Cranberries and cream danish made with (cheater’s) croissant dough are an impressive homemade breakfast treat! The sweet, tart, and creamy filling is perfect against the pastry’s buttery, flaky layers.
Cranberries and Cream Danish

It’s the final countdown!!!

I still have not finalized my cookie list, decided what I’m making on Christmas, or wrapped a single present but IT’S FINE because I’ve mastered homemade (cheater’s) croissant dough, so there’s that. 

Cranberries and Cream Danish

I actually had a nightmare last night that it was Christmas day and I had neither bought nor prepared absolutely any food.

Then I woke up and that was basically reality except that I still have a full week to get my act together.

Strongly just considering serving variations on croissants and pastries for every meal just to show off my newfound laminated(-ish) dough skills! No one would complain, right?

Cranberries and Cream Danish

The truth is this was not my first laminated dough rodeo.

Earlier this year I tried my hand at sourdough croissants that just didn’t make it onto the blog. They were fine except that the butter leaked out everywhere during baking, essentially burning onto the bottoms of all the pastries. It was a classic case of underproofed dough and a lesson learned by yours truly. One day I will work up the courage (and energy) to revisit them, but that day is not today.

Next, I made these truly glorious fresh fig and cream cheese danisheswhich are excellent despite a more complicated (though likely more authentic) laminating technique. 

Cranberries and Cream Danish

Which brings us to today’s baking adventure – cranberry and cream danishes!

The recipe is from Sarah Kieffer’s most recent cookbook creation, Baking For the Holidays, which is filled with over 50 festive treats that are perfect for this time of year (but, also, any time). In full disclosure, I was gifted this book by the publishers (with no obligation to write about it either here or on social media), but if we’re being honest it was one that I would have purchased anyway. Sarah’s two other cookbooks (The Vanilla Bean Baking Book and 100 Cookies) are some of my absolute favorites, and as soon as I heard she was writing another one I knew I would need it for my collection. 

This latest book features a whole section on morning breads and pastries along with holiday dessert show stoppers, edible treats you can gift, and sweets that are worthy of any celebratory occasion. Honestly the hardest part was deciding what to make because I wanted to make EVERYTHING.

Ultimately, I went with the cranberry and cream danishes both because I had an excess of cranberries in my fridge and because I happened to wake up one morning with a miraculously (and unexpectedly) high energy level.

Cranberries and Cream Danish

Sarah’s recipe for these breakfast pastries starts with what she calls a “cheater’s croissant dough”. It is basically an enriched, laminated dough made simpler than the classic French technique in that it doesn’t use a butter block to create the laminations. Instead, softened butter is mixed with a bit of flour and spread over the dough rectangle in a thin, even layer. You then do two folds with the dough, chill it in the freezer for 6 minutes, do another two folds, and then do another 6 minute freeze before using it. The results are probably not as insanely flaky as the classic method but more than good enough considering how low effort and low stress the process was. I didn’t even need to curse once! PROGRESS. Also of note is that the croissant dough recipe makes twice as much as you’ll need for these pastries. I froze the second half of it and plan to thaw it to try a different breakfast pastry from the book this weekend.

For the cranberry and cream danishes, the croissant dough is shaped into pretty gorgeous twists, allowed to rise, and then filled with a mix of both homemade cranberry jam and cream cheese filling before baking. The jam is perfectly sweet-tart and cinnamon-laced while the cream cheese component adds a nice cooling creaminess. If you can’t find cream cheese (rumor has it there is a shortage), then you could probably get away with using mascarpone cheese in it’s place, though it will likely not thicken up as much as cream cheese does. 

Alternatively, if you’re not up for making your own cranberry jam, you can use pretty much any jam flavor that you desire or have on hand. 

As with most pastries, these are best eaten within 24 hours of being made BUT I will say that we stored the leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and had no problem eating them throughout the following week.

Cranberries and Cream Danish

Cranberries and Cream Danish
Cranberries and cream danish made with (cheater's) croissant dough are an impressive homemade breakfast treat! The sweet, tart, and creamy filling is perfect against the pastry's buttery, flaky layers.
Yield: 10 servings
For the cheater's croissant dough
  • 1½ cups (360 g) warm water (100-110F)
  • 4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 cups + 1 tbsp (577 g) all purpose flour
  • ¼ cup + 1 tbsp (63 g) sugar
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1½ cups (339 g) unsalted European butter, room temperature
For the cream cheese filling
  • 4 oz (113 g) cream cheese, room temperature
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
For the cranberry jam
  • ½ cup (100 g) sugar
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup (60 g) water
  • 6 oz (170 g) fresh cranberries
For assembly
  • ½ recipe cheater's croissant dough (above)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp water
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 1 recipe cream cheese filling (above)
  • 1 recipe cranberry jam (above)
  • sugar, for sprinkling
For the cheater's croissant dough
  1. Stir together the water and yeast in a small bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes, or until dissolved.
  2. Combine 4 cups (568 g) of the flour, the sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the bread hook attachment. Mix briefly to combine. With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in the water-yeast mixture and the melted butter. Continue to mix until completely combined, about 3-4 minutes.
  3. Move the dough to a large, greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to rise at room temperature for 1½ to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  4. Once risen, gently deflate the dough. Place on a large piece of plastic wrap and shape into a 10 x 12 inch rectangle. Cover completely with plastic wrap and place it on a sheet pan. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
  5. Once dough is chilled, beat the European butter and the remaining 1 tbsp of flour until well combined, about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place it on a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough into a 12 x 20-inch rectangle. Use an offset spatula to spread the butter-flour mixture over the rolled out dough in an even layer, leaving a ½-inch border around the edges.
  7. To make the first fold, position yourself in front of one of the short sides of the dough. Fold a third of the dough onto itself, then fold the remaining one third of the dough on top of the side that has just been folding (similar to folding a letter).
  8. Rotate the dough so that the seam is on your right and an open end is facing you. Roll the dough into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle. Repeat the letter fold again.
  9. Sprinkle a sheet pan or plate with flour and place the dough rectangle on top of it. Freeze for 6 minutes.
  10. Remove the dough from the freezer and position it in front of you again so that the seam is facing to the right. Repeat the letter fold.
  11. Roll the dough into an 8 x 16-inch rectangle. Repeat the letter fold one last time.
  12. Cut the dough into two equal portions (you will only need one portion for this recipe, so freeze the rest or use it to make croissants!).
  13. If using the dough immediately, place it in the freezer for 6 minutes and then proceed with the desired recipe.
For the cream cheese filling
  1. Combine the cream cheese, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium speed until completely smooth, about 3 minutes.
  2. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the vanilla. Mix on low speed until combined. Chill until ready to use.
For the cranberry jam
  1. In a medium pot, combine the sugar, salt, cinnamon, water, and cranberries over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cranberries have burst and the jam has thickened, about 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
For assembly
  1. Line two baking pans with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough into a 10 x 18-inch rectangle. Use a pastry cutter to trim any uneven edges and discard them.
  3. Cut the dough vertically into ten 1 x 18-inch strips. Place the cut strips onto one of the prepared baking sheets. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  4. Once chilled, remove from the refrigerator. Holding one end of a dough strip in each hand, twist the strip around itself to create a twirl. Curl the twisted strip around itself into a spiral shape, tucking the loose end underneath the spiral. Place on one of the prepared baking sheets.
  5. Repeat with the remaining dough strip until you have ten pastries, spacing them at least 2 inches apart on the baking sheets.
  6. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature until puffy, about 2 hours.
  7. Heat oven to 400F and position the oven racks in the upper middle and lower middle positions.
  8. When ready to bake, gently press on the center of each spiral to make room for the fillings, taking care not to disturb the outer edges of the dough as much as possible.
  9. Place a tsp of cranberry jam and a tsp of the cream cheese filling into the center of each pastry.
  10. In a small bowl, whisk together an egg with 1 tbsp of water and a pinch of kosher salt. Brush this egg wash gently onto the exposed edges of the pastries and then sprinkle with sugar.
  11. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pans and bake for another 8-10 minutes, or until golden.
  12. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.


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One Response to Cranberries and Cream Danish

  1. Impressive! I am too chicken to attempt any pastries like this. And by chicken I mean, too lazy and too short on patience.

    Love that you chose to do cranberry. It’s perfect for the season AND I happen to love cranberry!

    They are gorgeous!

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