Author George Greenstein has a gift for teaching home bakers to think, work and bake like the pros with his evocative and tactile descriptions of baking. In A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets (Ten Speed Press, 2015), he crafts master dough recipes for Jewish holiday baking and European classics, creating a comprehensive set of building blocks for both beginners and baking enthusiasts. The book also offers an in-depth guide to ingredients and equipment, including both professional and home ovens, as well as 40 basic recipes for fillings, icings, and glazes. With Greenstein's steady guidance and familiar voice, home bakers and professionals alike will be encouraged to turn out flawless pastry creations for any occasion.
Cheese Danish were so popular that they were always first to be sold out in the bakery. Eventually I instituted a system allowing us to have freshly baked cheese Danish on hand at all times.
I prepared extra pans of pastries that were kept unbaked and frozen. One or two thawed pans were always kept in the refrigerator, retarding the rising and allowing us to have fresh, hot-from-the-oven Danish with about a 1-hour lead time — the time required to allow the dough to rise and be baked.
Pans that remained unused in the refrigerator were perfect for the first baking early on the following morning. A similar system can be adapted in the home by the astute baker who wishes to maintain a reserve of fresh baked goods.
• 1⁄4 portion (1-1⁄2 pounds/680 grams) Danish Pastry Dough
• 1 egg
• 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
• 1-1⁄2 cups (15 ounces/425 grams) Cheese Filling
• Sliced almonds, for topping, preferably toasted (optional)
• Baker’s Danish Glaze (Immediately upon removing from the oven any yeast-raised pastry that has been baked with egg wash painted on, brush the pastry with a Danish glaze, also known as Danish syrup or Danish wash. This creates an exceptionally high gloss for a professional finish.)
• 3 tablespoons (1.2 ounces/42 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
• 1⁄2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (4.4 ounces/125 grams) sugar
• 1-1⁄2 cups (12 ounces/340 grams) pot cheese or farmer cheese
• 1 egg yolk
• 1⁄2 cup (2.2 ounces/62 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
• Pinch of kosher salt
• 1⁄4 cup (2 ounces/57 grams) canned crushed pineapple, drained (optional)
Cheese Danish Recipe
1. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or greased waxed paper.
2. On a floured work surface, roll out the dough into a rectangle about 18 inches long by 14 inches wide. Shrink down the dough by holding one corner of the bottom edge with each hand, lifting gently and giving a little shake, like smoothing out a tablecloth. The dough should now be at least 16 inches long by 12 inches wide. If it's too short, gently roll to size, working from the center out to the edges.
3. With a pizza wheel or a sharp blade and a yardstick, trim the edges to form straight lines. Scraps can be set aside for reuse. Brush off any excess flour. With the knife, make an indentation to mark every 4 inches.
4. With a yardstick as a guide, cut twelve squares, each 4 by 3 inches (about 2 ounces each). Drop out a rounded tablespoon of cheese filling in the center of each square.
5. Lightly beat the egg with the water to make an egg wash.
6. Brush all of the edges with the egg wash.
7. Grasp two corners diagonally opposite each other. Stretching slightly, bring one end over and just beyond the filling. Press down hard to seal.
8. Bring the other end over and seal once more. Don't be afraid to press hard; if you don't, they may open while baking. A bit of cheese filling should peek out at the top and bottom of the closure.
9. Finish all of the pieces. Line them up in a row.
10. Brush with the egg wash, taking care to keep excess egg from running down the sides.
11. A dot of granulated sugar spilled in the center of each pastry serves to mark the pastry as cheese filled.
12. Place six to a pan, equally spaced on the prepared baking sheets.
13. Set aside and let rise until doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. When pressed very gently on the side with a fingertip, the dough should be soft and yield readily.
14. Using a delicate touch, carefully brush a second time with the egg wash. Let dry a few minutes.
15. Sprinkle the tops with almonds.
16. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F/190 degrees C.
17. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until well browned. The top should feel firm to the touch and spring back when lightly pressed with the fingers.
18. Remove from the oven and brush with the Danish glaze while still hot.
19. Cool in the pan on a wire rack.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Tightly covered, the pastries keep for several days at room temperature. They can be frozen for 4 to 8 weeks. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
Cheese Filling Recipe
1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle or with a hand-held electric beater, mix the butter with the sugar until blended; do not cream.
2. Add the cheese; mix lightly.
3. Add the egg yolk, flour, salt, and pineapple.
4. Mix at slow speed until blended.
5. With a large rubber spatula, scrape the beaters and the sides and bottom of the bowl, bringing the ingredients up to the top.
6. Mix to blend.
More recipes from A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets:
Reprinted with permission from A Jewish Baker's Pastry Secrets by George Greenstein with Elaine Greenstein, Julia Greenstein and Issac Bleicher and published by Ten Speed Press, 2015.