March Bake-Along: Danish Pastries

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.

A plate of cheese and fruit Danish pastries.

Welcome to the March Bake-Along! This month we’re diving head-first into pastries and I couldn’t think of anything better to tackle than the iconic Danish pastries. They scream at me from behind the glass case in my favorite bakery and I’m not even ashamed to say I have a soft spot for the boxed Danishes from the grocery store; my grandma always had one or two on hand in case a neighbor stopped by for coffee and a chat.

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.

Side by side photos of a butter block being rolled out.

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.

Step-by-step photos of a butter block being folded into dough.

Step by step photos of a butter block in dough, then rolled 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!

Danish pastry dough folded and prepped for rolling out.

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…

Danish pastry dough portioned out and rolled 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!

Filling Ideas

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
  • Nutella
  • 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!

Side by side photos of Danish pastries filled with cheese and fruit before baking.

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.

Cream cheeses Danish pastries on a baking sheet drizzled with a glaze.

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.

JOIN THE BEB BAKE-ALONG!

To tackle the Danish pastries and bake along with me this month, simply do the following:

  • Make the Danish pastries! I would love to hear how you plan to fill them, share in the comments below!
  • Snap a picture and either share it on social media (#BEBbakealong on Instagram or Twitter), upload it to the BEB Facebook group, or email it to me.
  • Check-in on Instagram and Facebook throughout the month to see everyone’s Danishes and cheer each other on!

An overhead photo of cheese and fruit danishes.

If you make the Danish pastries and love them, please take a moment to stop back and leave a review below; they help out fellow readers so much! Thank you! xo

Danish Pastries

Servings 36 danishes
Prep 3 hours 30 minutes
Cook 15 minutes
Chill Time 2 hours
Total 5 hours 45 minutes
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American, European
Author: Michelle

These Danish pastries are made completely from scratch, taste just like a bakery, and are easier than you'd think. Top with all of your favorite fillings!

Ingredients:

For the Dough

  • 2
    cups
    unsalted butter
    (divided)
  • cups
    all-purpose flour
  • ½
    cup
    granulated sugar
  • teaspoons
    instant yeast
  • 2
    teaspoons
    salt
  • 2
    teaspoons
    vanilla extract
  • cups
    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:

  • cups
    powdered sugar
  • 2
    tablespoons
    milk

Directions:

  1. Make the Dough: Cut ½ tablespoon off the ends of each of the four sticks of butter (for a total of 2 tablespoons).

  2. 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.

  3. 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.)

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. Gently pound and roll the butter until it's about 6" x 9". The pieces may or may not meld together.

  7. Repeat with the remaining 4 pieces of butter. You should now have two butter rectangles, about 6" x 9" each.

  8. 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.

  9. 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".

  10. Dust the surface of the dough with flour, wrap it in plastic wrap, and chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

  11. 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.

  12. Make the Cheese Filling (if using): Combine all of the ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring until smooth.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Drizzle the glaze atop the pastries. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Video

Recipe Notes:

  • 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.
Nutritional values are based on one cheese Danish. 

Nutrition:

Calories: 230kcal
Fat: 13g
Saturated fat: 8g
Cholesterol: 40mg
Sodium: 176mg
Potassium: 64mg
Carbohydrates: 25g
Fiber: 1g
Sugar: 10g
Protein: 4g
Vitamin A: 423%
Calcium: 26%
Iron: 1%

Did you make this recipe?

Leave a review below, then snap a picture and tag @thebrowneyedbaker on Instagram so I can see it!

(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

[photos by Ari of Well Seasoned]