Viennese Cheese-Filled Squares (Topfentascherl)

Viennese pot cheese, or Topfen, isn’t unlike our part-skim-milk ricotta, but it’s a little firmer. In this recipe, I’ve combined the ricotta with some cream cheese, and it works perfectly.

Makes 12 pastries


1/2 batch Viennese Danish Dough

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CHEESE FILLING
1/2 cup currants or golden raisins

1 teaspoon dark rum

4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup part-skim-milk ricotta

Confectioners’ sugar for finishing

  1. Toss the currants with the rum and set aside.
  2. Use a rubber spatula to beat together the cream cheese, sugar, yolks, and vanilla. Gently fold in the ricotta.
  3. Roll the dough on a floured surface to a 12 x 16-inch rectangle. Mark, then cut the dough into twelve 4-inch squares.
  4. Carefully fold the currants and rum into the cheese filling and distribute it evenly among the squares of dough, spooning it into the center of each.
  5. To shape a pastry, pick up opposite corners of the dough. Overlap them slightly, then pinch the juncture together; repeat with the two other corners. Continue with all the remaining squares of dough.
  6. Arrange the pastries on a parchment-lined pan, leaving a couple of inches all around each one.
  7. Cover the pastries with a lightweight flat-weave towel and proof until they are almost doubled in size, about 1 hour, depending on the temperature of the room.
  8. Once they have started to puff, set racks in middle level in the oven and preheat to 400°F.
  9. After the pastries have fully proofed, place the pan in the oven and decrease the temperature to 375°F. Bake until the pastries are well risen and starting to color, about 15 minutes.
  10. Turn the pan from back to front and continue baking until the pastries are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.
  11. Cool the squares on a rack and serve the day they are baked; dust them with confectioners’ sugar right before serving. Because the filling is delicate, these don’t freeze well.

 

VIENNESE DANISH DOUGH

 

Makes 30 ounces

 

DOUGH

3/4 cup whole milk, scalded and cooled to 100°F

4 1/2 teaspoons fine granulated active dry or instant yeast

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons sugar

2 1/4 cups unbleached bread flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)

1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

BUTTER BLOCK

1/4 cup unbleached bread flour (spoon into dry-measure cup and level)

8 ounces/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold

  1. Whisk the milk and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer, then whisk in the egg yolks, vanilla, and sugar. Use a large rubber spatula to stir in the flour; make sure there is no flour clinging to the side or at the bottom of the bowl. Place the bowl on the mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix the dough on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.
  2. Increase the speed to medium, adding the salt and butter, and mix until the dough is smooth and elastic, 2 to 3 minutes more. Remove the bowl from the mixer, cover it with plastic wrap, and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
  3. Once the second hour is almost up, prepare the butter block. Scatter half the flour on the work surface and cut the butter into 5 or 6 pieces. Turn the pieces of butter in the flour to coat them and use a rolling pin to gently pound each piece to soften it. Once all the butter has been pounded once, scatter on some of the remaining flour, dusting the work surface again if necessary; stack one piece of butter on another and use the rolling pin to hammer them together. Repeat, adding the remaining pieces of butter. Scatter on the last of the flour, then quickly knead the butter into a solid mass and shape into an 8-inch square.
  4. Scrape the surface free of any sticky bits of butter and flour it. Unwrap the dough and place it on the surface; flour the dough and roll it evenly to an 8 x 16-inch rectangle, with a short edge near you. Brush away any excess flour on the dough’s surface and place the butter on the end closest to you. Fold the dough down to enclose the butter and pinch the edges together around it.
  5. Flour under and on top of the dough and use the rolling pin to start pressing in a succession of gentle and even strokes, moving from the closest edge to the farthest edge. Gently roll the dough in one direction, starting at the end nearest to you and without going over the opposite edge. Repeat, rolling from the far end back toward yourself. Repeat the rolling once more and make the dough an 8 x 16-inch rectangle.
  6. Brush any excess flour from the dough, then fold both narrow ends toward the middle, leaving about a 1/2-inch space between them. Fold the dough in half along that center line to make 4 layers.
  7. Position the folded package of dough so that the closed fold, resembling the spine of a book, is on your left. Repeat step 5, this time rolling across as well as lengthwise, until the dough is as close to 8 x 16 inches as possible. Repeat step 6.
  8. Wrap and chill the dough; use it the same day or chill it overnight and form and bake the pastries the next morning.