One of America’s Favorites – Danish Pastry

June 19, 2017 at 5:34 AM | Posted in One of America's Favorites | Leave a comment
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A typical Spandauer-type Danish with apple filling and glazing

A Danish pastry or just Danish (especially in American English) is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the viennoiserie tradition. The concept was brought to Denmark by Austrian bakers and has since developed into a Danish specialty. Like other viennoiserie pastries, such as croissants, they are a variant of puff pastry made of laminated yeast-leavened doughs, creating a layered texture.

Danish pastries were exported with immigrants to the United States, and are today popular around the world.

 

Danish pastry is made of yeast-leavened dough of wheat flour, milk, eggs, sugar and large amounts of butter or margarine.

A yeast dough is rolled out thinly, covered with thin slices of butter between the layers of dough, and then the dough is folded and rolled several times, creating 27 layers. If necessary, the dough is chilled between foldings to ease handling. The process of rolling, buttering, folding and chilling is repeated multiple times to create a multilayered dough that becomes airy and crispy on the outside, but also rich and buttery.

Butter is the traditional fat used in Danish pastry, but in industrial production, less expensive fats are often used, such as hydrogenated sunflower oil (known as “pastry fat” in the UK).

 

In Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, the term for Danish pastry is wienerbrød/wienerbröd, “Viennese bread”. The same etymology is also the origin of the Finnish viineri. Danish pastry is referred to as facturas in some Spanish speaking countries. In Vienna, the Danish pastry, referring to Copenhagen, is called Kopenhagener Plunder or Dänischer Plunder.

 

The origin of the Danish pastry is often ascribed to a strike amongst bakery workers in Denmark in 1850. The strike forced bakery owners to hire workers from abroad, among them several Austrian bakers, who brought along new baking traditions and pastry recipes. The Austrian pastry of Plundergebäck soon became popular in Denmark and after the labour disputes ended, Danish bakers adopted the Austrian recipes, adjusting them to their own liking and traditions by increasing the amount of egg and fat for example. This development resulted in what is now known as the Danish pastry.

One of the baking techniques and traditions that the Austrian bakers brought with them was the Viennese lamination technique. Due to such novelties the Danes called the pastry technique “wienerbrød” and, as mentioned above, that name is still in use in Northern Europe today. At that time, almost all baked goods in Denmark were given exotic names.

 

A cinnamon Danish with chocolate

Danish pastries as consumed in Denmark have different shapes and names. Some are topped with chocolate, pearl sugar, glacé icing and/or slivered nuts and they may be stuffed with a variety of ingredients such as jam or preserves (usually apple or prune), remonce, marzipan and/or custard. Shapes are numerous, including circles with filling in the middle (known in Denmark as “Spandauers”), figure-eights, spirals (known as snails), and the pretzel-like kringles.

 

 

In Sweden, Danish pastry is typically made in the Spandauer-style, often with vanilla custard.

In the UK, various ingredients such as jam, custard, apricots, cherries, raisins, flaked almonds, pecans or caramelized toffee are placed on or within sections of divided dough, which is then baked. Cardamom is often added to increase the aromatic sense of sweetness.

In the US, Danishes are typically given a topping of fruit or sweet baker’s cheese prior to baking. Danishes with nuts on them are also popular there and in Sweden, where chocolate spritzing and powdered sugar are also often added.

In Argentina, they are usually filled with dulce de leche or dulce de membrillo.

 

A slice of an American apple crumb Danish

Danish pastry was brought to the United States by Danish immigrants. Lauritz C. Klitteng of Læsø popularized “Danish pastry” in the US around 1915–1920. According to Klitteng, he made Danish pastry for the wedding of President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915. Klitteng toured the world to promote his product and was featured in such 1920s periodicals as the National Baker, the Bakers’ Helper, and the Bakers’ Weekly. Klitteng briefly had his own Danish Culinary Studio at 146 Fifth Avenue in New York City.

Herman Gertner owned a chain of New York City restaurants and had brought Klitteng to New York to sell Danish pastry. Gertner’s obituary appeared in the January 23, 1962 New York Times:

“At one point during his career Mr. Gertner befriended a Danish baker who convinced him that Danish pastry might be well received in New York. Mr. Gertner began serving the pastry in his restaurant and it immediately was a success.”

 

 

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