Sunday, February 5, 2012

Strawberry Cream-Cheese Danish

There was a time in my life when I didn't understand the point of a danish.  "Why eat this strange thing when I could just have a donut", I wondered.  I was a troubled youth.  I've since come to my senses and discovered just how pleasant a good danish can be, especially still warm from the oven.  Kristin and I have worked this recipe through a few permutations and several different fillings, and every time it's tasted utterly fantastic.  It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but really, isn't it what's inside that counts?  In this case, what counts is cream cheese and strawberry preserves.  Yum.

I'm separating the ingredients into three sets: the dough, the cream-cheese mixture, and the frosting.  For the dough, you'll need milk, flour, baking soda, salt, butter, and almond extract.  Preserves of your choice will top the dough and form the center of the danish.  We used strawberry preserves this time around, and have also particularly liked blueberry in the past.  I imagine just about anything would be tasty.

The cream-cheese mixture is a simple blend of cream cheese, an egg, a bit of white sugar, and a splash of vanilla.

The frosting is also quite simple: powdered sugar, just enough milk to liquify the sugar, and a tiny dash of both vanilla and almond extracts.  Topping everything off with toasted almonds is optional, but highly recommended.

We'll start with the dough.  Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then work in the softened butter.  The texture will resemble a cake mix - slightly lumpy and powdery.

While your hands are still relatively un-messy, you'll also want to pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Add the milk and almond extract and mix well.  Press by hand until you've formed a loose, rough-textured dough.  Take care not to overwork it or the pastry may become tough.

Press the dough between sheets of wax paper and roll into a thick rectangle, about 12 inches by 8 inches.    Leave it here for a moment while we put together the filling.

Beat the cream cheese until it's soft and relatively smooth, then add the sugar, egg, and vanilla.  Beat again until smooth and creamy.

Time to assemble!  Place the pastry dough on a greased baking sheet, and mark out the dough lengthwise into thirds.  Spread a thick layer of preserves down the center of the middle third - try to keep it no more than 1 1/2 inches wide.

Add thick layers of the cream cheese mixture on either side of the preserves.  Try to leave a little peek of the preserves in the very center if possible for presentation's sake, though as you can tell, sometimes that's not easy to do.

Cut the outer thirds of the dough at a slight angle into strips about an inch wide.

Fold those strips up across the filled center of the dough.  They probably won't quite meet in the center.  Bake your assembled danish 12-15 minutes at 425 until the pastry is golden-brown.

In the meantime, toast up some almonds for the top.  Also, mix together the frosting using 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, and a tiny dash of vanilla and almond extracts.  Whisk together with a fork until smooth.

When your danish is done baking, drizzle the frosting over the top and cover with toasted almonds.

Serve warm, one inch-wide slice at a time - but expect to go back for seconds.

Recipe: Strawberry Cream-Cheese Danish
Prep Time: 15-20 Minutes | Cook Time: 12-15 Minutes | Difficulty: Medium | Servings: 10-12 Slices

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted Butter
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/2 tsp Almond Extract
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Strawberry Preserves
  • 8 ounces Cream Cheese
  • 1/4 cup White Sugar
  • 1 Egg
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Milk
  • 1/8 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/8 tsp Almond Extract
  • 2 tbsp Toasted Slivered Almonds

  1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, rand salt.  Add softened butter, milk, and almond extract, and mix well.  Press together by hand until a loose dough is formed.  The texture will be rough.
  3. In another mixing bowl, beat cream cheese until smooth.  Add sugar, egg, and vanilla and beat until combined and creamy.
  4. Press dough between two sheets of wax paper and roll into a large rectangle, roughly 8 by 12 inches. Discard wax paper and place dough on a greased baking sheet.
  5. Mark the dough out by thirds lengthwise.  Spread preserves down the center of the middle third, then add cream cheese mixture on either side of preserves.
  6. Cut the outer thirds of the dough into strips roughly 1-inch wide.  Fold strips over across the center.
  7. Bake at 425° 12-15 minutes until pastry is golden-brown.  Toast almonds while danish bakes.
  8. In a small mixing bowl, combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar, 1 tbsp milk, 1/8 tsp vanilla and almond extracts and whisk together with a fork to create frosting.
  9. Drizzle frosting over baked danish, and cover with toasted almonds.  Serve warm.

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