I won't pretend this is a quick, simple recipe, but the payoff is totally worth it. It's also split up over a day or so of work - make the dough, leave it for 8-12 hours, work it a little, leave it another 12 hours, then form and bake. Such is the life of a danish - and this is actually a quick danish!
The recipe is a combination of ratios, techniques and methods from a variety of sources, including Nigella Lawson, Joe's Pastry and Sally's Baking Addiction. For time reasons I wasn't able to take photos along the way, so they might be able to make things more clear on that end. I tried to be as thorough as possible in the directions - so don't be intimidated by the length! The most difficult and time consuming portion is the forming of the danishes into little twists, but these would be just as delicious if you cut the dough into squares and pinched up the sides instead.
Recipe: Makes about 35 palm-sized danishes
2 1/4 cups (285g) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup (50g) sugar
1 tablespoon instant dry yeast (if you're using active dry, it needs proofing)
200g unsalted butter, cold and diced
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces cream cheese
1 egg yolk
3 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons milk
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1-2 tablespoons milk
In a large bowl or the bowl of a food processor, mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Sprinkle the butter over the flour mixture and using a pastry cutter or the s blade, cut the butter into the flour until only small pebbles of butter remain.
Add in the water, milk and egg and stir until a sticky, wet dough forms - you should still be able to see pieces of butter. Turn the mixture out on to a greased piece of foil or saran wrap and wrap up the dough. Refrigerate for 4-12 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge, and pat it into a rectangle shape. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, about 10x14 inches. Fold the dough up like a letter before putting in an envelope - first the left side, then the right. Then roll the dough out into a large rectangle and repeat the process two more times. Wrap up the dough rectangle and place in the fridge another 4-12 hours.
Remove the dough from the fridge and perform one more "turn" - rolling the dough out and folding it up like a letter. Roll out to a large rectangle, about 10x14 inches. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter/pastry wheel, slice the dough in half lengthways, then slice into approximately 1/2" strips.
Take each strip and twirl to form a twist, then wrap it around itself to form a little round bundle of dough - tucking the end underneath. Continue with the remaining strips, and place them, about an inch apart, on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet (I needed three sheet pans). (Joe can help with the technique).
Cover with greased saran wrap and let rise about another hour.
In the last ten minutes of proofing, make the filling.
Mix together with a fork the cream cheese, sugar, egg yolk, lemon and vanilla. Use the bowl of a tablespoon (dipped in flour as needed) to make a deep impression in the center of each danish.
Mix together the egg and milk for the egg wash and brush over each danish. Fill each well with the filling.
Bake on 350 F for about 15 minutes - rotating halfway through - until golden brown.
As the danishes are cooling, mix together the powdered sugar and milk for the glaze, adding just enough milk to get the right consistency. Drizzle atop the cooled danishes, and enjoy!