Grape ricotta danishes with walnut thyme streusel are the buttery-creamy-fruity-nutty pastry of your dreams! These homemade danishes are perfect for a weekend brunch or holiday spread and are so fun to make.
Better Baking Academy
I’m sharing these pastries with you as part of the year-long Better Baking Academy put on by Bake from Scratch and Bob’s Red Mill! Every month this year, this free educational series has been diving deep into different baking techniques — think macarons, pate a choux, and pie dough. Through detailed tutorials and clear recipes, Better Baking Academy aims to equip the home baker with a well-rounded set of skills that will set you up for a lifetime of baking success. Enroll in the Better Baking Academy now to access all the modules and recipes!
This month’s Better Baking Academy module is on fall danishes and lamination technique. While lamination may sound a little intimidating, let me assure you that it is very doable at home (there’s even a whole chapter on laminated pastries in my upcoming cookbook!). Learning how to laminate will open up a huge world of delicious baked goods — croissants, danishes, puff pastry, kouign amann, and so on. Like any other technique, lamination just takes some patience and practice. Here are a few pointers to help you on your way.
Five Tips for lamination success
- Use good quality ingredients. Now is the time to splurge on fancy European-style butter (at least 82% fat)! Not only will good butter make your pastries taste better, but the actual lamination process will be much easier — European-style butter is less prone to cracking due to its low water/high fat content. Using a strong, good-quality flour is key as well — Bob’s Red Mill Organic Unbleached All-Purpose Flour is a great choice. It has a higher protein content than a lot of other all-purpose flours, which creates a strong dough that can withstand rolling and shaping and pastries that will rise high in the oven.
- Plan your bake. There’s actually not a ton of hands-on work required for laminated pastries, but you will need to plan for chilling and proofing times throughout the process. Figure out when you want to bake the pastries and work backwards from there to budget your time. I suggest reading the recipe through completely a couple times in advance, and trying to visualize each step before starting. The more familiar you are with the steps before you begin, the more enjoyable the entire process will be.
- Measure carefully. Pull out your kitchen scale and ruler — pastries like precision! For best results, weigh your ingredients and measure carefully when rolling out and cutting. Roll your dough to the specified dimensions, and keep your edges and corners neat and sharp — this will help you achieve uniform, professional-looking pastries!
- Manage temperature. Properly managing the temperature of your ingredients is critical for successful lamination. Your butter and dough need to be at similar temperatures before you try to combine them via lamination. They should cool but pliable — if too cold, the butter will shatter when you try to roll it out; and if too warm, the butter will melt into the dough. Test your butter block before starting lamination — it should be pliable enough to bend without breaking, but cool enough to easily release from the parchment paper. If you can feel the butter starting to crack as you roll, stop and let it soften for 5-10 minutes before proceeding. If the dough starts to feel sticky/melty/warm, stop and refrigerate for 5-10 minutes and try again.
- Proof fully. Once you’ve shaped your pastries, proof them in a warm and humid environment. The oven with the light on and a dish of warm water on the shelf below is a great spot. (Just make sure the temperature doesn’t get above 80F degrees or the butter will melt!) When fully proofed, the pastries should look very puffy and jiggly with very visible layers. When properly proofed pastry hits the hot oven, steam from the butter will cause the layers to separate and create that beautiful flaky texture. Underproofed pastries tend to leak butter during baking and won’t have a light final texture.
Now, about these grape ricotta danishes with walnut thyme streusel! I decided to go with a classic coil shape that is simple but gorgeous. Also very important — it allows for plenty of filling! These danishes start with a ricotta filling spiked with honey and black pepper (one of my favorite punchy flavor combos!), which is then topped with fresh grapes. I used a seedless concord variety which were just perfect — after roasting in the oven they’re intensely jammy, but still retain some texture. I think blueberries, cranberries or even thinly sliced pears would work nicely here too — but do try the grapes if you can!
These danishes are generously sprinkled with a nutty streusel before hitting the oven. You’ll never find me saying no to streusel — not only does it taste delicious, but it adds a crisp layer of texture that complements the creamy ricotta and juicy fruit.
For a final bit of bakery style shine, brush your danishes with a little warm honey as soon as they’re out of the oven. Wait just long enough so that you don’t burn your tongue, then enjoy! These danishes are *chef’s kiss* perfect still warm from the oven and honestly so satisfying to make.
Grape Ricotta Danishes with Walnut Thyme Streusel
Makes 12 danishes | Danish base recipe adapted from Bake From Scratch
For the Danish dough:
- 4 cups (500 grams) all-purpose flour, divided
- ⅓ cup (67 grams) plus 1 teaspoon (4 grams) granulated sugar, divided
- 1 tablespoon (9 grams) kosher salt
- 2¼ teaspoons (7 grams) instant yeast
- 1 cup (240 grams) whole milk
- 1 cup (227 grams) plus 3 tablespoons (42 grams) unsalted butter, softened and divided
- 2 large eggs (100 grams), room temperature and divided
For the ricotta filling:
- 1/2 c (120 g) full fat ricotta cheese
- 1½ Tbsp (30 g) honey
- 1 large egg yolk
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp lemon zest
- 1½ Tbsp (12 g) all-purpose flour
For the walnut thyme streusel:
- 1/3 c plus 1 Tbsp (50 g) all-purpose flour
- 1/4 c (50 g) light brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 Tbsp (42 g) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 2 Tbsp (25 g) chopped walnuts
- 1 cup (240 g) seedless concord grapes (or similar variety), halved if large
- 2 Tbsp (40 g) warm honey, for glazing, plus more for drizzling
- Fresh thyme leaves, for garnish
- Make the danish dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine 1 cup (125 grams) flour, ⅓ cup (67 grams) sugar, salt, and yeast.
- In a medium saucepan, heat milk and 3 tablespoons (42 grams) butter over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer registers 120°F (49°C) to 130°F (54°C). Add warm milk mixture to flour mixture, and beat at medium-low speed until combined. Add 1 egg (50 grams), beating until combined. With mixer on low speed, gradually add 2½ cups (313 grams) flour, beating just until combined and stopping to scrape sides of bowl.
- Switch to the dough hook attachment. Beat at low speed until a soft, somewhat sticky dough forms, 5 to 7 minutes, stopping to scrape sides of bowl and dough hook; add up to remaining ½ cup (62 grams) flour, 1 tablespoon (8 grams) at a time, if dough is too sticky. Cover and let rise until slightly puffed, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and lightly dust with flour.
- Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape into a 9-inch square, and place on prepared pan. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Prepare the butter block: Using a permanent marker, draw an 8-inch square on a sheet of parchment paper; turn parchment over. Place remaining 1 cup (227 grams) butter on prepared parchment. Cover with a second sheet of parchment, and shape butter to fit inside drawn square, keeping edges straight and even. Keep wrapped in parchment paper, and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Freeze dough for 15 minutes; let butter block stand at room temperature until pliable, about 15 minutes.
- Laminate the dough: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch square. Unwrap butter block, and place on dough so corners of butter block touch center of sides of dough. Fold dough over butter block, meeting in middle, and press lightly to seal dough around butter block. Straighten dough and immediately roll into an 18×12-inch rectangle. Fold each short end to meet in center; fold in half. Turn dough 90 degrees, and roll out again. Repeat folding. Wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1½ hours; freeze for 30 minutes. (See Notes.)
- While dough is resting, make the ricotta filling and walnut thyme streusel. To make the ricotta filling, whisk together all ingredients until combined (for smoothest filling, pulse in a food processor). Transfer to a piping bag and refrigerate until ready to use.
- To make the walnut thyme streusel, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, thyme, and salt in a small bowl. Scatter the cold, cubed butter over the top. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the dry ingredients until moist clumps form. Mix in the walnut pieces. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
- Shape, proof, and bake the danishes: Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 17×13-inch rectangle. Trim ½ inch off each side so rectangle is 16×12 inches. Cut dough in half lengthwise, and return one half to pan. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Cut remaining dough lengthwise into six 12″ x 1⅓” strips.
- In a small bowl, whisk together 1 teaspoon (5 grams) water and remaining 1 egg (50 grams).
- Brush a strip with egg wash. Twist strip; shape into a coil, making sure to keep it flat. Tuck end under, and place on prepared pan. Repeat with remaining strips. Brush shaped pastries with egg wash. Repeat with second half of dough.
- Let pastries rise in a warm, draft-free place (75-80°F/24-26°C) until danishes are puffy and jiggly and the layers are very noticeable. This may take as little as 20-30 minutes or as much as 1-2 hours, depending on how long it takes you to shape your pastries and the warmth of your kitchen.
- While pastries are rising, position oven rack in middle of oven. Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
- Right before baking, brush pastries with a second coat of egg wash. Pipe a generous tablespoon of ricotta filling in the center of each danish. Press several grapes into the filling and sprinkle with a generous tablespoon of walnut thyme streusel. (Don’t skimp — the pastries will expand in the oven and you want to have plenty of filling and streusel in each one.)
- Bake, one batch at a time, until just starting to brown, 8-10 minutes. Rotate pan, and reduce oven temperature to 375°F (190°C). Bake until deep golden brown, 10-15 minutes more. (See Notes.) (Increase oven temperature to 425°F [220°C] before baking second batch.) Brush the grapes and exposed pastry with warmed honey. Serve warm or at room temperature, drizzling with additional honey and sprinkling with fresh thyme leaves just before eating, if desired. Best served same day but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days. (See Notes.)
- If you want to serve these for breakfast or an early brunch, instead of refrigerating for 1½ hours and then freezing for 30 minutes, just refrigerate overnight (no need to freeze).
- Some ovens bake the bottoms darker than others, place a second pan under prepared pan when baking to prevent overbrowning. Not sure how your oven will bake? Can test with one on a sheet pan or just go ahead and double pan just to be safe.
- Reheat stored Danish in a 350°F (180°C) oven before eating.