The Danish came into being as a result of a kitchen mishap and a workers’ strike. In the early 1600s, a French baker forgot to add butter to his flour at the “right” time, and in an attempt to salvage his pastry, he folded chunks of butter into his flour mixture. He inadvertently created a delicious flaky puff pastry dough. From there, Danish-like pastries were made in France, then Italy and Austria.
A few hundred years later during a labor strike in Denmark in 1850, business owners hired bakers from abroad to replace local workers. Several such Austrian bakers began making Danish-like pastries, and when the strike was over, Danish bakeries continued to bake and improve upon these newly beloved pastries. In 1915, a Danish immigrant chef baked Danishes for Woodrow Wilson’s wedding to great success and acclaim. Soon after, the same baker encouraged a New York Jewish restauranteur to start selling the pastries at his establishments. Danishes have been a staple in bakeries and delis across the country ever since.
Danishes are typically made with puff pastry, which is a buttery laminated dough. If you love baking projects you can make this recipe with homemade puff pastry. For a quicker and easier Danish, pre-made puff pastry is ideal. Any store-bought frozen version will work, but using an all-butter puff pastry will yield better quality and flavor. These pastries are crispy on the edges with a buttery flaky dough, and soft in the middle with a fruity cheesecake-like filing. Always a crowd pleaser, they’re perfect for any holiday brunch or lunch spread.
Note: Danishes are best eaten the same day they are made, and can be stored at room temperature. If you have leftovers, they can be reheated in an oven or toaster oven the next day.
For the pastry:
- 1 (17.25 oz or 1 lb.) package all-butter puff pastry, defrosted
- 1 egg, beaten
- turbinado sugar (or any course sugar), for sprinkling
For the cream cheese filling:
- 1 8 oz block cream cheese
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
For the blueberry sauce:
- 2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
- ½ cup water
- ¼ cup sugar
- juice of ½ a lemon, or to taste
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch + 1 Tbsp water, whisked together
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Start by making the blueberry sauce. In a medium pot combine the blueberries, sugar, water, and lemon juice. In a small dish, whisk together the cornstarch and water and reserve. On medium-high heat, bring the mixture up to a simmer. When the blueberry mixture starts to bubble, add in your slurry of cornstarch and water. The sauce will immediately begin to thicken. Stir and let the blueberries simmer for 2 more minutes until the sauce is thick, easily coats a spoon, but the blueberries still hold their shape. Turn off the heat and add the vanilla.
- Remove from the heat, and allow the sauce to fully cool. Transfer to the fridge or freezer to cool the sauce quickly.
- To make the cream cheese filling, using a handheld mixer or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. To make this without a mixer, allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature, combine it with sugar and vanilla, and beat vigorously together with a wooden spoon.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Now it’s time to assemble your Danishes. Roll your puff pastry sheets into a 12” x 8” rectangle (if it is already roughly this size, there is no need to roll it out). Divide the pastry into even-sized 3” x 4” rectangles. For square Danishes, roll your pastry into a 12” x 12” square, and cut them into 4” x 4” squares.
- Using a small paring knife, gently score each rectangle with a ½” border, so that there is an outline of a smaller rectangle inside each pastry. Transfer the squares to two parchment-lined baking sheets, and place them at least 1” apart.
- Add a heaping 1 Tbsp of the cream cheese mixture to the center of the rectangle. Using an offset spatula or the back of a spoon, spread the mixture into an even layer, so it roughly fills only the interior rectangle of the pastry. Top the cream cheese with a tablespoon of the blueberry sauce.
- Before baking, brush the border edges of the pastry with the beaten egg and sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the egg wash. Bake for 22-25 minutes, or until the pastry has puffed up and is deep golden brown in color. Allow the pastry to cool for 15 minutes prior to serving.
- To make ahead: Form the Danishes up to the point of topping them with blueberry sauce (step 7). Freeze the cream cheese filling-topped Danishes in a single layer, then transfer them to an airtight container or bag. If making more than a week in advance, freeze the sauce, and then defrost before assembly. When ready to bake, top the Danishes with the blueberry sauce as instructed above. Add the egg wash and sugar to the edges of the frozen pastry. Bake as directed until golden brown. Frozen pastry may take 3-5 minutes longer to bake.