This week’s theme for The Real Women of Philadelphia contest is dessert, and I don’t think I am alone in thinking that when I hear a dessert has cream cheese in it, it has to be good. There’s just something so comforting about a cream cheese based dessert. Personally, it makes me think of my grandmother, because she used to always make these wonderfully light cheesecakes that everyone in my family couldn’t get enough of. However, I wanted to take the road less traveled this time around, like so many people have been doing over at The Real Women of Philadelphia community. I suppose that a chance to win $25,000 really brings out the creativity in people! My creativity, though, stems from my husband. He is my bread making machine! He loves baking bread, and not just for the reasons that I am interesting in baking – the smell that fills your home, getting to eat something handmade straight out of the oven, etc. He loves baking bread because he has a very methodical mind and he has never been happier than figuring out the exact measurements needed, how much fat is ideal, the proper technique for kneading the dough, and whatever else is necessary to make the perfect loaf of bread. The Real Women of Philadelphia inspired us, though, so we wanted to step it up a notch – with danishes! Kramer is a croissant fanatic, but there’s just something special about a buttery, flaky danish, served with a dollop of some delicious Philadelphia Cream Cheese filling, and maybe even some jam or fresh fruit! I will own up to the fact that Kramer was the mastermind behind all of this – these are his little danish babies – and I was happy to let him go for it! I am so proud that the man I married is now interested in making pastry! When I first started dating him, he wouldn’t even eat Chinese food, if you can believe it, and now he understands all of the nuances to crafting viennoiserie. Amazing, isn’t it? I just hope that he keeps it up, because now I am slightly addicted to these light, buttery little treats, especially when paired with a sweet cream cheese mixture and topped with some fresh blueberries or raspberries. I hope that you will head over to BlogHer, too, become inspired, and share your creations with not only me, but the community!
This is a sponsored review from BlogHer and Kraft.
The night before you plan to bake, you will need to prepare your poolish. Mix together the flour, yeast, and water until just combined in a medium sized mixing bowl, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a spot in your house that has a well regulated temperature.
Brush with the egg wash, let them sit out and proof for an hour and a half, then brush then with the wash again and bake at 375 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. You can also use the steaming method, which adds a nice sheen to the danishes – those instructions are included in the recipe.
- 145 grams King Aruthur bread flour
- 145 grams water, room temperature
- ⅛ teaspoon instant yeast
- 335 grams all-purpose flour
- 65 grams granulated sugar
- 10 grams kosher salt
- 20 grams unsalted cold cultured butter, cubed
- 1½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 65 grams milk
- 115 grams water, room temperature
- 225 grams unsalted cold cultured butter, rolled into a 7×7 inch square sheet (instructions follow, or see photos above)
- ¾ cup Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons almond extract
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon milk
- jam or fruit butter (we used a lovely blackberry butter that we received as a gift)
- fresh fruit (blueberries, pomegranate seeds, raspberries, kiwi, etc.)
- You will need to begin this project the night before you plan to bake the danishes. Begin by preparing your poolish, or starter. Mix together the flour, yeast, and water until just combined in a medium sized mixing bowl, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a spot in your house that has a well regulated temperature. Allow the poolish to ferment overnight, or for about 12 hours. It will rise at first, then it will deflate a bit, so don’t worry about that!
- After 12 hours have passed, add the 335 grams of all-purpose flour, 65 grams of granulated sugar, and 10 grams of salt in a medium bowl and combine. Cube 20 grams of cold, unsalted butter, and then add them to the flour mixture, using your hands to incorporate it into the dough. Add in the 1 ½ teaspoons of instant yeast, then gently mix in the 65 grams of milk and 115 grams of water, until just combined. Add in the poolish and mix until everything is well incorporated.
- Lightly flour your work surface with bread flour and turn the dough out onto it. With floured hands, knead the dough until it is less sticky and more manageable, about 10-15 minutes. The best way to do this is to stretch the dough, then fold it into itself, turn it, and keep doing it again and again (see photos above). It might seem like you are getting nowhere fast, but just keep at it and the dough will change its composition right before your eyes. The dough is ready when you hold up a small piece, stretch it, and it is transparent (see photos above). This is called the “window pane” method. Be careful not to overknead the dough, though – use your judgment. When the dough has achieved this consistency, flour a baking sheet, place the dough on it, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, and chill in the fridge for 2 hours.
- Prepare the butter after you do this, so that the butter can have time to chill. Get your 225 grams of cold butter and place it between two sheets of plastic wrap. Using a rolling pin, roll the butter out into a 7×7 inch square sheet. It doesn’t need to be perfect, though (Kramer was a little obsessed with getting it perfectly straight, of course). Put the square back it the fridge to firm up.
- After the dough has chilled for 2 hours, clean and re-flour your work surface. Roll your dough out into a 7×14 inch rectangle, then place the 7×7 inch square of butter over the dough, as centered as possible. Fold one side of the dough over onto the butter, then fold the other side over onto it, but not overlapping. (photos above). Seal the butter into the dough by pushing your rolling pin against the seams, and then brush the dough with a soft brush to get rid of any excess flour. Rotate the dough 90 degrees and roll the dough out to a 21×7 inch rectangle. Make sure that the seam run 21 inches long. Now fold into overlapping thirds like a letter. This completes your first turn. Return the dough to your baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap again, and let it sit in the fridge for another 1 hour.
- After the 1 hour is up, you are going to turn the dough again. Take your dough out of the fridge and reflour your surface. Rotate the dough so that the 3 folded over layers are facing you and roll the dough out away from your body into another 21×7 inch rectangle. Fold this into overlapping thirds like a letter. After you have turned the dough a second time, return it to the fridge, wrapped in plastic, for another hour. After that hour, turn the dough again, and let it rest in the fridge, wrapped in plastic, for another hour, then turn it one more time and allow it to chill in the fridge for another hour. You should have turned the dough 4 times in total.
- After the dough has chilled in the fridge for the fourth time, bring the dough out, place on a lightly floured surface, and roll the dough into a 16×16 inch square. Divide the dough in half and place half of it in the fridge while you work on the first half.
- Cut half of the dough into 4×4 inch squares, preferably using a pizza cutter. You can now form your danishes into whatever shape you like. I like to make pinwheels the most. To do this, take one 4×4 inch square and make a slit in each corner (photos above). Simple turn two of these folds over in the same clockwise or counter-clockwise direction, to form a pinwheel. You can also form a typical looking danish by simply kneading the dough into itself until it is a nice circle with some of the dough pinched up around the sides, sort of like a pizza. Place the formed danishes onto clean, non-stick baking sheets, and brush the dough with your egg wash. Place the dough out, somewhere that is about 75-80 degrees F, and allow them to proof, or rise, for another 1.5 hours.
- Before you coat your danishes with a second egg wash, you want to fill them with your delicious Philadelphia Cream Cheese! Simply beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and almond extract, until smooth. Place the mixture in a piping bag or a sealable bag with the tip cut off, then pipe the cream cheese filling into the middle of your danishes. I found it helped to press my thumb into the center of the danishes to make an indentation for the cream cheese. Top the cream cheese mixture with fresh fruit or a dollop of jam, or both! Now you can brush a second coat of egg wash over the danishes.
- When you are ready to bake, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. You are going to want to create a bit of steam inside of your oven, to give the danishes a nice sheen. To do this, heat a cast iron pan (or any oven proof pan) on the bottom of the oven while it preheats. Then, heat a cup of water in the microwave on high for 2 minutes. Place your baking sheets on their racks, then carefully pour the how water into the pan on the bottom floor of the oven, being sure to wear long sleeves and gloves to avoid being burned. The steam will dissipate after a few minutes, and the danishes will continue to bake. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until set and golden. Allow to cool a bit on the pan before moving them to a wire rack. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. These keep well for two days. Keep them uncovered and at room temperature for the first day, then in a closed paper bag for the second day.