Simple Danish Pastries

*Thank you to everyone who entered the giveaway and for all the fantastic cookbook recommendations! Congratulations to the following winners:
#479: Summer who said “My go to is a church cookbook from 1996…it’s got a great variety of recipes!”
#1024: Jill W who said “I just have to say, first of all, that I love your blog. I have been a faithful follower for years. I have made many of your recipes, and they’ve been a huge success with my family of seven! I have MANY cookbooks, but the one that I use the most is actually a family cookbook that I was given for a wedding present. It has many wonderful recipes.I would love to win something!”

I feel like I’ve been harping on quick, simple recipes and meals lately. Sorry if that offends your gourmet spirit. I promise that fast food (I’m talking fast food like homecooked fast food, not fast food like dollar menu fast food) can taste delicious even if it is simple and quick to prepare. Because of my latest fetish with easy recipes, I was thrilled beyond thrilled when out of the blue, America’s Test Kitchen sent me their newest cookbook, The Quick Family Cookbook, because the food in here is seriously talking my language. No-fail is the word that comes to mind with ATK’s tested, tested, tested recipes and the wonder of this cookbook is that you get classically delicious America’s Test Kitchen recipes with minimal fuss, time and ingredients. Oh, I am in love with this book.

And I’m giving away TWO today! Just leave one comment on this post telling me your most used, most loved cookbook. I have a feeling this is going to be the one haunting the counters of my kitchen (uh, when we get a house) for a long time.

Simple Danish Pastries

In honor of the giveaway, I chose a recipe from the book to make and share with you. I should have made some stellar main course fare that will save your bacon on any given Tuesday night; however, I couldn’t resist these delicious cheese Danish pastries. They are so easy, so elegant and so delicious, if you close your eyes while eating one, you might just believe you are smack dab on the bustling streets of Paris – oh wait, think of some city in Denmark! – eating an authentic pastry. Not that I ever have had that experience, but take my word for it – these babies get the job done for a no-fuss pastry. Make them and love them. And in the meantime, keep an eye out for a truly sanity-saving recipe coming Friday and don’t forget to enter the giveaway!

Note: One copy of the cookbook sponsored by America’s Test Kitchen, the other giveaway copy provided by me. If you’ve been around this here blog long enough you’ll know that I don’t do product/cookbook giveaways hardly ever and trust me, I get a lot of snarky emails from companies and readers upset because I won’t accept their free food products and other “stuff” for shameless promotion on my blog. The only exception I really ever make is for America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks because I swear by their recipes and I have bought many of their cookbooks myself. I figure if I would go out of my way to buy it or own it on my own dollar then it is worth sharing with all of you!

Simple Cheese Danish

Yield: Makes 6

Simple Cheese Danish


  • 8 ounces cream cheese, light or regular, softened to room temperature
  • 4 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (9 1/2 by 9-inch)
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten with 2 tablespoons water


  1. Adjust an oven rack to upper-middle position and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small bowl, stir together the cream cheese, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla. Set aside.
  2. Roll the pastry into a 12 by 9-inch rectangle on a lightly floured counter, making sure it doesn't stick to the counter while rolling. Cut the rectangle into six 4 1/2 by 4-inch rectangles (cut it in half the long way and then cut each strip into thirds). Transfer the pastry rectangles to the baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Using the tip of a paring knife, score a 1/2-inch border around the edge of each pastry, then brush the borders with the egg wash (no fear - if you don't have a pastry brush, using your fingers works just as well!). Prick the pastry with a fork every 1 inch or so within the border (see the picture below for a visual). Place a generous 2-3 tablespoons of filling in the center of each pastry and spread it into an even layer leaving the border uncovered.
  3. Bake the pastries until fully puffed and golden about 12-14 minutes (watching carefully so they don't overbrown). Serve the pastries warm or at room temperature.

Recipe Source: adapted slightly from America’s Test Kitchen Quick Family Cookbook

1,211 Responses to Simple Cheese Danish {And a Giveaway You Don’t Want to Miss!} – CONTEST NOW CLOSED!

  1. Toni says:

    Those Danish look great! I honestly don’t use my cookbooks nearly enough since Pinterest came into my life, but one that I love is my 30 Years of the Best of Southern Living. It has the best manicotti recipe!

  2. Hilary says:

    Hey Mel! One of the cookbooks I use the most often is the original (as in her first one) Barefoot Contessa. Love her food!

  3. I use the America’s Test Kitchen Healthy cookbook the most! I would love to add this to my collection!

  4. I have an old Sicilian cookbook that I absolutely love…the pages are falling out and I’m doing my best to keep it all together!

  5. Elisabeth says:

    Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, hands down. Those danish look delicious, by the way…

  6. The most tattered cookbook in my collection is the Gourmet Cookbook. It may be huge and lack pictures, but it’s never steered me wrong!

  7. dallimomma says:

    Next to the one I have that’s handwritten by my Grandma, I love “The Joy of Cooking.”

  8. Stephanie says:

    The cookbook I use most is comprised of recipes from our neighborhood. My friend and I collected recipes, organized them, and put it together about 7 years ago

  9. Shelli says:

    Does your blog count as a cookbook? If not, then betty crocker for me….she’s always there when I need her!

  10. Phoebe says:

    My favorites when I am entertaining are “Foster’s Market”and Pam Anderson’s “Perfect Recipes for Having People Over”. My favorites on “any regular day” are “Weeknights with Giada” and ATK’s “Simple Weeknight Favorites”

  11. Molly B says:

    Ooooh, pretty Danish! The most-used cookbook I have is a toss up between a “make your own” cookbook loaded with some of my mom’s recipes, my favorites taken from a few websites, friends, Cooking Light magazine, PBS cooking shows, and the basic Betty Crocker cookbook, spiral bound, with the pages sometimes sticking. I’ve used it since college and is a great “go to” basic.

  12. Brandy Voight says:

    The New Betty Crocker is about the only published cookbook I pull out. Usually, I am looking for basic information when I blow the dust off. What I really use is my black binder with page protectors that is my collection of family favorites, Pinterest and other internet discovered recipes.

  13. Krysta says:

    I love America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country, too. They made my Thanksgiving AMAZING last year with their Old Fashioned Pecan Pie recipe (hint, hint, in case you haven’t tried it ;) ) These danishes look fabulous, too!

  14. Heidi loebig says:

    Right now I’m living my canning books!

  15. Kim says:

    I uses to love my Paula Dean cookbooks but now I’m all about searching the web for recipes. But when I don’t know what I want to cook or I need inspiration, I use my Paula dean cookbook for ideas

  16. Arlene O. says:

    My favorite cookbook is ATK’s Blue Ribbon Desserts. :) I love ATK and Cook’s Country, too — they never let me down! :D Thanks for the fantastic giveaway!

  17. Stacie says:

    I usually find recipes on blogs like yours, but one cookbook I do like is Our Best Bites. Just throwing this out there. . . I think you should put together a cookbook!!

  18. Sarah A says:

    Hi Mel! On my nonstick pan I swear I don’t have a favorite cookbook, I have a favorite website, it’s called and it’s my go to for making anything and everything! My family and friends all must really think we are friends because I seriously just say “oh this is mels recipe” :) I don’t know what I’d do without interent so a cookbook would be awesome!!!

  19. Kayli says:

    None of my cookbooks came to Switzerland with me- luckily there is the internet, and of course I did NOT leave behind my own recipe box, which includes almost all my mom’s recipes. :)

  20. Melissa says:

    While I generally find recipes on food blogs & pinterest these days, I do LOVE my Josh Besh “My Family Table” cookbook. And when it comes to baking, “Baking Illustrated” is the best and most reliable!

  21. Olivia says:

    We have a Betty Crocker cookbook that my mom got when she was in college…it’s older, but it has some of the best, most consistent recipes in it!

  22. Karrie says:

    My fave cookbook? It’s a very thick cookbook compiled by women in my congregation at church. I’ve had it for years. It’s my first go-to cookbook.

  23. Jeannette says:

    these danish look seriously good! when i was little, my mom used to take me out on sundays as for a treat. every time i got to the counter, i told myself i was going to try something new. but i never did. cheese danish. every. single. time.

    my most used cookbook to this day is still Dorie Greenspan’s baking from my home to yours. its gold.

  24. Jo-Ann B. says:

    My favorite cookbook is the one that I put together with all the family recipes that have been passed down. I find that I get most of my recipes from your blog or allrecipes especially when I want to try something new.

  25. June g. says:

    I’m from whidbey island, WA. I have yummy cookbook, “simply whidbey” that I use often. Also, “breakfast in bed” cookbook, I use so many recipes from this book.

  26. Kandi victorino says:

    Mel, as by as I love my ward cookbook, the one place that I always turn for yummy recipes is your site! You are a lifesaver in our home.

  27. Annie says:

    I really like the ivory family cookbooks… But honestly, your blog is where I get most of my recipes. We had the San Francisco chops just last night (& @ least twice a month)!

  28. Laura says:

    I treasure my church cookbook from when I was a kid. My mom was a great cook and has her greatest recipes in there. She is no longer here on earth to share cooking advice, so it is extra special to me.

  29. Valerie H says:

    I use my Southern Living cookbooks the most. The recipes (especially desserts) are always tasty. However, I recently checked out the Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook from my library and discovered some really wonderful recipes in it.

  30. Suzy says:

    I love any America’s Test Kitchen cookbook!

  31. Marsha says:

    I don’t really use cookbooks much anymore but I look at your website everyday! America’s Test Kitchen has some great books though.

    P.S. Made your Succulent Grilled Pork Tenderloin last night. It was a hit–VERY GOOD.

  32. Brittany says:

    I love your website! We’ve had your Grilled Island Chicken twice this week. :)

    My favorite “recipe book” these days is not really a book at all, but Pinterest. I’ve made over 150 recipes from there in the last 9 months.

  33. Debbie L says:

    While I have “name brand” cookbooks, the ones I use most are a church cookbook given to me early in my teaching career by a student (fav cake in this one) and a cookbook put together by the Junior Woman’s Club in my town probably thirty years ago when we were all young cooks.

  34. Jen says:

    When I got married, my aunt made me a scrapbook of recipes and every woman in my family contributed one of their favorite family recipes to it….it is wonderful and fun to have our favorite family recipes all in one place, especially some of Grandma’s classics!
    Thanks for all your great posts, I have used quite a lot of them!

  35. Mary Beth says:

    The dog eared cookbook on my shelf is the Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook. Nowadays, recipes are more likely to be found on the internet, but I still keep this older, but still solid and basic cookbook that taught me how to cook as a new wife. Having seen you reference America’s Test Kitchen on your site, I have taken a few out of the library and made copies of recipes that looked like must try recipes. Would of course love to win one of their cookbooks for my own :)

  36. Katie Rose says:

    Either my cooks country annuals or my BGH Cookbook. I go there for the basics all the time and if I’m looking for something different or special I head online.

  37. Angie says:

    Hey Mel! So my very first go to cookbook was a spiral bound one from my Grandma’s church. Then, I met you and it became this fantastic website! Now that school is in session, sports, scouts, and other activities have started and I found some other favorites in the Taste of Home – Busy Family Favorites (30 minute meals) and TOH Slow Cooker and One Dish Meals. But my spur of the moment go-to is still melskitchencafe!!

  38. Elizabeth D says:

    I search the web for recipes. My favorite sites are yours :), Pioneer Woman, This Mommy Cooks, and AllRecipes.

  39. Erika says:

    I mostly use the Internet and pinterest these days, but a few of my go to recipes are from the Betty Crocker cookbook. The apple crisp from there is perfection!

  40. Bethany M says:

    My go-to cookbook is a binder full of magazine clippings, printed recipies (some of them yours!) And handwritten family recipies scribbled on notebook paper and index cards.

  41. Trish says:

    My favorite cookbook if I had to choose is a collection recipes I put together from various places…some are family, others are printed off of websites like Food Network, Taste of Home, etc. I also always keep my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook nearby, more for cook times and things like that which are at the end of every chapter. But honestly mainly come to your website and a few other favorite food blogs for my recipes!

  42. These look delicious. On a random side note, I had a taco party last week and nearly everything I made was from your blog! That balsamic black bean salsa is out of this world. My friends loved it!

  43. Hayley says:

    Wish I could give a real answer for this. But honestly, my most used cookbook is a homemade one my mom gave me upon leaving for college, which I have added to, mostly from blogs like yours. Love it. Don’t have any ATK ones, but would love to! I always trust their advice!

  44. Darla says:

    The Complete Cooking Light Cookbook is one that I use a lot, but a lot of times I get my best recipes from blogs like yours!

  45. Kate says:

    Hi Mel! I always seem to rediscover my handed down Betty Crocker’s Cookbook that my mother passed to me when I went out on my own. It has all of the basics that we still love after all of these years.

  46. Oh! Such a great cookbook! I want!

    My favorite cookbook is Rebecca Rather’s ‘Rather Sweet Desserts.’ She owns a bakery in Texas and I adore everything she makes. Especially because she’s a skinny mini like me but bakes desserts all day long! :)

  47. P32 says:

    America’s Test Kitchen!

  48. I had a recipe box with my favorites that I copies from my mom’s recipe box, but in the last 2 years, I don’t know if I’ve even opened a cookbook. Now I get most of my recipes from blogs and access them on my phone rather than even printing them out. But I love to READ cookbooks.

  49. Jessen says:

    Hmmm… I would say my Thai-Southeast Asian Cookbook that I’ve learned sooo much from. I now create my own stir frys because every asian ingredient (like the vinegars used and chinese wines are all explained). But, I do love all of my cookbooks because they’re all geared towards different styles of cooking!

  50. Julie C. says:

    Hi Mel!!! Love your blog…I have to say my favorite cookbook was one my church was selling. All tried and true recipes from our members. I’ve used this book over and over and adapted some of the recipes to our taste but I can always find whatever I’m looking for in there.

  51. Simply Susan says:

    It used to be my tried and true cut and paste recipe binder, now it’s becoming recipe blogs and Pinterest.

  52. Kellie says:

    Does Pinterest count? Because I only learned to cook in the last couple of years, and that’s where almost all of my recipes come from, with like half of them coming from here. : )

  53. Tara says:

    Those look so yummy! My most used cookbook is probably the good ol’ Better Homes and Garden’s book. You know the one, I think we all have it, with the red gingham cover.

  54. Alyssa O. says:

    The cookbook I use most is the Our Best Bites cookbook, otherwise all my recipes are ones my mom gave me at some point or got off pinterest.

  55. Julia says:

    The good ‘ole red and white checkered BHG cookbook, calling my mom, and now this blog along with a few others. Thanks for the giveaway :)

  56. Tracey S says:

    My mother’s old, tattered, stained collection of recipes! I now have my own to pass along.

  57. Emily says:

    I don’t really have a go-to cookbook. My family loves ATK! We watch them on PBS on Sat afternoon…my kids love to watch too. Ive been thinking about purchasing one of their cookbooks but with 4 kids who all play soccer at the same time and I work part-time, there isn’t much time for elaborate meals. This would be perfect for my family! ATK, has the most amazing recipe for monkey bread!

  58. Sarah says:

    My current favorite is “The Best Recipe” from America’s Test Kitchens. I’ve even managed to decorate it with a red wine stain, (entertainingly enough, the stain starts on a recipe that does not call for wine).
    Though I would like to add that “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day” is running a close second.

  59. Lynette says:

    My favorite cook book is the one I just organized (thanks to your great advice) with tried and true favorite family recipes.

  60. Allyson says:

    A Reader’s Digest cookbook I got for our wedding 17 years ago!

  61. Katie L. says:

    Hi Mel – First off, I have to say that I absolutely ADORE cheese danishes…like more than anyone probably should…so I will definitely be giving these a try in the near future. I have to say my most used cookbook is a toss-up between my Cuisine at Home magazines or my ATK Baking cookbook – love that thing!! I too am a big fan of the no-fail recipes that ATK puts out. Love their show on PBS too. It’s awesome!! Thanks for the giveaway chance!

  62. Johanna says:

    My favorite cookbook is my Better Homes New Cookbook, Bridal Edition. I got it as a wedding shower gift and it makes me think of my wedding and my good friend each time I use it. It’s got great tried and true recipies that are easy to use.

  63. Merianne says:

    I use “Desperation Dinners” all the time because I am lazy like that and don’t have time to cook much anymore. But I would still love to win a cookbook – who am I kidding though? I never win anything! :) Thanks for chatting with me yesterday and helping me out with my silhouette. I love you!

  64. Karrie says:

    These look great and so easy! I love Ina Garten’s original cookbook and often reference The Joy of Cooking. I love cookbooks…

  65. Hannah says:

    My slow cooker cookbook!

  66. Sieglinde says:

    I honestly have been using my favorite list of blogs (yours included) the most lately. However, I do love my original Americas Test Kitchen :) SO excited for this book!!!

  67. alison says:

    These look delicious! Love your blog!

  68. Carla says:

    My favorite cookbooks are the two simple ones that my church published, Come & Dine and Come & Dine Again. They are full of tried, tested, and true recipes.

  69. Liz B. says:

    My favorite is ‘Joy of Cooking’ – it seriously has EVERYTHING you need to know about cooking and baking anything.

  70. Laurie N. says:

    My most used, loved and cherished cookbook is the one I made of all of my grandmother’s recipes. After she passed away, my grandfather gave me her collection of yellowed index cards that had the recipes of the most incredible Italian dishes. I compiled with photos and stories and gave one to each family member. It’s still so great to see the index cards today with her handwriting. And some of the ingredients crack me up such as needing a 25 cent Hershey’s bar for cannoli filling. Um, where can I find that??

  71. Laura says:

    I like my Better Homes and Garden Bridal Cookbook that I received as a wedding gift.

  72. Heidi says:

    Before Mel’s kitchen cafe became my go to “cookbook” I often used my lion house cookbooks (classics and dessert editions). I have a hunch you will be a cookbook someday!!

  73. Janel says:

    I use the internet and save so many of my recipes in a binder system similar to your own. But when I need a trusty, reliable recipe I turn to my mother’s 1970 Betty Crocker cookbook – Betty never fails!

  74. LindaB says:

    Betty Crocker hands down!

  75. Janine says:

    The classic BHG.

  76. Mariah says:

    I love Joy. You know, as in Joy of Cooking? I got it when I was married, and it’s walked me through steaks, perfect mashed potatoes, and even some of my favorite cake recipes! A real cornerstone!

  77. Avery K. says:

    My favorite is The Kimbell Cookbook (from a local art museum in Fort Worth). The museum has a cafe and I have found the best quiche recipe in this cookbook!!

  78. Lauren K. says:

    My favorite recipe book is the one that my bridesmaids and female relatives created for me as a wedding present. It includes some classic family recipes as well as new ones for me to try! I love being able to think about the person who gave me the recipe as I prepare the dish.

  79. Jenn W. says:

    My most used cookbook is the one that I’ve compiled over the years. It has all of my favorite recipes. My second favorite place for recipes? Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, of course!!

  80. Kerri A. says:

    I have to say that one of my favorite cookbooks that I go to is a church cook book that my mom handed down to me. It’s one of those books that the church put together and then sold to raise money. Love it!

  81. whitney says:

    Your website is my cookbook! I know that anything I try will be wonderful:)

  82. Bree H says:

    I use my simple Better Homes and Gardens cookbook the most, but I have a feeling this cookbook would become a new staple in our home!

  83. Dana says:

    I pull out my ATK & cooks illustrated (the big green ones that have every recipe from that year in them) daily.

  84. Erin Harvey says:

    My favorite cookbook is the ATK Family Cookbook. I definitely want the Quick book!

  85. Jodi says:

    I don’t think I could narrow it down. I have so many and love them all, but I do have to say our family cookbook is one I always use.

  86. Jodi says:

    My favorite cookbook is a family collection from my sister’s in-laws!

  87. Beth W says:

    I love my Baking Illustrated cookbook. My husband would LOVE for me to make these cheese danishes… yum!

  88. Anne Marie says:

    My favorite is an old Betty Crocker red and white cookbook – over forty years old – but still a good book!

  89. Jackie says:

    I LOVE the Simple Recipe book by the ATK group. Quick, easy and tasty recipes. Our favorite is the Empanadas recipe. The danishes look great and I’ll definitely but this new book on my wish list!

  90. Patricia says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderful recipe! I am looking forward to trying it one morning really soon. As far as favorite cookbook: The Country Wife Cookbook is my favorite!

    It is my favorite because it is a cookbook that I have built over many years (starting when our children were old enough to help with cooking meals about 30 years ago) and continues to the present, when I add new recipes.

  91. Kristin says:

    My most used cookbook is The New Best Recipe! I absolutely adore America’s Test Kitchen, and would LOVE to win this giveaway!! Love your site – the recipes never disappoint!

  92. katie says:

    One of my favorite’s is a old church cookbook from my granny~ the other is a cookbook i put together with favorites from our friends & family~ i find more & more i go to the internet more than my bookshelf~ all great recipes!

  93. Sharon says:

    My most-used cookbook is the one from my cooking class in college. Something about knowing that the recipes aren’t for trained chefs sure helps me out!

  94. melissa duran says:

    Most nights i cook out of a family cookbook my mom put together for everyone for Christmas two years ago.

  95. Kim J says:

    I have a lot of cookbooks..I love them, but the one I alway return to is the one I got when I got married, Betty Crocker!

  96. Efrat says:

    first, let me say i loooove your recipes and already tried about 20 of them. about the giveaway… well… i’m from Israel, so most of the cookbooks i use are in Hebrew, i assume you wouldn’t know them. still, my most used one is called (loosely translated) “a sure recipe” (in Hebrew this is wordplay since sure and safe are the same word).

  97. Christiana says:

    I love cookbooks! I mostly find recipes on blogs now, but when I first started I used the Better Home and Gardens and Taste of Home cookbooks.

  98. Christina says:

    Sadly, I don’t have a cookbook. I have a handful of recipes from my late mother and a few that are committed to memory. If I want to make something, I usually look it up online. I come to this site, sometimes Pioneer Woman, and of course, Pinterest :) I absolutely LOVE ATK and Cook’s Country and I watch them faithfully. I would love to have one of their books! Thank you :)

  99. Liss says:

    I love ATK cookbooks and Everyday Food :)

  100. Sheryle says:

    My Fannie Farmer cookbook – it tells me everything I need to know about cooking and baking and has some wonderful recipes too.

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