Mini Cheese Danish

cream cheese danish | apt 2b baking co
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cream cheese danish | apt 2b baking co
cream cheese danish | apt 2b baking co
cream cheese danish-0418.jpg
cream cheese danish | apt 2b baking co
cream cheese danish-0427.jpg

I remember hitting up the grocery store pastry case on the way out of town on family road trips and skipping over the chocolate doughnuts to head straight for the danish - cream cheese was always my favorite. Cheese Danish represent the best of all breakfast pastry worlds - crisp buttery pastry, slightly savory filling, and a little bit of sweet glaze. I kind of can't believe I hadn't made them before I found this recipe.

Danishes were always a little intimidating to me because they are made with laminated yeast dough which is time consuming to make and can be a little fussy. I have made croissants a couple of times, but honestly the time and planning it takes to make them is a total turnoff, even if the results are delicious.

But, when I spotted this recipe I knew I had to try it. It comes from Samantha Seneviratne by way of the NY Times and it is SO SMART and a lot less involved than traditional laminated yeast dough. It can also be made way ahead of time, and it's made in the food processor (no knead!) making these perfect for a brunch time treat. 


There are still a few spots available for my food and photography workshop in PARIS this Spring with Olaiya Land. Learn more here


Cheese Danish

makes 9 medium or 16 mini Danish

recipe by Samantha Seneviratne for the NY Times

The Danish dough requires quite a bit of hands-off resting time so make sure to factor that in to your plans. I made these a few times, once with labne instead of cream cheese in the filling which worked great. The filling was a bit softer than the cream cheese version, but the extra tang from the labne was a nice bonus flavor. If you've used labne, you'll need to fill the pastries a bit differently to account for the texture of the filling, instructions are within the recipe. Also, the original recipe calls to make the Danishes a bit bigger, but I loved the idea of little two-bite minis so I went for it.

1 8-ounce package cream cheese (or labne)

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 large egg yolk

pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 batch Danish dough (recipe below)

1 large egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons milk

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar, egg yolk, salt and vanilla until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a pastry bag or resealable plastic bag; set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a 12 1/2-inch square. Trim 1/4 inch off each edge. Cut the dough into nine 4-inch squares, or 12 2-inch squares for mini danish. Brush the corners of each square with a bit of the beaten egg, then fold each corner into the center and press down gently. Transfer the squares to 2 parchment-lined baking sheets.

Pipe the cheese filling onto the center of each dough square. (If you've made the filling with labne, pipe the pastries half full and reserve the rest of the filling in the fridge while they rise.) Loosely cover the pastries with plastic wrap and let stand until slightly puffed, 60-80 minutes. Heat oven to 425ºF.

Remove the plastic and gently brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg. Bake for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. (If using the labne filling, pipe the remaining filling over the top of the half baked filling) Continue to bake until pastries are puffed and deep golden brown, another 6 to 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1 cup confectioners’ sugar and the milk. Let the Danish cool slightly on the sheet then drizzle with the glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Danish Dough

1 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for the work surface and the rolling pin

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

2 teaspoons active dry yeast

3/4 teaspoonkosher salt

14 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks), roughly cubed

1 large egg

1/4 cup cold milk

Combine the flour, granulated sugar, yeast and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse to combine. The butter should be the size of small marbles and peas. Transfer this mixture to a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg, milk, and 2 tablespoons water.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold the mixture until it is evenly moistened. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap, shape into a small rectangle, and wrap well. Chill for at least 3 hours, and up to 2 days.

On a lightly floured surface, using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough out to an 8-by-15-inch rectangle. With a short side facing you, fold the dough in thirds like a letter, bringing the top third of the dough down, then folding the bottom third up. Use a bench scraper to help lift and fold the dough if necessary. At this point, the dough will be rough and shaggy with visible butter pieces; as you roll and fold the dough it will come together. Rotate the dough 90 degrees. Repeat the rolling and folding process, then rotate the dough once more and roll and fold again. As you work, dust the work surface, your hands and the rolling pin with flour as necessary. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Repeat the entire rolling and folding process one more time for a grand total of six turns. If the dough starts to fight you and become difficult to roll at any point, just pop it in the fridge for an extra rest. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight.

 

Chocolate Almond Babka and a Trip to the Beach

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When Autumn wrote so eloquently about how hard it is to make friends as an adult I nodded my head in agreement and when she quietly questioned the value of blogging and what it has brought to her life I shook it even harder. It's easy to sit back and read other people's words and comment and admire them from afar, but at what point can you consider them friends?

I am someone who likes to have a lot of time to myself. The reason I stayed at my last job long after I should have was that it offered me hours and hours of alone time every afternoon, but now that I've been away from that job for a few months, I find myself with more time than I know what to do with. It's not that I don't enjoy it, but as I've gotten a bit older I've assigned more value to making meaningful connections with other folks. 

You may have seen Ariele's beautiful wood work or Amélie's clever letterpress baseball cards around the internet. I'll try not to sound like a gushing fan girl here, but when I saw their work for the first time I was so surprised and delighted. Yes, I know that sounds terribly cheesy, but I can't think of any other words to describe how happy I was to see two talented gals busting ass to make their living as artists.

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After a few months of internet friendship and lots of commenting back and forth, it was decided that a meeting of the minds was in order, a blind friendship date if you will. We chose a time and I promised to bring the snacks. When I saw a swirled chocolate babka by way of Eating for England I knew I had found the perfect tea time treat. I consulted my bread guy (Peter Reinhart) for his recipe and ended up with this delicately sweet and super chocolatey bread. I packed it up in a tea towel to contain all of the delicious streusel crumbs and made my way to Ariele's incredible studio/apartment. We chatted and drank tea and when I got to see their work in the flesh, it did not disappoint.

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We spent the afternoon talking about about all sorts of things and when someone mentioned Dead Horse Bay my ears (probably my whole face too) perked right up. I had heard of the place, but had never been. We decided that the next day's spring-like weather demanded a trip!

This isn't a beach for sunbathing and frisbee tossing. It's the kind of beach that requires sturdy shoes and gloves. You see, Dead Horse Bay is the former site of a horse rendering plant, turned 19th century landfill, turned playground for "junk" loving treasure hunters. The beach is littered with piles and piles of beautiful glass bottles, bits of tiles and Amélie even found an old rusted gun and a toy cowboy boot in close proximity to one another. I came home with some glass bottles to add to my collection and some porcelain light sockets that I repurposed into candle sticks.

As we walked along the beach picking up and kicking up treasures, yelling to each other when we found something exceptionally cool, I felt like I was anywhere but New York. The smell of the sea air was comforting, the sun was shining bright and warm and I was spending time with two awesome ladies I knew from the internet and had only met in person the day before.

I knew immediately that I wanted to go back. I've already planned another trip.

Chocolate Almond Babka

adapted from Peter Reinhart

For the Dough

2T instant yeast

6oz lukewarm milk

3oz room temperature butter

3oz sugar

1oz vegetable oil

1t vanilla extract

4 egg yolks

15oz all purpose flour

.25oz salt

1 egg + 1T water for egg wash

For the Filling

9oz finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

4oz sliced almonds

1t cinnamon

2oz cold butter

For the Topping (optional, but advised)

The original recipe called for 2x this amount of topping, but I could only get about half of it to stick to the bread so if you really want to go for it with the crumbs feel free to double these amounts

1oz butter

.75 oz all purpose flour

.5 oz almond meal

2oz brown sugar

pinch cinnamon

pinch salt

For the Bread

1. Whisk the yeast and milk together. Set aside while you prepare the other ingredients

2. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. I made this entire recipe by hand with a wooden spoon, but you could use a hand or stand mixer instead.

3. Add in the oil and vanilla, then add the egg yolks in one at a time, mixing until each yolk is thoroughly incorporated. Mix for 2 min or until the eggs are light and fluffy.

4. Stop mixing, then add the flour and salt, followed by the milk and yeast mixture. Mix slowly until the dough comes together, if you are mixing by hand, your hands are the best tool for this job.

5. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead for 2 min. The dough should be soft, supple and golden in color. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl covered with plastic wrap and let rise for 2 1/2hrs or until the dough almost doubles in size. At this point you can finish the bread or let the dough rest in the refrigerator over night. I let mine rest.

For the Filling

Combine the chopped chocolate, almonds and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add the butter and mix with your fingers or a pastry cutter until the mixture resembles streusel.

To Assemble the Loaf

1. Grease a 9''x5'' or 10''x5'' loaf pan and line with parchment paper so it hangs over the two long sides. Once the dough has risen, roll it into a 15''x15'' square on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be about 1/4'' thick. Sprinkle the chocolate and almond filling over the dough, leaving a 1/2'' border around the edges.

2. Roll the dough like a jelly roll and place it seam side down on your work surface. Gently roll the dough back and forth until it is about 20'' long.

3. Fold the dough in half to form a "U" shape. Twist the arms of the dough two or three times around each other to form the loaf, then pinch the seams together.

This post has a photo of a formed loaf. Place the dough into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room until the babka fills the pan, 1-2 hours.

While the loaf is rising

Preheat oven to 350º

Prepare the Streusel and Finish the Loaf

1. Combine all of the streusel ingredients with your hands until the mixture resembles cornmeal.

2. When the loaf has risen completely, brush with egg wash made from 1 egg +1T water and sprinkle the streusel mixture over the top. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes in the top of the loaf which will release any air pockets trapped between the folds of the dough and filling.

3. Place the loaf pan onto a baking sheet and slide into the oven. Bake for 20-25min, then rotate and bake for 20-30 more minutes. The loaf will be deep golden brown on top and sound hollow when the bottom is tapped when finished. You can also use a thermometer to check the internal temperature which will be 185º when the loaf is finished.

Cool the loaf to room temperature before slicing.

p.s. I recently listened to a 

TED talk by Susan Cain

 about the power of introverts, about how our society is built for extroverts to succeed and receive praise. While I don't agree with everything she has to say, I think it is worth a listen.