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  • Writer's picture5 Senses CulinaryTours

I’ll have a Danish


This is a common order here in America and no, we aren’t requesting a Dane. It’s a morning pastry at almost any bakery or café. But in reality, it isn’t Danish at all. Did you know?


What we know as a Danish is actually Austrian. The origin of the Danish pastry is attributed to a strike amongst bakery workers in Denmark in 1850. The strike caused 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 labor 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.


Political revolts in Europe in 1848 had ushered in new times and new thinking for the European states, and for Denmark too. But even though the absolute monarchy was abolished with the Constitution of 1849, liberal newspapers flourished and stoked liberal thinking, usually tied to the rise of political parties or labor unions. So the

Bakers in Denmark went on strike because they wanted to be paid for their work in cash rather than bed and board.


A Danish pastry is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the Viennoiserie tradition. But making the viennoiseries is no easy feat. In order to achieve those layers upon layers of buttery goodness takes some serious skill, time and effort. The base starts with a yeast leavened dough that’s risen to perfection. That’s when the good stuff happens. The dough is then layered with butter, rolled a number of times and, the best part, folded to create those gorgeous layers of crispy and flaky bites we’ve all come to know and love. Like other viennoiserie pastries, such as the iconic croissants, Mon Dieu” it’s NOT French either! True it’s from Austria! More later.


In Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, the term for Danish pastry is wienerbrød meaning "Viennese bread". The same origin is also the origin of Finnish viineri and the Estonian Viini sai. In Vienna, the Danish pastry is called Kopenhagener Plunder, referring to Copenhagen, or Dänischer Plunder. Now you can order it anywhere!


In France the sign Viennoiseries "things in the style of Vienna" is in many a boulangeries windows, again it refers to baked goods made from a yeast-leavened dough in a manner similar to bread, or from laminated puff pastry, but with added ingredients. The popularity of Viennese-style baked goods in France began with the Boulangerie Viennoise, which was opened by Austrian August Zang in 1839. Most food historians trace the origins of the croissant to Austria and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, where small pastries called kipferl had been made since at least the 13th century, according to numerous records. The Ottomans were expelled from the city of Vienna in 1683, and the story goes, to commemorate the victory– and the heroic alert triggered by a baker named Adam Spiel– he and others concocted a crescent-shaped pastry called Hörnchen (little horns). After the Austrian finally defeated the Ottomans, they created croissant: it has the shape of crescent moon symbolizing the crescent of the Ottoman flag, “eaten” by the Viennese.


As a child my favorite Viennoiserie was the heart shaped Palmier, but now have graduated to Pain aux raisins, which means Grape bread, it is a spiral-shaped pastry filled with custard cream and covered by raisins. The shape is very similar to the Danish cinnamon roll. We need to give a nod to Austrians who kindly shared their recipes and skills way back when…..


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