Simple Cheese Danish

*Makes 6 Danish

INGREDIENTS:

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

DIRECTIONS:

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.

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.

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.