Sweet Cheese Danish Pastries

April 3, 2014

in Breads and Pastries, Cook What You Like

Easy Cheese Danish

How does someone transition from White House budgets and nuclear energy issues to becoming one of America’s contemporary food icons?  Hey, just leap and then figure it out on your way down – that’s how Ina Garten did it.

Ina’s stint in government service concluded when she bought the Barefoot Contessa, a 400-square foot specialty food store in the Hamptons.  She is a self-taught home cook, so entering the commercial food world was scary.  Twenty years later, she sold the expanded store to two employees and wondered what she would do next.

She was encouraged to write a cookbook. She did, and the book became a best seller.  Ina’s 9th cookbook is to be released in fall 2014.

Then Hollywood came calling.  Well, not exactly blingy Hollywood but the starry equivalent for foodies, the Food Network.  She kept say “I’m not interested” but they kept coming back.  So in 2008, she taped her first shows thinking that they would drop the idea after the first season.  She’s still doing the shows today.

The Barefoot Contessa was in Sacramento earlier this week and shared her thoughts on taking these leaps – on being successful in life and in the kitchen.

•   Be the best you can.  Better to be really good at a few things than to be just okay at a lot.

•   Keep it simple.  Don’t convert something into something it doesn’t want to be.

•   Use the best ingredients possible.   With good ingredients you’ll be able to keep it simple.

•   Entertain easily. Be organized.  Make most of the foods ahead of time so that you can enjoy your guests.  Keep it stress free.

•   Know your priorities for a happy relationship.  She and Jeffrey have been married for over 45 years.  To her, Jeffrey is the most important person in the world.  To Jeffrey, Ina is the most important person in the world.  They know this about each other and Ina believes this understanding is one of the keys to their successful marriage.

•   Let Julia guide you – learn to roast chicken a la Julia Child.  Mastering that dish will give you the understanding of how a few basic steps and simple ingredients transform into a delicious dinner, and will inspire you to keep cooking and learning.

Inspiration comes effortlessly with Ina’s Easy Cheese Danish as it is one of the easiest and foolproof pastries you can make.  This simplified adaptation features a lemony cream cheese filling topped with optional fruit preserves.  These pastries are golden beautiful after 20 minutes in the oven.

Recipe: Sweet Cheese Danish Pastries

The filling can be made the day before assembling; keep covered and refrigerated.  Defrost the frozen puff pastry by putting it in the refrigerator overnight or leaving it on the kitchen counter for a few hours (read box instructions).  If making half of this recipe (for 4 pastries), defrost only one sheet of puff pastry.   The frozen sheets usually come 2 to a box wrapped individually. Tape closed the opened puff pastry box to protect the remaining frozen sheet.

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 Tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 Tablespoon finely grated lemon zest (2 medium lemons)
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 box (2 sheets) puff pastry, defrosted
  • thick preserves (optional)
  • 1 egg + 1 Tablespoon water (egg wash)

Instructions

  1. Prepare baking sheet: line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone liner.
  2. Make filling: in a medium mixing bowl, cream cheese with sugar with a hand mixer until smooth. Add egg yolks, vanilla extract, lemon zest and salt and mix until just combined.
  3. Assemble pastries: unfold one sheet of puff pastry and if necessary, roll with a rolling pin to result in a 10-inch square pastry sheet. Cut the pastry sheet into 4 squares with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of filling in the middle of each square,  and top filling with a teaspoon of fruit preserves if using.  Mix egg and water together to make egg wash and brush the borders of the pastry squares with egg wash. Bring 2 opposite corners together, overlap corners and pinch overlap together.  Brush pastry tops with egg wash.  Transfer pastries to prepared baking sheet and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  4. Bake at 400º F:  bake in preheated oven until pastry is golden, about 20 minutes. Halfway through baking, rotate pan front to back, and if baking more than one sheet at a time, rotate from top to bottom. When done, remove baking sheet from oven onto a wire rack to cool.

Makes 8 pastries.

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