"You HAVE to TRY this"

Last week I spent an evening with my family, including my little nieces, age 4 and 6. When we arrived at my parents house, Brooke, the 4 year old, grabbed my hand, led me into the kitchen and said
"Auntie Laurie, you HAVE to TRY this".
 (picture my hand in her left hand, and her right hand, palm open, waving in downward conviction while saying this) What could it be?  She led me to a pumpkin bowl full of candy corn! I thought it was so great that:

A) she was "introducing" me to candy corn, and

B) it's confirmation that the "foodie" gene has made it to the next generation!

It was like the first time I ever had Creme Brulee at Anthony's Homeport, or the butternut squash and goat cheese enchilada at The Cactus. I wanted to tell everyone, you HAVE to TRY this.

Brooke may have also revealed in the same time frame that she would like to be a garbage woman when she grows up, but HEY, so did I when I was four! This really is a kid after my own heart.... Now if I could just keep her from discovering rubber cement...

So, I mentioned in my profile that I love to cook, AND bake. Baking is so very different from cooking. Risking sounding very Rachel Ray, I tend to "eyeball" measurements with the cooking. I season it until I like the taste, regardless of the 1/2 or 1/4 teaspoon that the recipe so carefully calls for.

 With baking, that whole science thing is involved, and it turns out it is very important. Anyone who has ever not properly brought the eggs and liquids to room temperature, did not chill the butter, or the dough for that matter, or has used expired baking powder, knows what I am talking about.

I'm pretty stubborn about baked goods being made from scratch... with one exception. Puff Pastry. You know if Ina Garten (my favorite cookbook author, and food network chef) purchases her puff pastry from the freezer section instead of making it, it's ok. I can too. It's also ok for me to make her recipe: Easy Cheese Danish. Yum-O (Rachel, good grief I've had enough already), is all I have to say! After you taste these, you will be telling everyone, you HAVE to TRY this....

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 extra-large egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 2 sheets (1 box) frozen puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

  • Place the cream cheese and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and cream them together on low speed until smooth. With the mixer still on low, add the egg yolks, ricotta, vanilla, salt, and lemon zest and mix until just combined. Don't whip!

  • Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it's a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Place a heaping tablespoon of cheese filling into the middle of each of the 4 squares. Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold 2 opposite corners to the center, brushing and overlapping the corners of each pastry so they firmly stick together. Brush the top of the pastries with egg wash. Place the pastries on the prepared sheet pan. Repeat with the second sheet of puff pastry and refrigerate the filled Danish for 15 minutes.

  • Bake the pastries for about 20 minutes, rotating the pan once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.

You will seriously impress some people (mostly those unaware of the wonders of store-bought puff pastry) with these tasty little creations.


  1. Sweet story about Anna. The other day I was making pumpkin muffins and thought to myself, I think this baking powder is really old....flipped it over and yep, it expired in '04!! Muffins still turned out okay, though. :) But I think I'll buy some new baking powder next time I'm at the store.


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