This simple Cheese Danish recipe is the perfect breakfast pastry to make for the entire family. The pillowy soft dough is filled with a cheesecake-like topping, then topped with a sugar streusel before baking - yum!
Check the yeast: If you're unsure if your yeast is fresh and active, combine the yeast with 2-3 tablespoons of the milk from the overall amount and 1 tsp of sugar from the overall amount. Stir to dissolve the sugar and yeast. Allow to proof for about 10-15 minutes. The mixture should rise and look frothy. If it does not, discard the yeast and do not start until you have good, active yeast.
Make the Pastry Dough: In a bowl of a stand mixer mix the remainder of the 1 cup of warm milk, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 4 egg yolks, 2 tbsp of sour cream, remainder of 1/3 cup of sugar, 2 tsp of dried active yeast (or the frothy yeast mixture if you had to do step 1), and 3 cups flour together on the 3rd speed of a mixer for about ten minutes.
Add butter & knead: Add 3/4 stick of softened butter to the dough mixture in quarters and knead for about 8 minutes or until the dough pulls away from the sides of the wall, and feels tacky to touch. If you stretch the dough, you should be able to form a thin film without it tearing.
Let rise until doubled: Transfer the dough to a well-oiled bowl, then cover the outside of the dough with some oil as well. This will keep it from cracking and drying as it rises. Cover the bowl with a tea towel. It is best to set the dough in a warm place (between 80°F-90°F). I turn the oven to 250°F for 3 minutes, then turn it off and set my bowl with dough inside the oven with the oven light on. Top of the refrigerator or any other warm, draft-free place will work as well.
Meanwhile, make the cream cheese filling: Whip together 1⅓ cup of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 tsp of vanilla until smooth. Cover and set aside.
Make the streusel topping: Combine 1/3 cup of flour, 1/3 cup of sugar, and 3 tbsp of melted butter with a fork or hands until crumbly. Refrigerate until later.
Make the egg wash: Whisk together with a fork 2 egg yolks and 1 tbsp of water. Cover and set aside.
Divide & shape the pastry dough. Once the dough is doubled, punch it down. Next, divide the pastry dough into 15-16 equal pieces. The most accurate way to do that is to weigh your dough, then divide the total by 16.
Shape each piece of dough into a ball by tucking the ends underneath itself until you get a smooth surface on top. Set the rolled danish buns on a 12"x18" foil or parchment-lined baking sheet, evenly spacing each piece of dough. If you would rather have the buns not touch, divide the danish pastries between two 12"x18" baking sheets. Let rest for 10 minutes, then dip the bottom of a glass or a cup into flour and press with it in the middle of each bun to form an indentation.
Fill with cream cheese filling: Use a medium ice cream scoop to fill each indentation with 1 scoop of cheesecake filling. Otherwise, just spoon the cream cheese filling with a regular spoon. If you would like to add some jam to the middle as well, use a teaspoon to spoon 1 tsp of jam or preserves in the middle of the cheesecake mixture.
Let rise until doubled: Put the baking pan with the filled danishes back into the oven (with the heat off, oven light on) or top of the fridge. The danishes should double in size in about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Brush with egg wash & top with streusel: Once the dough has doubled, brush the outside of the danishes with the egg wash, then sprinkle generously with streusel pressing gently to adhere it if needed.
Bake: In a preheated to 350°F degrees oven for about 20 minutes, or until the outside is golden in color. Then, remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack to cool slightly before enjoying.
Pick any type of jam or pie filling of your choice.
You can also sprinkle the cheesecake filling with dried raisins, cranberries, blueberries before adding the streusel toping to the top.
How to Store the Cheese Danishes
On the counter: If this batch is too much for you to eat in one day after the cheese pastries cool down you can store them on a counter covered with a dome. This will keep them soft longer then if they were to stay open.
In the freezer: You can also freeze them for longer-term storage. Just keep them in a sealed container and freeze for up to a month.
To thaw, just microwave for about 30 seconds a piece and then pop in the air fryer for about 2 minutes at 370F to make them look and taste as though they just came out of the oven.
OR, pop them in the oven straight from the freezer for about 5 minutes at 350F.
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