Cheese Danish – T & D Bakery: The Bite

Photo: Robert Fernandez

THE BITE: I don’t know when donuts took control of the police, but when I was a kid, the stereotype was always a cop and a cheese danish. I guess as Dunkin’ Donuts and the various 24-hour chains replaced the small mom-and-pop bakeries, donuts were just easier to obtain. The cop on the late night beat needed coffee to stay awake, and what better accompaniment than a donut?

Forget the donut – let’s go back the to cheese danish!

At A Taste of Sheepshead Bay this week, I was re-introduced to one of my favorite neighborhood institutions, T & D Bakery (2307 Avenue U – between East 23rd and 24th Streets). Their outstanding offerings of made-to-order canolli and mini pastries, reminded me of the wonders of the “mom-and-pop bakery.” It made me ask, and I hope it made you ask, why haven’t I been there lately?

A danish ($1.75 at T & D) is a wonderful thing. The pastry is made of a yeast and butter-filled dough that is rolled out and folded over many times to create a multi-layered, light and flaky puff that is filled with sweet baker’s cheese, fruits or nuts. Baker’s cheese is a fresh, soft and somewhat tangy cheese, similar to cream cheese or farmer’s cheese.

At T&D, they create a huge (4″ by 4″ by 2.5″) cheese danish that is filled with sweet cheese and topped with butter, egg wash and sugar. This incredibly light, but extremely filling confection is more than enough for a meal. Unlike many of  the offerings of its competitors, the cheese danish at T&D is moist and almost dripping with butter.

Have I finally found my perfect breakfast in the Bay? This danish is certainly a contender.

As The Fresno Bee stated in 1917…

But with the Danish pastry — you just tuck a small morsel under the tongue, roll up the eyes, say “Ah-h” as though there were a sky-rocket present, and it fades away and trickles down to the carbed-wire entanglements of the soul, a subtle something that clings like an opium eater’s dream.

The huge cheese danish, as we know it, is a strictly New York invention. If you trace the history of the danish, you will find that Vienna, Denmark and Austria all claim to have a hand in the creation of a “danish pastry.”  But, it was a Danish chef, MR. L. C. Klitteng of Isle of Laesoe, Denmark, who brought “the danish” to America and popularized it starting in the early 20th Century.

According to the July 1920 issue of the  National Baker, pg. 12, col. 1: School for Danish Pastry.
L. C. Klitteng, the authority on Danish Pastry, which he originated in the United States, and which has become so deservedly popular wherever introduced, announces that he has established his Danish Culinary Studio at No. 146 Fifth Avenue, New York City, and that students will be thoroughly instructed in this art of producing high grade pastry, either by practical demonstration or through a correspondence course.
Mr. Klitteng has introduced Danish Pastry in many countries and in numerous cities in this country, and has many convincing testimonials as to the large sales and profits made by those who have made known this delicious pastry to their local trade.

Trust me, the cheese danish at T&D Bakery is something not to be missed. Mr. Klitteng would be proud.

T & D Bakery, 2307 Avenue U, (between East 23rd and East 24th Streets), (718) 769-2267.

The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.

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