Follow these easy instructions and create a flaky, buttery cream cheese Danish at home. You can be a master at this, I promise!
One of the kitchen challenges I gave myself last year was to make homemade Danish pastry. You know those buttery, flaky, fruit/cream cheese filled pastries at catered breakfasts and meetings? They’re totally irresistible, I know.
Making Danish pastry at home was extremely intimidating, but I put on my big girl pants last October and spent days in my kitchen trying my hand at it. Call me determined, call me pastry crazy, call me whatever but I finally got it! Lucky for us, the recipe I use to make our beloved pastries at home is a quick-method.
If you haven’t tried it yet, now is the time. Don’t be scared; you can do this too!
My Danish pastry dough and method is an adaption of several trusted sources: Cooking Illustrated, Joy of Cooking, and pastry master Beatrice Ojakangas. I studied the three methods and sort of mish-mashed them all together. Using what I learned, I made a beautiful Iced Raspberry Danish Braid and brought it to Kevin’s parents’. If heaven had a taste, it would be my raspberry danish braid.
While snowed in this past week, I made the Danish pastry again – cream cheese filling this time. I also tried to cut the pastry into cute little shapes. Squares, rectangles, circles, twists. What a disaster! They puffed up, but looked incredibly awkward and lopsided.
I’ll spare you the photos.
I’m better at pastry braids. It seems like braiding the dough would be harder than cutting into shapes, but trust me – it isn’t! Just follow my instructions and visuals and you’ll be a Danish pastry master in no time. Promise.
In case you missed it a few months ago, let me explain what Danish pastry is.
What is Danish Pastry?
Danish pastry is made from flour, yeast, milk, eggs, and copious amounts of butter. The texture is similar to croissant dough, but tastes sweeter (and has the addition of egg in the dough). Like croissants, typical Danish pastry dough is rolled out thinly, then folded into numerous layers with a butter square. Flaky, buttery layers. That’s what makes it so good!
My Shortcut to Danish Pastry
Rather than laminating the dough with a butter square like Danish and croissant dough typically requires, I cut the cold butter into the dough. Which is a method I use for making my favorite pie crust. You’ll still get the flaky, buttery layers you love about Danish pastries, but you’ll cut a lot of work from the process.
I have a separate page for you dedicated to preparing and shaping this Danish braid. Before you begin, I suggest reading through the entire dough recipe. It takes some planning ahead. Certain ingredients must be at room temperature, certain ingredients must be warm, while others must be cold. Temperature is very imperative to the success of your Danish pastry dough! So be sure to be prepared by reading my instructions first.
The dough must be sufficiently chilled whenever you are working with it.
There are two stages of chilling:
Because of all the chilling, this pastry is a wonderful recipe to begin the night before and serve as brunch the next morning. Or even prep the dough a few days in advance so your work can be cut down. I detail make-ahead instructions in the pastry dough recipe.
It’s important to know that this recipe makes 2 lbs of dough, which equals 2 braids. The filling and glaze recipes below are enough for 2 braids. 1 braid should serve 4-6 people. Make 2 braids for company. If you don’t need that many tempting danishes around, freeze the second half of the dough for a later time. That’s what we do!
The filling I used is a simple cream cheese mixture. Lightly sweetened and the perfect creamy center for the flaky dough. It sort of tastes like cheesecake. Cheesecake tucked inside buttery pastry. Oh yes. I dotted the cream cheese filling with blueberries and topped the braid with a few sliced almonds before baking. (Also a simple egg wash to leave a shiny finish.)
Once the braid is finished, you’ll drizzle it immediately with a simple glaze. Try to go very light on the glaze because you’ll want the cream cheese filling to stand out. Toasted almonds, cheesecake filling, juicy blueberries, flaky pastry, vanilla glaze. What a combination of flavors this braid has!
My homemade pastry is nothing like those mass-produced, overly sweet danishes you’re used to finding at the store. My mom put it perfectly “store bought danishes taste so old.” Yes, they do! And they’re filled with a bunch of gunk I can’t even pronounce.
It’s simple to create a tender, flaky pastry dough at home. I know it seems scary, but take some time to read through the easy instructions before you begin. That will make the whole pastry-making-process much easier for you! It’s not rocket science, it’s fruity pastry.
Don’t be overwhelmed by my wordy instructions. The more thorough I am, the more help you have to make a successful braided pastry. You can do this!
Yield: 2 braids, 4-6 servings each
Prep Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Total Time: at least 6 hours, which includes chilling time
Make the pastry dough through step 7.
Make the filling: in a medium bowl using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese and egg yolk together on medium speed until smooth. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Continue with steps 8-10, including preheating the oven to 400F, in the pastry dough recipe for how to assemble. *Don't forget to add the blueberries on top of the filling (as pictured above) and sprinkle the uncooked braids with the sliced almonds before baking.
As the braids are baking, prepare the vanilla glaze by whisking all of the ingredients together. After 10 minutes of cooling, drizzle the braids lightly with glaze and serve immediately.
Braids taste best served on the same day. Dough may be prepared in advance. See "make ahead" instructions in the pastry dough recipe.
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Here’s my Iced Raspberry Danish Braid recipe
Two more challenges for you to try! (step-by-step visuals included)
See more pastry recipes.