28 February 2011

Ina Garten's Easy Cheese Danishes

I absolutely adore Ina Garten and watch her program Barefoot Contessa whenever it's on. She's so calm and soothing and homey - you'd never know that her brain bulges and she used to work for the White House. I only have one of her books - I find you spend a lot of time converting temperatures etc as these are definitely for a US audience but she has great suggestions for events, brunches, snack lunches, romantic dinners etc so I used one of her recipes for the brunch I cooked recently.

Her quick cheese danishes are easy if a little fiddly and, although I was originally drawn to these because they involve cheese, they are in fact sweet. They went down incredibly well and there were enough left over for tea. What was actually ideal about these was that I had made them the night before which meant they just needed heating up for five minutes in a hot oven and I could do this for people as they arrived so our stomachs weren't rumbling too much by the time everyone had appeared. These also inspired me to make my own savoury cheese pastry recipe which is going to be the first think I attempt once I'm off this bloody diet!

Ina Garten's recipe is below (taken from her book At Home and amended slightly by me). I've converted them to grams but put the (original) ounces and cups in brackets after.

Easy Cheese Danish

Makes 8 Danish (I actually found this made about 12)

225g (8oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
40g (1/3 cup) sugar
2 extra-large egg yolks at room temperature (I used 3 medium egg yolks)
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
2 sheets pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

Pre-heat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6. Line a big baking sheet with baking paper. I had to use two which was a bit of a pain but I'm not sure a big one would have fitted in my fridge - these do need chilling so make sure yours will fit. Now I actually used 300g cream cheese and would use 1 lemon zest max but as I've said I hate lemon. I also think that in the US the puff pastry sheets are square so I would get three packs maybe and trim our rectangles to be more square.

1. Place the cream cheese and sugar in a bowl and cream together on low speed until smooth. Ina uses a KitchenAid mixer which I don't have so I used my lowly hand mixer on it's lowest setting which seemed to work fine.
Cream cheese and sugar

2. With the mixer still on low, add the eggs yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!
Egg yolks, lemon zest and ricotta

3. Unfold one sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it with a floured pin until it's a 10x10 inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. I then found it easiest to put the squares onto the baking sheet before putting the filling in.

4. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the four squares. Brush the boarder of each pastry with egg wash and fold the two opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.
Ready for the fridge

5. Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes (my oven blows hot so I found 15 was fine), rotating the pan once during backing, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.
Ina Garten Easy Cheese Danishes
Finished Danish - in no way as beautiful as Ina's

You can make these the night before and keep in an airtight tin, then reheat them in a 180c oven for five mins before serving.

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