Sunday, May 6, 2012

Goat-Cheese Danish

I don't think I could be more pleased with the cheese danish I have been eating for breakfast this morning. 

The pastry is flaky and layered, but hearty and satisfying. The filling is sweet and creamy, but with a depth of flavor that you're never going to find in a store-bought danish. I feel safe in saying that I think this recipe will be sticking with me for years.

Ok, now as some of you know, I like to make a fancy breakfast/brunch at least once a week. For a while, this was crepes with all the fixings... but after a few years of having crepes every weekend they stopped feeling fancy and special. They had become routine... so the search was on for a new fancy breakfast.
One of the first things I tried was cheese danish... but despite hours and hours of effort on homemade puff pastry the result was somehow both dense and flimsy and utterly unsatisfying... so I moved on to other things. I tried Pretzels, which were yummy, but I have a massive sweet tooth and prefer sweet foods in the morning. Waffles with all the same toppings as I would normally have put on crepes were too similar to crepes... so I slowly worked my way back around to cheese danish, but with a few ideas on how to make the filling a little better.
One of the first things I had found in my search for fancy brunch recipes was this Goat Cheese Cake... so I decided to use it as inspiration for the filling, and I used this Danish Dough recipe as a base (which I used to use when I worked at a nice restaurant) instead of a "quick" and "easy" puff pastry dough that was a lot more work and turned out terrible anyway.
So... without further ado... the recipe!

Danish Dough

3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp yeast
1/4 cup honey
1 egg yolk
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
1/2 tsp cardamom (optional)

1 cup butter (2 sticks), about 60-65* (that's room temp in my house)
1 handful flour

Making this danish dough is very similar to making Croissants.
In a large mixing bowl mix together the wet ingredients and the yeast, let sit a few minutes to let the yeast hydrate, then add the flour, salt, and cardamom and knead until the dough is smooth. Do not overknead. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile smash the sticks of butter with the handful of flour, kneading and forming them into roughly an 8"square. The butter should be pliable but not melty.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to roughly a 16" square. Place the butter on the center and fold the dough over it to make a package. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle. (if it feels like the butter is too soft and melty at any point, put the dough back in the fridge for a few minutes)
Fold the dough like a book - fold the two edges into the center, and then fold again. (minute 5:25 of this video shows how... I'm bad at describing. Also this dough is way easier to work than her dough is.)
Refrigerate the dough for half an hour, then roll and fold again. Repeat twice more, then wrap the dough very carefully in plastic wrap and let chill half an hour or overnight.
Prepare your desired fillings, then roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick, and a rectangle either 8" by 24" or 12" by 16" (use a ruler!) and cut into twelve 4" squares.
For the pinwheels like I made, the directions made no sense to me until I just went ahead and followed them, at which point they made perfect sense. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of filling onto the center of the square. Cut diagonally from each corner to within 3/4" of the center. Fold the alternate corners into the center, pinching them together firmly to hold them in place.
Place them on a cookie sheet and let them rise about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375*.
Bake the pastries for about 15 to 20 minutes, until well-browned. Remove immediately to racks to cool.
Let cool at least a little before eating, or else you'll burn your mouth on molten goat cheese. (ask me how I know). These are also very good made up the night before.

Goat Cheese Filling
4oz fresh goat cheese (chevre)
4oz cream cheese (half a package)
1/4 cup honey or agave
pinch salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 egg yolk

Soften the goat cheese and cream cheese and beat together with a fork until homogenous. Add the honey or agave, salt, and vanilla. Taste, and adjust seasonings to your liking. Add the egg yolk and beat until homogenous again.
Use to fill Danish Pastries.

And here are some more pictures! The pinwheels how they were pre-baking, and post. Most of them sort of un-pinwheeled in the oven. I guess I just didn't press them together firmly enough.
I hope you all enjoy!

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