Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Easy Cheese Danish

I've been spending a lot of time at home lately mainly resting and taking a slight hiatus from my usual crazy entertaining schedule. Normally, I'm not a big watcher of the Food Network Channel, but the exception is catching Ina Garten. Her recipes have never failed me and I love her style. One morning I was watching an episode where she made three dishes - cheese danish, chicken salad and chocolate cupcakes. For each dish, she prepared them with a base recipe and then halfway through, added a 'secret ingredient' to liven the dish. Both versions of the dish were provided to her staff to decide which was better - standard version or the version with the 'secret ingredient.'

This episode was great to watch and it inspired me to make the following recipe. The lemon zest in this recipe is what made the dish. Not a believer that lemon zest could result in a big difference? Try making the recipe as written below and try it again by omitting the lemon zest... the lemon zest is that 'secret ingredient' that makes all the difference!

Easy Cheese Danish
recipe adapted from Ina Garten

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into 9 equal squares with a sharp knife. Place a heaping teaspoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.