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What is a Danish Pastry?

Jessica Ellis
By
Updated May 16, 2024
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A Danish pastry or Danish, is a sweet bread product made with raised dough. Originating in Austria at an unknown date, the Danish pastry grew to fame in Denmark and has become a popular breakfast or snack treat throughout the world. Danishes come in many varieties and are often filled with fruit, jam, or cream.

Danishes are made from a pastry dough rich in butter, mixed with eggs, flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Spices may be added to the basic dough for additional flavoring, including cinnamon, allspice and cardamom. The dough is rolled out into thin layers and often coated with more butter, before being shaped into individual pastries. Often, Danish dough will be chilled before baking, or rolled out and buttered repeatedly to increase the flakiness and texture of the dough.

Fillings for Danish pastries are as variable as can be. Traditionally, fruit preserves and custard are commonly found in Denmark, although chocolate filled Danishes are also popular. In other places, Danish are filled with sweet cheese, whole pieces of fruit, or nuts and spice mixtures. A Danish pastry can really be filled with whatever you enjoy the most, so don’t be afraid to experiment.

When baked, the dry yeast used in the dough causes the Danish pastry to rise, creating a flaky and rich bread that will crumble easily. Much like their cousins, the croissant, Danish pastries are a favorite breakfast food in many places. The Danish is quite versatile, however, and may also be enjoyed as a late morning or afternoon snack, perfect with a cup of coffee or tea.

In 2006, the Danish pastry found itself at the center of a startling international controversy, following the publication of some political cartoons by a Danish cartoonist. The comics depicted the prophet Mohammad, seen as a religious affront to some Islamic practitioners. In response, the confectioner’s union of Iran decided to symbolically boycott products from Denmark by renaming Danish pastries “Roses of the Prophet Mohammad.” This was met with mixed reactions in many quarters.

Regardless of their international brush with politics, Danish pastries are enjoyed all over the world. Their flaky and buttery dough seems irresistible to those in search of an early morning sweet treat, and the variety of flavors available can certainly provide a Danish for most tastes. Danish pastries are readily available at coffee shops, bakeries and grocery stores, and usually are priced between $1-$4 US Dollars per pastry.

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Jessica Ellis
By Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis brings a unique perspective to her work as a writer for DelightedCooking. While passionate about drama and film, Jessica enjoys learning and writing about a wide range of topics, creating content that is both informative and engaging for readers.
Discussion Comments
By ValleyFiah — On Jun 25, 2011

@aplenty- Try Andre's European Bakery near 85th and Lex (within a block or two) or Anneliesse's on 80th and 1st Ave. Both have pastries, soups, and sandwiches that are outta this world. Just a heads up, they have credit card minimums ($20 at Andre's and $7 at Anneliesse's...ouch). Bring cash or buy for two.

By aplenty — On Jun 23, 2011

Does anyone know of a good Danish pastry house in New York City, specifically somewhere near upper Manhattan (east side if possible)? I am here on an extended stay and I would like to find a good breakfast pastry spot that beats coffee and doughnuts. Thanks for the Feedback wiseGEEKS.

By Babalaas — On Jun 21, 2011

@Framemaker- This is purely from my experience as a chef, but I think that you will need some sugar to react with the dry yeast in the recipe for Danish pastry. I used to make dough for bread and pizza and the right mix of sugars for the active yeast to feed on is necessary, as is the salt to neutralize the yeast.

I have never made Danish pastry dough, but if it is like other yeast dough, you mix the sugar and yeast in 95-105 degree water to activate the cultures. Once activated for a few minutes, mix in the dry ingredients, including the salt. The salt will eventually kill the yeast, retarding any further growth.

I am sure you could make the recipe with less sugar, but the trick will be to find the proper ratio of sugar to salt to yeast so that the dough rises properly and does not taste too sweet or salty. Good luck and let me know how it turns out if you try it. Breakfast Danishes sound good.

By FrameMaker — On Jun 18, 2011

I wonder if you could make Danish pastry dough without the sugar and fill them with savory things like meat, eggs, or vegetables. I think the dough could make interesting little breakfast Danishes if filled with scrambled eggs, meats and cheeses. Has anyone ever experimented with this before? If so, how did it turn out?

Jessica Ellis
Jessica Ellis
With a B.A. in theater from UCLA and a graduate degree in screenwriting from the American Film Institute, Jessica Ellis...
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