Updated: Jun 11, 2020
One of the most simple and yet decadent morning pastries is a classic cheese pastry. There are so many variations, ingredients, and shapes you can do. And they are not only for morning; they can be an afternoon treat or dessert.
In this easy recipe (below), I use store bought puff pastry sheets. This is a super easy alternative and saves time. Making dough from scratch takes time and some technique. This may cause some stress for people who aren't professional bakers. The dough is made with a method called: lamination. This process is the folding of the dough over cold butter, rolled out and folded more. Bakers have different set numbers of how many times they fold the dough, usually odd numbers, starting with a minimum of 3 folds. Folding cold butter into the dough keeps the butter intact. Intact cold butter allows steam to form in the heat of the oven, allowing the dough to "puff."
Danish or pastry, whichever you prefer to call it can have many different toppings/ingredients and shapes.
Cheese: Recipe below
Strawberry & Cheese: Use the recipe below but reduce the amount of cheese filling and add chopped strawberries. I like to marinate my strawberries in granulated sugar and vanilla extract (for at least the amount of time I am making the cheese filling and rolling out the dough, but you can do it in advance for max flavor)
Guava & Cheese: Use the recipe below but reduce the amount of cheese filling and add guava paste. I heat up the guava paste to make it spreadable versus just putting a chunk on (which is possible but it won't spread as much throughout the pastry, it'll mostly stay in place. Plus, heated, it is easier to fold and seal.)
Raspberry & Cheese: You can make a raspberry reduction sauce and drop that into the cheese recipe (below). 6 oz frozen raspberries, 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tsp cornstarch, 1 TBSP lemon juice, and the zest of 1 lemon. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Raspberries will break down and sauce will thicken. Let cool. (Puree and strain if desired)
Jam: apricot, peach, raspberry, grape, apple
Cinnamon apple: Toss finely chopped apple(s) in (1 cup) granulated sugar, (1 tsp) cinnamon, and a splash of lemon juice then scoop inside pastry. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar on top of pastry before baking.
Savory: You can even go savory with these by not adding sugar and vanilla to the cream cheese. Instead add herbs, garlic, onion, spices, etc. Add meats and/or veggies. Or switch up the cream cheese for another type of cheese like cheddar. A great addition to family dinner or a savory addition to appetizers with guests.
With any pastry, you can manipulate the dough into different shapes. You can do rectangles like I did. You can do triangles (aka turnovers). Or get creative and make different patterns. As long as your dough is seal so nothing leaks, you're good to go!
Square: Just a square of puff pastry and you put the filling right in the center
Folded Rectangle: Cut a rectangle, place filling off centered, fold over and seal sides.
Edged Rectangle/Square: Fold in edges of square just slightly, creating and edge or crust-like ends then fill center.
Round: Cut round shapes and place filling in center. Or use square and fold in edges to make a round shape.
Triangle (turnover): Using a square dough, fold over filling diagonally then seal.
Puff: Using a square with the top center circle is removed exposing jam or other ingredient used
Butterfly or Bear claw: Using a rectangle dough but the one side has slits creating "claws" and fanning them out into almost a half moon shape.
Duchess or G Clef: Using a rectangle dough, cut with a border, but intact, then folded over to the opposite corners of the square then making the shape a rectangle but with pointed edges on either side and filling in the center.
Fruit cushion or Easy Fold Over: A square with two opposite corners pressed into the center over fruit (some do the fruit on top). (In picture below)
Windmill or Dart: Make a diagonal cut from each corner of a square and then fold alternate cut corners into the center over filling. (In picture below)
Twist: Fold square in half and cut lengthwise without cutting all the way to the end. Unfold and twist ends.
Star: Cut slits of a square shape avoiding cutting all the way to the corners and leaving a space in the center of each line. Fold corners into the center. Place filling on top of center.
Braided or Mummy: Rectangle dough, cut slits on both lengthwise sides, leaving space in center, fill center then wrap by folding slits to the center over each other. Seal ends.
I know some of these are confusing and hard to imagine what I am talking about. I'll be making a video soon to demonstrate.
TIP & TRICKS
Rolling out the dough: While buying store bought dough makes this recipe so easy, it is a thicker dough. I have baked the pastries without rolling them out and found that they are thick and tend to loose their shape. Pastry dough is so flaky and "puffs" up when baked, the thicker dough makes for a bigger pastry.
Cold dough: It is important to thaw out the dough to make it pliable to shape, but you want to keep it cold. So if you feel the dough is getting very elastic pop it in the fridge for at least 10 minutes to cool down. Cold dough allows the butter in the dough to create steam once heated in the oven, which in turn puffs up the dough: puff pastry.
Egg wash: You can use a whole egg, egg yolk, or egg white. I have found that egg white gives the best -even- color. Whisk egg and add a splash (1 TBSP) of water.
Sprinkle of sugar: This step is not necessary but it does help the browning process and gives the buttery dough a touch of sweetness. So if you're doing a savory puff, then do a sprinkle of salt, better yet sea salt or kosher salt.
Sheet pan: Using a dark colored sheet pan works best. It will cook the pastry as well as brown it. If you don't have any dark sheet pans that's fine. You will just have to increase your baking time to achieve the golden brown color.
Finish it: I like to finish mine with a dusting of powdered sugar. This is not necessary. They still taste good without it, but boy does it taste yummy with it! You could also make a basic icing. 1 cup powdered sugar to 1 TBSP liquid (water, milk, or citrus juice)
Cheese Pastry Recipe
Puff Pastry sheets 1 box (2 sheets)
Cream cheese 8 oz
Powdered sugar 1/2 cup
Vanilla extract 1 tsp
Granulated Sugar 1 TBSP
Egg wash *See note above
Preheat oven to 400F.
Let puff pastry thaw.
Make cheese filling: Beat cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.
Unfold puff pastry and cut into fours. Roll out each section to about 6 inches. Cut in half. Do this with each section.
On on half of each, brush edges with the egg wash. Scoop cream cheese filling onto dough half with egg wash. Then fold over dry side onto wet side and press edges. Using a fork press the edges to seal dough. Repeat with each pastry.
Transfer each pastry to a baking sheet pan with parchment. Brush exposed areas, tops and sides, of pastry with egg wash. Sprinkle with granulated sugar. Then make a slit using a sharp serrated knife on the top of each pastry.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool & enjoy!
Keep at room temperature for 3 days (for freshness) or up to a week in the refrigerator. Best at room temperature or slightly warm.