Before we get to the butter …
1) Go for a run this morning. A long one. Use your Nike App on your phone, and don’t come back home until you’ve burned 800 calories. You’ll thank me later.
2) Actually, run to the grocery store. You need four sticks of butter. That’s 1 pound. Buy 2 pounds if you want to even yourself out for the run back home. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
3) Make cheese danishes with me. Don’t be intimidated. You can do it. It’s Mother’s Day tomorrow. You have an excuse to indulge a little bit. You’re doing it for Mom. She gave birth to you. She deserves a cheese danish after what you put her through.
Ummm … Yes please. You look delicious.
It should be Mother’s Day every day. I’m not just saying that for the danishes either. It really should be.
My Mom’s a total rock star. So is my Mother-in-law. They have this magical ability of caring for us children, multi-tasking the heck out of life, and looking incredibly graceful through the process. I don’t know how they do it.
So in honor of the Mama’s in my life, I’m making cheese danishes.
Don’t let them intimidate you. No longer will bakery aisle items and butter run our lives. Harness your inner pastry chef. Press on friends.
And call your Mom. Tell her she’s beautiful, awesome, and you love her.
Cheese Danish – makes 12 pastries
adapted from The Sono Baking Company cookbook
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
5 t. (2 envelopes) active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 T. coarse salt
6 T. cold, unsalted butter cut into cubes, plus 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) cold unsalted butter
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temp
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 t. vanilla extract
1/8 t. salt
2 T. all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten for egg wash
1 cup apricot jam
For the Dough:
In a small saucepan, heat the water and milk to 110 degrees (don’t let it get too hot, or it will “kill” the yeast). Pour over yeast in a medium-size bowl and let proof for 5 minutes.
In the bowl of a standing mixer with a paddle attachment, add the flour. Add the sugar, salt and 6 Tablespoons butter and beat on low speed until the butter breaks down and dissolves completely in the dry ingredients — about 3-4 minutes.
Add the whole eggs and the yolks to the bowl with the yeast. Add the wet ingredients to the mixer bowl, and beat on the lowest speed just until the batter is completely blended and tacky, about 1 1/2 minutes. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead very lightly for about 30 seconds, adding a little flour as needed, until the dough comes together and an be formed in a ball. Shape into a ball, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.
Then, on a lightly floured work surface, lightly flour the remaining 3 sticks butter and pound with a rolling pin to flatten into a mass. Fold the mass of butter in half and continue pounding and rolling, sprinkling often with flour as needed to keep the butter from sticking to the pin and work surface, until the butter is malleable enough (but not melted) that you can roll it like pastry. Shape into a 9-by-9 square and set aside.
Roll the dough into an 18-by-10 inch rectangle, with one of the short sides facing you. Brush off any excess flour. Place the butter square on the bottom half of the dough. Fold over the unbuttered half so that it covers the butter. Press the edges together and pinch to seal.
Roll the dough out again into an 18-by-10 inch rectangle; the butter should roll easily with the dough. Brush off any excess flour. Fold the bottom third up so that it covers half of the remaining dough, as if you were folding a letter. Brush off any excess flour. Fold the top third down to cover. (This is called a “turn.”) Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour. Mark the dough by pressing a finger into it, to designate one turn.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Place on the work surface with the seam on your left, and roll and fold as above to give it its second turn. Mark with two fingers to designate the second turn. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Repeat to give the dough a third turn. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight.
For the Danishes:
To make the filling: In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar, vanilla, and salt on medium-high speed until smooth. Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
To make the pastry: On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 17-by-13 inch rectangle. (If the dough is hard to roll, transfer it to one of the baking sheets and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.) Using a ruler and a pizza wheel or pastry cutter, trim the edges of the dough to form a 16-by-12 inch rectangle. Then cut the dough into twelve 4-inch squares.
Using a tablespoon or a pastry bag, pipe 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons cheese filling on the the center of each square. Fold the upper right corner over the filling, about two-thirds of the way toward the opposite corner; press down firmly to seal. Bring the lower left corner up and over the first fold, pressing down to adhere. Repeat wit the remaining corners to make a squre. Place the pastries on the prepared baking sheets, folded sides up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest in a warm place until the dough has increased by 1 1/2 times and is very soft when you touch it, about 30 minutes.
Set the oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the pastries with the egg wash. Bake one sheet at a time, rotating the baking sheet about two-thirds of the way through baking, until evenly browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack.
While the pastries are still warm, in a small saucepan, warm the apricot jam over low heat until liquid. Strain through a fine strainer. Brush the top and sides of the pastries with the strained jam.
Let cool completely and serve.