Cheese Danish – Sweet yeast dough is filled with cinnamon and sugar and then twisted into a round danish filled with cream cheese and iced with sweet icing.
Ah the cheese Danish. A classic continental breakfast treat that you can find at any breakfast buffet so it must be an easy thing to make, right? Not entirely. Traditional versions tend to warrant a process similar to croissants: yeast dough layered with butter that can take days to prepare. Because of this, I’ve put off making my own Danish from scratch for years.
I’ve made easy versions in the past with frozen puff pastry. The results come out pretty great, if you like your Danish to be crispy and flaky. However, my favorite Danish have always been the chewy, yeast versions that resemble more of a cinnamon roll than a buttery pastry.
Therefore, using my cinnamon roll dough recipe, I’ve made my favorite version of a Cheese Danish. Check them out below!
How these cheese danish are made
The dough for this version of a cheese danish is chewy and fluffy instead of buttery and flaky. It’s the type of dough I prefer in a danish, though it may not be entirely traditional.
To make the dough, I used my traditional cinnamon roll recipe for dough made with yeast, flour, milk, and eggs. It’s no more complicated than any other yeast recipe you’ve tried before.
Once the dough is made, kneaded, and risen, it’s time to form into the danish. I love the look of a twisted danish with hints of cinnamon peaking through. They look so beautiful but don’t require too much effort to achieve.
To form the danish, the dough is rolled out into a large rectangle, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and then folded into thirds. Then, the rectangle is cut into strips that are then twisted and formed into rings. The rings will be open in the center so you can fill with the cream cheese filling that we’ll discuss below.
The cream cheese filling is made by whipping cream cheese with sugar, vanilla, and an egg yolk. The egg yolk is important because it gives the filling texture and helps it firm up a bit while cooking. This ensures that the filling stays intact instead of falling through the center of the danish ring.
Once the filling is made, it’s scooped into the center of each danish and then the danish are ready for baking!
Icing is an important part of this danish because it’s not a super sweet pastry on its own. The filling and dough are slightly sweet so it really benefits from having a drizzle of sweet icing over the top.
With this icing, however, I did not want anything too runny – it needs to be thick and hold its shape. To achieve this, I made sure to mix only a little bit of heavy cream into powdered sugar. The mixture was thick like frosting but then I microwave for 15 seconds to thin it out. Now, it’s much easier to drizzle. Once the icing cools, it will become thick again and hold its shape so make sure to work quickly and drizzle the danish before the icing cools.
Tips & Tricks
- It’s super important to let the milk cool before adding to the dough because you don’t want the eggs to scramble. If the eggs scramble, that means they’ve been cooked and won’t activate when hitting the hot oven.
- Do not skimp on kneading time. It’s so important to knead until the dough is soft so that the texture of the Danish isn’t tough.
- Make sure to seal the twisted dough into a ring as best you can. As the dough expands in the oven, the seals will separate if they aren’t pinched together tightly.
- Let the danish cool before removing from the baking sheet to ensure the filling gently lifts off the parchment paper instead of sticking behind. You can also use a spatula to remove from the parchment to be extra cautious.
For the dough:
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 package active dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- 4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
- 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
For the filling:
- 2 tablespoons butter softened
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 8 ounces cream cheese softened
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 1 large egg yolk
- ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
For the icing:
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons heavy cream
- First we will begin making the dough. Heat up milk in a small sauce pan until it begins to simmer. Remove from heat and add sugar and salt and stir. Let it cool down to lukewarm to the touch. While milk is cooling, proof the yeast by adding the warm water and yeast in a small bowl and stirring together. Let it activate by setting it aside for 10 minutes.
- Once milk is cool, add to a large bowl, along with 3½ cups of the flour, 2 tablespoons of oil, eggs, and yeast mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon until combined. The dough will be very thick but still pretty wet and sticky.
- Place ¼ cup of flour on the surface of your counter. Place dough on top of it and begin kneading the dough with the flour until all the flour is mixed into the dough. Keep kneading for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If it starts to stick to the counter, add a little more flour. Once you finish kneading, shape into a ball. Lightly grease another large bowl and place the ball of dough into bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for 1 ½ hours, where it will be double the size. I like to place mine in the microwave to keep it away from any cool draft from the A/C.
- Prepare 3 large baking sheets by lining with parchment paper. Once dough has risen, punch it down with your fist and remove from the bowl. Lightly dust your counter with flour and place the dough on top. Roll out dough into a large rectangle, 18 inches x 15 inches. Spread butter over the dough in one even layer. Mix cinnamon and sugar together and dust over the butter with a spoon, leaving 1/2 inch of the edges clear.
- Starting on the short edge, fold the dough up so the edge meets the center. Fold the other side over the other layers similar to a letter. Seal the edges by pinching together. Your rectangle should now be 15×6 inches. Cut the rectangle into 3 even rectangles that are 5×6 inches. Then, cut 5 even strips from each rectangle. Take one strip at a time and twist them and then connect the ends to make a circle. Pinch the ends together tightly to seal and then place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with all strips, making sure to give the Danish enough room to rise (about 3 inches on all sides). Cover and let them rise for another 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 400 degrees while the rolls rise.
- Once they're done rising, uncover them and reseal any Danish that have come undone. Now it's time to prepare the cream cheese portion of the filling. In a bowl attached to a mixer, add cream cheese, powdered sugar, vanilla, egg yolk, and salt. Mix on low to combine and then increase to medium-low to whip up a little until completely combined.
- Using a spoon, scoop about 1 tablespoon of filling into the center of each Danish. Place prepared Danish into the oven to bake for 10-12 minutes or until they've browned on top. You will probably need to do this in batches to prevent crowding the oven. Remove from oven and let them cool for 10 minutes before icing.
- Prepare icing by combining sugar and cream together in a microwave safe bowl. It will be pretty thick. Microwave for 10-15 seconds to thin out the mixture and then drizzle over the baked Danish.