The Danish pastry, like the croissant, is classed as a rich, sweet pastry.
It is, in its simplest definition, a pastry dough leavened with yeast, that is treated as for puff pastry.
It is said to originate from Vienna and is called wienerbrød or ‘Viennese bread’ and cooks from across Europe would travel to the Austrian capital to learn the secrets first-hand.
Both the croissant and Danish are laminated doughs, and as such are categorized as Viennoiserie products.
A specialty of Denmark and the neighbouring Scandinavian countries, it is popular throughout the industrialized world, although it can differ significantly in shape and form from country to country.
In Vienna, however, the pastry is known as ‘Golatschen’, and its origin may well be closer to the Turkish baklava than the croissant.
The origin of the Danish, as it is familiar today, is ascribed by the Danish Confectioners, Bakers and Chocolatiers Association to a strike amongst the bakery workers in Danish bakeries in the 1850’s.
The strike forced the Danish bakery owners to hire in a foreign work-force. Among these were several Austrian bakers who, unfamiliar with the Danish baking recipes, baked pastries using their own native homeland recipes.
Amongst these Austrian pastries were Plundergebäck, which became quite popular in Denmark. Later this recipe was changed by Danish bakers, increasing the amount of fat (by adding more egg) which resulted in what is commonly known today as the Danish.
Widely available in bakery shops and the major supermarkets chains, either as a high-quality full baked or part baked product, means that the time and effort required to make them at home seems an unneccessary chore. But, like all proper home baking, it is well worth the effort when the golden pastries are sitting on a cooling rack awaiting the arrival of the family!