These Danish pastries are made completely from scratch (no puff pastry here!), taste like they came straight from the fanciest of bakeries, and are easier than you’d think. The topping possibilities are endless; choose from cream cheese, fruit, chocolate, lemon curd, or a combination of those! A perfect baking project for overnight guests or special breakfast or brunch.
I know you might be intimidated by homemade pastries, but believe me when I tell you that they are SO doable and you will be absolutely thrilled when you get to sink your teeth into the final product. I’m going to walk you through the process below and there are very detailed directions in the recipe.
Let’s get going on these gorgeous Danish pastries!
The Butter Block
The most important component of the Danish pastry dough is the butter block. You’ll roll out two rectangles of butter and layer them into the dough before it gets rolled out and folded multiple times. This is what allows those gorgeous (and delicious!) flaky layers to develop.
Laminating the Dough
In order to take full advantage of the butter block we made above, we need to make sure there are layers upon layers of that delicious butter throughout the dough. In order to do that, we roll the dough out, place two layers of butter block between the dough, then fold it up and roll it out.
Then we fold and roll twice more, for a total of three times.
It may initially seem a little over the top, but once you bite into a finished Danish and see those flaky layers, you’ll be reaping the rewards big time!
Assemble the Pastries
After a long chill in the refrigerator, the dough is ready to be divided up and the Danish pastries assembled. I experimented with some different sizes and shaping methods and kept coming back to this simple, delicious, and classic circle. It’s virtually foolproof and has a perfect ratio of flaky pastry to filling.
First, working with one-third of the dough at a time, you’ll portion it out into 12 pieces each, and then roll them into balls…
Next, you’ll flatten them into discs, place on baking sheets and allow to rise for about 1 hour – they will puff up but will not double in size. Then it’s time to fill them!
My all-time favorite Danish flavor is cream cheese, so that’s obviously my recommendation, but most of the rest of my family love cherry, so I made some of those, as well ;-) If you’re looking for ideas beyond those basics, here’s a list to get you started:
- Cream cheese (recipe is below)
- Fruit jam, preserves, or canned pie filling
- Fresh fruit
- Lemon curd
- Chocolate ganache
- Feta and caramelized onions for a savory Danish!
You can also mix and match many of the combinations above! Cream cheese and berries or chocolate and orange would be fabulous together!
A Final Drizzle
Last but not least, we drizzle on a simple powdered sugar and milk glaze to make these Danish pastries really look like they just came from the bakery.
If you’d like, you could also sprinkle on some chopped nuts on top of the pastries before drizzling for a little crunch and texture contrast.
Recipe Success Tips
Some notes to help you make the best Danish pastries ever!
- When you make the butter block, be sure that your butter is on the cool side or it will be too warm to work into the dough. If it seems too soft when you start working with it, just pop it into the refrigerator to firm up before continuing with the recipe. Or, get it rolled into your rectangle then refrigerate your butter block rectangle until it firms up a bit before laminating the dough.
- You can tackle this recipe all in one day, or split it up into a more manageable two-day project. Simply leave the laminated dough in the refrigerator overnight and continue with the shaping and baking the next day.
- Feel free to experiment with different shapes if you’d like, but as I mentioned above, I had the most consistent success with these circular Danishes.
- These are best enjoyed the same day they are made for optimal flakiness and freshness, however, they will keep in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freezing the Dough: If you’d like to freeze all or part of the Danish pastry dough, you can do so after Step #11. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then wrap the portion you want to freeze in two layers of plastic wrap, place in a freezer-safe zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then proceed with the recipe as written.
- Freezing Assembled Pastries: To assemble the pastries and freeze before baking, complete the recipe through Step #17 (filling the pastries). Then, place on a baking sheet in a single layer and place in the freezer until they are completely frozen, at least 3 hours. Transfer the pastries to an airtight container or resealable freezer bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen (don’t forget the egg wash!), adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes to the bake time.
- Freezing Baked Pastries: To freeze already-baked Danish pastries, allow them to cool completely to room temperature, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in an airtight container and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warmed through.
Watch How to Make Danish Pastry:
If you make these pastries and love them, I would so appreciate it if you would take a moment to leave a rating below. Thank you! ❤️️
Danish Pastry Recipe
For the Dough
- 2 cups (454 g) unsalted butter, divided
- 5½ cups (663 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ cup (99 g) granulated sugar
- 4½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1½ cups (360 ml) milk
- 2 eggs
For the Cheese Filling
- 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
- 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 egg
- ¼ teaspoon salt
For the Fruit Filling
- 1 cup fruit jam, preserves, or canned pie filling
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 egg white
- 1 tablespoon water
For the Glaze:
- 1½ cups (170 g) powdered sugar
- 2 tablespoons milk
- Make the Dough: Cut ½ tablespoon off the ends of each of the four sticks of butter (for a total of 2 tablespoons).
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Add the 2 tablespoons cold butter and work it in with a pastry blender or your fingers until no large lumps remain. Add the vanilla, milk, and eggs.
- Mix with the paddle attachment on low speed until a dough begins to form, then switch to the dough hook and knead until a cohesive, but quite sticky dough forms, about 5 to 7 minutes. The dough won't completely clean the bowl and will stick a bit at the bottom. (You can also complete this step in a bread machine on the dough cycle.)
- Scrape the dough into a ball, and transfer it to a floured work surface. Cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the butter.
- Make the Butter Block: Cut each stick of butter in half lengthwise, to make 8 long rectangles. On a piece of floured parchment or plastic wrap, line up 4 of the butter pieces side by side, to form a rectangle. Sprinkle lightly with flour, and cover with another piece of parchment or plastic wrap.
- Gently pound and roll the butter until it's about 6" x 9". The pieces may or may not meld together.
- Repeat with the remaining 4 pieces of butter. You should now have two butter rectangles, about 6" x 9" each.
- Laminate the Dough: Roll the dough into a rectangle 12" wide x 24" long. Place one of the butter pieces onto the center third of the dough. Fold one side over the butter to cover it. Place the other butter piece atop the folded-over dough, and fold the remaining dough up over it. Pinch the open ends and side closed.
- Turn the dough so a 12" side is closest to you. Roll the dough into a 10" x 24" rectangle. Fold each side into the center; then fold one side over the other to make a rectangular packet about 6" x 10".
- Dust the surface of the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and again roll it into a rectangle about 10" x 24". Fold it into a packet as you did in step #9; it'll be about 7" x 12". Roll one final time, fold into a packet, and flour the dough lightly. Wrap loosely (but completely) in plastic, and chill it for at least 2 hours, or up to 16 hours.
- Make the Cheese Filling (if using): Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until smooth.
- Assemble the Pastries: When you're ready to make pastries, remove the dough from the refrigerator, unwrap it, and cut off one-third. You'll work with this piece first; re-wrap and return the remainder to the refrigerator.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a smooth ball, then flatten the balls into 3" to 3 1/2" rounds, making the center thinner than the edges. You want to build up a slight wall of dough all around the circumference; this will help hold the filling. Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
- Working with one-half of the remaining dough at a time, repeat the process; you'll finish with three baking sheets, each with 12 dough rounds.
- Cover the Danish lightly with greased plastic wrap, and let them rise for about 1 hour; they'll become slightly puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Use your fingers to press the centers of the dough rounds as flat as possible, leaving the "sidewalls" puffed. Spoon a heaping teaspoon of filling into the well of each round.
- Make the Egg Wash: In a small bowl, whisk together the egg white and water. Brush the exposed edges of the pastries with the egg wash.
- Bake the Pastries: Bake the pastries, one pan at a time, until golden brown, 15 to 18 minutes. Remove them from the oven, and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
- Make the Glaze: In a small bowl, whisk the powdered sugar and milk to make a "drizzlable" glaze. If the glaze is too thick, add just a splash more milk at a time until the correct consistency is reached.
- Drizzle the glaze atop the pastries. Serve warm or at room temperature.
- Use very cool butter. Make sure the butter is extremely cold when you make the butter block. Even slightly warm butter won’t work into the dough. If the butter blocks seem too soft once they’re shaped, pop them into the refrigerator to firm up before continuing with the lamination process.
- This can be a two-day recipe. Don’t feel you need to rush through this recipe in one afternoon. You can tackle this recipe in one day or split it into a more manageable two-day project. Simply leave the laminated dough in the refrigerator overnight and continue assembling and baking the next day.
- Use different shapes. Feel free to experiment with different shapes of dough. As mentioned above, I had the most consistent success with circular Danishes, but trying something new is always fun!
- Enjoy right away. Baked Danish pastries are best enjoyed the same day they are made for optimal flakiness and freshness. However, they keep well in an airtight container at room temperature or in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- Freeze the Dough: If you’d like to freeze all or part of the Danish pastry dough before assembling and filling, follow the recipe through Step #11. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then wrap the portion of dough you want to freeze in two layers of plastic wrap, place in a freezer-safe zip-top bag, and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, then proceed with the recipe as written.
- Freeze Assembled Pastries: To freeze assembled, unbaked pastries, follow the recipe through Step #17 (filling the pastries). Place pastries on a baking sheet in a single layer and freeze until they are completely frozen through, at least 3 hours. Transfer the pastries to an airtight container or freezer-safe zip-top bag and freeze for up to 1 month. Bake from frozen (don’t forget the egg wash!), adding an extra 10 to 15 minutes to the bake time.
- Freeze Baked Danishes: To freeze baked Danish pastries, allow them to cool completely to room temperature, wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and place in an airtight container or freezer-safe zip-top bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat in a 350-degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warmed through.
(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)
[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]