Chasing the Buzz, Ontario Cherry Cheese Danishes

Chasing the Buzz, Ontario Cherry Cheese Danishes

The buzz – you know that warm feeling you get when something is just too good and your senses are overwhelmed. Maybe it was your first crush or the day you tried something so scrumptious that you were lost of words…or possibly it was that moment when you heard your first opera and the hair stood up on the back of your arms because the beauty of it all was just so….so…….indescribable. Physical reactions where there are plain just no words. These occasions are addictive, so much so that we seek fixes through love, food, music, art, booze and many other means. The irony is – you can’t manufacture those feelings. They are elusive – the perfect storm of emotions and personal experience. It’s hard to believe that these fleeting impulses may have even played a part in altering the course of your life! I know they have mine.

Jack-n-James-Lakeshore

There are little ways we chase the buzz. You know what I mean…you’re out with friends and have two glasses of that fantastic Amarone. Your feeling toasty and loved. The server comes back and asks “Mam, would you like another glass of wine?” You brain quickly flips through your options – whose he calling mam??!! Hmmm…..Mmmmm more wine, more buzz…no more wine, no more buzz. “More wine please!” Well, we all know how this story ends. There is no getting that initial warm feeling back, yet we will endure the hangover the next day chasing the buzz.

Lake-Ontario

In our family the buzz quite often comes in the form of food, and boy do we have food stories that have reached mythical proportions! Every Sunday my Dad would bring home a selection of danishes from the Viking Bakery in Denville, New Jersey. Oh how I loved that square cardboard box tied up with a red and white string. We all knew that the Cherry Danish was in there somewhere and my brother and I would hover over the top waiting to indulge.

The question I pose – was it the cherry danish or the memory? Sundays were the best and my Dad sure loved those pastries, so I would say it is all about the experience.

Cherries

In keeping with my predilection for chasing the buzz, I’m baking Ontario Cherry Cheese Danishes. It may not be the Viking Bakery in the late 70’s, but they sure are amazing!

Ontario-Cherry-Cheese-Danish

Rough Puff Pastry Ingredients Per BBC Good Food, Gordon Ramsay:
2 cups white flour
1 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup butter (just over) cool to the tough.
1/2 cup ice cold water (just over) – this is an approximate measurement

You can use store bought (in fact that is exactly what I did this weekend! – see below) although I firmly believe that from scratch is almost always superior. Admittedly, this is one of the only areas that I will buy something from the store rather than make my own if pinched for time (the only other exception is phyllo dough). A great way to make your own is to stick to rough puff pastry a la Gordon Ramsay. It’s a great compromise between time consuming puff pastry and store bought sheets.

Directions:
Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Break the butter up into small chunks, toss them into the dry ingredients and cut them in. You should see sizable pieces of butter that have not been incorporated.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour 2/3 of the cold water in (add more only if necessary). The dough will be firm and rough. Do not overwork and don’t be fooled. Crumbly is where it’s at! Adding more water will only make it tough. The dough should barely come together. Cover with saran wrap and leave to chill in the refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out on a floured board and form into a rectangle. Roll put the dough (in one direction only) until it measures approx. 8 x 20 inches. The rolling and folding process will help the dough come together and become smooth (the dough should be marbled and streaked with the butter pieces). Fold the top 1/3 down to the centre and the bottom third up over that like an envelope, it still might be a bit crumbly don’t worry! Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll out to 8 x 20 once again (keeping edges as straight and even as possible and fold once again. Chill for 30 minutes and roll out to use. You could repeat this process with another period of chilling if you want it to be more layered.

Cheese Filling
1/2 lb softened cream cheese
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg yolk (save the white for the egg wash)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Whisk together all of the ingredients until smooth.

No Recipe Cherry Jam Per David Lebovitz
Ingredients:
3 lbs Cherries pitted (cut some and leave some whole)
2 lemons juiced and zested

Directions:
I love this jam recipe, but you will only you a fraction of it for these danishes if you opt for 3 pounds of cherries. Having cherry jam on hand is well worth the extra pitting. BTW invest in a pitter! It makes life so much easier.

In a large non reactive pan add the cherries, lemon juice and zest and cook over medium heat until they are soft. This process may take up to 20 minutes. Add the sugar (3/4 of the amount of cherries you have in the pan). So if you have 4 cups of wilted cherries add 3 cups of sugar. Turn the heat up to medium high and cook until jam thickens. If your spatula is coated it means you are getting close. David recommends freezing a white plate and when you think the jam is done spoon on some of the juice, return the freezer. A few minutes later if the juice wrinkles the jam is done.

Putting together the Danishes:
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll out the puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface (I used two sheets of store bought). You can make any number of shapes. Use your imagination. For me, a simple square cut pastry with the edges brought into centre worked best. I was left with 8 largish Danishes after using two sheets of puff pastry. Before you bring the corners into the middle add a dallop of cream cheese filling and followed by a dallop of cherry preserves. How much you use really depends on taste and the size of the danish. Bring the corners of pastry in. Wash with reserved egg white and cook for about 20 – 25 minutes or until pastry is light golden brown.

Cherry-Cheese

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