, yeast (if you haven’t mixed it with the milk), salt and sugar in the processor, and give it one quick whizz just to mix. Add the cold slices of butter and process briefly so that the butter is cut up a little. You still want visible chunks of butter about least 1/2 inch in size — about 5 short pulses.

3. Empty the contents of the food processor into the large bowl, then add in the milk-egg mixture. Use your hands or a rubber spatula to mix the ingredients together, but don’t overdo it: expect to have a gooey mess with some butter lumps pebbling it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, put in the refrigerator, and leave overnight or up to 4 days. (Note: If you have “bloomed” your yeast as noted in step 1, you can get away with two hours in the fridge at this step.)

4. To turn the dough into pastry, take it (or half of it — I find it easier to work with half the amount of dough at this step) out of the refrigerator, let it get to room temperature (or don’t if you are pressed for time) and roll the dough out into a 20-inch square. (Note: Don’t worry too much about inches here — just try to roll the dough out into a large square that is relatively thin. Also, you will probably need to lightly dust your work surface with flour and add more flour as needed to your rolling pin and board.) Fold the dough square into thirds, like a business letter, turning it afterward so that the closed fold is on your left, like the spine of a book. Roll the dough out again into a large square, repeating the steps above 3 times.

5. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, and put it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes (you can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, if you haven’t already done so at the earlier stage), or refrigerate half to use now and put the other half in the freezer to use later. Note: If you are pressed for time, skip this 30 minute chill time.

make the danishes:

1. Combine the cheese, sugar, salt, lemon zest, egg (if using), and butter (if using) to make the filling. Roll out the pastry into a big rectangle and cut it in half. Divide each half into thirds (I like fourths so that the base of each Danish is a square vs. a rectangle) and place a tablespoon of filling on each piece of dough. Fold the opposite corners up together and seal with a pinch. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush with the egg wash. Leave them to rise until they double in size, about 1 1/2 hours; they should then feel like marshmallow. Note: With both these cheese danishes and the prosciutto & gruyere croissants, it never looks as though the pastries have doubled nor does the texture of the dough feel like marshmallow. I just stick them in the oven after 1.5 hours regardless of how they look.

2. Meanwhile, about 30 minutes before they’re ready to be cooked, preheat the oven to 350°F. Pinch corners back together if they have come apart, then place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until puffy and golden brown.

3. Remove to a wire rack and make the two remaining glazes, if you wish — again, I think both of these are unnecessary. To make the clear glaze, heat the granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil then take off the heat. To make the sugar glaze, add the water to the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time to make a runny icing. Brush the pastries with the clear glaze first then zigzag the sugar glaze over them.

cheese danish

46 Comments

  1. Do you think one of those gorgeous little danishes will marry me?

    No, seriously. :)

    These look so good, Ali. I have been waffling about buying a full-size food processor or robo-coupe for months, and this is exactly the answer I was looking for. Food processor it is!

    Reply
    • Whitney — Yesss. Do itttt. Seriously, I use my food processor all the time, especially recently as I’ve been on this breadcrumb kick. I hope these danishes are one of the first creations your processor produces. They are SO good. Also, just ordered some more of your vanilla beans, which you obviously know. Can’t wait to put them to use!

      Reply
  2. Wow, these look incredible! DEFINITELY giving these a try over the weekend!
    Gorgeous and totally one of those items that (for me) seem impossible to make at home. Apparently not.

    Reply
    • Darcy — you crazy! I still cannot believe you made the Tartine croissants. That is a true labor of love. This is child’s play in comparison. I want to see how this dough performs in croissant form. I could not believe how light and flaky it was. I have never made any sort of pastry like this before, mostly due to fear, but this one is so easy and delicious that I am definitely inspired to try other variations. I hope you like them!

      Reply
  3. The fact that you do make the pastry the night before is a godsend as you mentioned. I have made something similar from another Food Network cook using premade puff pastry. They were delicious but I can tell these would be even more tasty.

    Reply
  4. Agh, I do that far too often! I need to get in the habit of the whole reading a recipe all the way through start to finish ahead of time. In any event, these look fantastic, overnight refrigeration or not! I haven’t ever attempted danishes, but I just might have to now!

    Reply
  5. These look lucious! How much sugar goes in the ricotta filling? 1/2 cup? I think maybe you have a typo there. Thank you for the recipe!

    Reply
    • Sandra — The only reason it seems to be a fast-track recipe is that the dough itself is made in the food processor. I think this sort of pastry making usually requires a more lengthy butter-”laminating” process, during which butter is added and the dough is rolled and folded, etc. The dough here truly takes seconds to prepare, and while the rolling out process does take a little bit of time, overall it is pretty painless. And yes, I wanted to be eating these 20 minutes after I spotted the recipe :)

      Reply
  6. Ali, I made these yesterday and they are SO good! As we discussed, I substituted an almond filling in some and a jam filling in others since I don’t love cheese danishes. The end result was awesome. THANK YOU! I still can’t believe I made a danish!

    Reply
    • Darcy — I’m so happy to hear this! I need to make another batch for Ben — he gets home Thursday — and he loves an almond filling as well. Might have to make some more dough tomorrow, though I could use a break from this danish-eating binge :)

      Reply
  7. This is such a beautiful recipe and your photographs bring it to life wonderfully. I love cream cheese danishes and although I’ve made some using shortcuts, I’ve never made my own totally from scratch like this and I need to try. Pinning this!

    Reply
    • Averie — definitely try this one. The pastry dough is incredibly easy to prepare, and the finished pastry is incredibly light and flaky — it’s been a very rewarding process for me discovering this recipe. What’s nice about it, too, is that the dough can be refrigerated overnight, but the finished pastries do still need a 1.5-hour final rise before they are baked…just a head’s up — I know how you like that overnight option :)

      Reply
  8. They look delicious I’m very glad I found them. But I need to straiten out a few facts. I have never seen them or the method in Denmark, just wondering where the “Don’t think you’re cheating by taking the fast track — this is how it’s done these days all over Denmark.” comes from. And Beatrice Ojakangas is from Finland (which is not a part of Scandinavia*) so she would be a Nordic chef rather.

    *Fact: The Scandinavian countries are Norway, Sweden and Denmark (No, Denmark is not a part of Sweden, Not that you say or hint it to be. Just want to be clear.)

    Never the less I love the recipe you’ve shared. Thanks a lot I’ll be making them soon.
    Love from Denmark

    Reply
    • A DanishGuy — Very interesting. Thanks for sharing the facts about the true Scandinavian countries — I definitely would have guessed that Finland was a part of Scandinavia had you not shared this. It’s funny though, because on Beatrice’s website, her subtitle is “Recipes from the Scandinavian Chef.” Strange? Hope you like the danishes!

      Reply
      • Hmmm, Finland lies, or part of it, on the Scandinavian Peninsula, so maybe from the Geographically point of view they are considered Scandinavian, but from all the other (cultural, historic, linguistic) they have nothing in common with the Scandinavians. Denmark itself DOES NOT lie on the Scandinavian Peninsula, but together with Norway and Sweden share a common ethno-cultural heritage. This is in fact Scandinavia, a historical, cultural and linguistic concept, that is usually confused with the purely geographical term Scandinavian Peninsula. Sorry, I could not help it! Please, don´t mind me. Speaking about Cheese Danish….

        Reply
    • Angela — yes! I didn’t make any changes to the weights. Good luck with the recipe. I made savory prosciutto and gruyere croissants with half of the dough this past weekend. Hoping to blog about them tonight or tomorrow — so good! Let me know if you have any other questions!

      Reply
  9. I’m inspired by this post and the lovely prosciutto & gruyere croissants. Have you tried freezing anything made with this dough?

    Reply
    • Keri — I have not tried freezing anything yet, but that is high on my list of things to try — how nice would that be? When I get to it, I will be sure to report back. I’m wondering at what stage they should be frozen? It would be nice if I could freeze them after the last 1.5 hour rise, so that when I want to bake them off, I can stick them straight in the oven from the freezer — no thawing, rising involved. The dough itself (as noted in the recipe) can be frozen at various steps. And the baked pastries I am sure will freeze well, because they do very well on the counter top in a ziplock back for 2 to 3 days — just reheat in the oven for 15 minutes at 350ºF.

      Reply
  10. Back at work after an Easter weekend full of food I have to give a big YUMMY and THUMBS UP for this recipe!! I made it by hand with a pastry cutter and it was super quick and easy! I had to substitute Ricotta for plain full fat cream cheese but it was still amazing! 2nd batch came with cheese and ham and it was a big winner too! Thanks for the recipe and the extra pounds on my behind ;)

    Reply
  11. Hi

    I have the dough in the fridge – it has been resting overnight but it doesn’t seem to have changed shape very much – it is supposed to rise at all in the fridge?

    Reply
    • Gugs — It will hardly look any different. So funny, I have been texting with a friend about this all day — I think I added better notes on the prosciutto and gruyere croissant post (just updated this post, too). Also, after you shape the pastries and are letting them make the last 1.5 hour rise, they will also hardly look any different — original recipe said they should look doubled in bulk and feel like marshmallow, but they really never look much different. I always just bake them off after the 1.5 hour rise regardless of how they look. Hope that helps! Let me know if there is anything else.

      Reply
  12. Fantastic! I can t wait to try it! Will you tell me, please, whether the dough may be frozen? or maybe it is better to freeze the Danishes before freezing? Thank you for the wonderful recipes.

    Reply
  13. sorry, my question was in fact whether it is better to freeze the Danishes before baking, of course, not before “freezing”, as I write in my previous comment

    Reply
  14. I have to apologize again. I read very carefully the recipe and the comments and you do not need to answer my questions about freezing the dough. Thank you again for your wonderful recipes!

    Reply

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