In my effort to impress friends during breakfast, I woke early, started the coffee machine (to the maximum 10 cups it would make) and started rolling out the puff pastry. All of this sounds seriously taxing for an early Saturday morning, but I'm a cheater. I was following Ina Garten's recipe for Easy Cheese Danish, I had already made the filling mix and it was waiting for me in the fridge, Martin had the coffee ready for me to press the button, and I was rolling out defrosted, store-bought puff pastry.
I'm not sure about you, but this is about all I can muster when it comes to serving breakfast for guests, especially if I've indulged in a few glasses of wine the night before. Don't get me wrong, I want it to be a warm and welcoming meal, but the fact that we're all out of bed WAY before 8am means that I'm moving slower than normal in the kitchen. Therefore, if I can do a few special items for guests, like make some homemade jam days before, or put together a basket of flaky danish at the last minute, it still feels special with minimal effort.
I don't normally start the day with a danish, so these feel like a special treat. I'm a huge advocate of eggs for breakfast on the weekends, but these really do feed a crowd. When you've got a group that will be up at slightly different times, running around grabbing a shower and feeding kids, these are great because you can pile them into a basket with a lovely napkin and everyone can help themselves. I've begun using my Mom's linens and so many of them seem to have been designed specifically for ladies luncheons on a sunny day. I guess that's exactly what you want at the bottom of a basket filled with creamy, lemony delicious danish.
Ina uses an electric mixer here which is one of my favorite kitchen electronics. My precious cherry-red kitchen aid mixer (that my Mother bought for me as a wedding present) was one of several electrical casualties in my move from England. Like an idiot, I stupidly thought I would be able to get a converter for all of my kitchen appliances and they would work. They did not. I use a hand mixer these days as I have not brought myself to part with a large portion of money for another mixer, but I know the day is imminent.
When I plugged in my beloved Dualit toaster and popped two pieces of bread in, it made all of the right sounds and felt warm on the outside. I thought, "eureka"! Sadly, it only warmed the bread and did not toast. After several attempts, Martin blamed the "damn American bread" before he realized his mistake.
Easy Cheese Danish
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home by Ina Garten
Makes 8 Danish
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
2 extra large egg yolks, at room temperature
2 tbsp ricotta cheese
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
grated lemon zest from 2 lemons
2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water for egg wash
Preheat the oven to 400F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Put the cream cheese and sugar into a bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle and cream together on a low speed. When it's smooth, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt and lemon zest. Mix until just combined and don't whip.
Carefully unfold a sheet of the puff pastry and roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it's 10x10 inch square. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling into the middle of each square, brush the borders with the egg wash and bring two opposite corners into the center. Brush the overlapping corners so they stick together and the brush the top of each pastry. Place them on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the second sheet of pastry.
Pop them into the refrigerator for 15 minutes and then bake for 20 minutes until puffed and golden.
You'll notice that I opted to make little rectangles instead of overlapping the corners and keeping the filling exposed. Either way, these little guys are addictive and you'll wish you made more than one for everyone.