The recipe is going to look long and complicated, but, let me assure you, it is not! The majority of time is resting and rising time, with the longest resting time being overnight in the refrigerator. There's no kneading, just rolling. A final pinching of the dough at the end, and filling and glazing and you will have pastries that will earn you big wows and oodles of aaahs.
Roll up your sleeves. Take a breath. You can do this. It's easy peasy, lemon squeezy. Take one easy step at a time and remember to start these a day in advance.
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine and mix well.
1/3 cup honey
2 teaspoons water
Heat in a microwave safe bowl and use a pastry brush to glaze the baked Danish.
3/4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon of water (or enough to achieve desired consistency for drizzling)
Mix well. Use to drizzle on top of cooled Danish.
Optional but nice
Jam or preserve or curd of choice to add on top of the cheese filling
Toasted sliced almonds
Oven 350* F.
Parchment-lined or generously greased cookie sheet.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
For the yeast dough starter, put into a small bowl, like a custard cup, or one cup measuring cup, the following ingredients:
1/4 cup warm water (105*F to 115*F)
1 1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Wait 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast; it will be bubbly.
In a separate large bowl add and whisk together
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
In a food processor add
2 3/4 cups flour
2 sticks cold, unsalted butter
Process only until butter forms large clumps. Do not overprocess into a meal. You want to see clumps of butter. Have another 1/2 cup of flour in reserve to bring the dough together into a soft ball.
In the bowl with the egg, milk, sugar mixture add the yeast dough starter. Mix well. Add flour-butter mixture, and using a spoon bring the dough together. You can mix the dough with your impeccably clean hands as well. Using the reserved 1/2 cup flour, bring the dough together to make a soft dough ball. Do not overwork the dough as you do not want to melt the butter. Grease the bow slightly with vegetable oil and gently turn the dough over in the bowl to lightly coat the dough ball with the oil. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
(Note that there are still big pieces of butter.)
Fold into thirds again. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
Take the dough out and roll again into a 10 x 20 rectangle and refold as before. Cover and refrigerate. Do this for a total of 3 times.
After the third roll into a 10 x 20 rectangle, cut into strips. (I used a ruler and made 1-inch wide strips). I cut the long way, but in hindsight, I think it would have been better to cut these into strips from the short side. The long strips made the dough circles too large, and I ended up cutting them in half.
Add filling and a tablespoon of preserves on top of the cheese if you wish. Bake in a 350*F oven for about 18 minutes or until golden brown.
Glaze with honey glaze, a drizzle of confectioner's glaze, and if you want to guild the lily, a few toasted sliced almonds.
One of the beauties of this recipe is that the dough can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, defrosted, and finished off at your pleasure. I did this, and it worked wonderfully.
To prepare in advance and then freeze, prepare the dough up to and including twisting the strips into a circle. Spray with the pan release, put on a tray and place in your freezer for a couple of hours. Once completely frozen, remove the pastries from the freezer and store in a plastic bag. When you are ready to bake, defrost the rings (they defrost quite quickly) and proceed with pinching the inside of the rings towards the center to make the base for the filling. Allow to rise and then bake and glaze.
I confess to cheating a little with the rising. I had packed these up to take to a family gathering, and not being in my own kitchen and being a bit underfoot, I put the Danish in the oven not fully proofed. The dough must be very forgiving as they rose beautifully and no one was the wiser.
There's quite a bit of sweetness going on with these. The next time (and there will be many next times!) I think I'll go with unsweetened jam, as I used a regular raspberry preserve. The purchased lemon curd I used was positively divine in this.