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Danish Pastries

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62568.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:12 pm Reply with quote


What do they call this in Copenhagen?




Wienerbrød. In Denmark, Danish pastries are called "Vienna bread".


In Vienna, to confuse things further, a Danish pastry is "ein Kopenhagener".

In Iran, because of the recent kerfuffle over the cartoons, Danish Pastries are known as 'Roses of Mohammed'. This is in honour of the National Flower of Persia, adopted long before any other nation thought of using a rose as its emblem. In English, the flower is known as the Damask rose, after Damascus, which is Syria.

Wienerbrød (which must be counted as the true ‘Danish’ pastry) is very different from the sticky confection from Vienna known as Kopenhagener or the flaccid parodies in Britain and America. They are expected to be very light and crisp and Danish bakers do batches of them two or three times a day. They come in all shapes and sizes. Spandauers are square with corners folded towards the middle; kammar(combs) are narrow, folded strips nicked along the edge to make ‘teeth’; kringler (pretzels) are unfilled. The kringle is the symbol of the baker’s trade in Denmark. Plaits, whorls, crescents and pin-wheels are also made.

Wienerbrød has been made in Denmark since about 1840 but no one really knows why it's called that.

One theory is that the original dough was created in the 17th century by a French apprentice baker who forgot to add butter to the flour and tried to hide his mistake by folding lumps of it into the dough. Known as mille-feuilles in France, it was copied in Italy, where it is known as "folded pastry", and Italian bakers took it to Austria. Sometime in the 19th century, the legend goes, there was a strike by journeymen bakers in Denmark. Strike-breaking Austrians were brought in, bringing with them their light, flaky "Vienna Bread"*. The new stuff was an immediate hit in Denmark, soon spreading to other countries in Europe then, via Danish immigrant bakers, to the American Mid West, while retaining the Vienna connection at home.

The earliest known use of "Danish Pastry" in English is from Chicago in 1907**.

Danish pastries seem to have arrived in New York some time after 1915 with Danish immigrant L.C. Klitteng. This gentleman appears to have had a fairly high opinion of himself, taking credit for the name and for the success of the pastries in America. Supposedly, one of his first assignments on arrival was providing the dainties for President Woodrow Wilson's second marriage to Edith Bolling Galt in 1916***.

By 1920, LC Klitteng was styling himself “the world’s highest paid baker” and taking ads in the magazine National Baker for his new cookery school, the Danish Culinary Studio, on 5th Avenue, New York. In due course, it seems, he sold his secret to a local restaurateur named Herman Gertner.

Gertner had started in business on the Lower East Side in 1903 or 1904. At one time he had five restaurants on Broadway between 35th and 97th streets and another on 7th Avenue. His plan was to run a restaurant chain, but the success of his Danish Pastries changed his mind and instead he hired extra bakers and sold them wholesale. He was the real popularizer of the product among New Yorkers and was eulogized, on his death in 1962 at the age of 90, as New York's ‘doyen of the Danish’.

One of Gertner’s bus boys was Leo “Lindy” Lindermann, who married his boss’s sister , Clara. Together, they founded “Lindy’s” in 1921, greatest of all Broadway delis, known for its huge combo sandwiches and ‘New York Style’ cheesecake. Damon Runyon was a big fan and put it in his novels as “Mindy’s” from where it was immortalized in “Guys and Dolls”


*In another version, Christian Ludvig Olsen, son of the Danish Royal baker, travelled to Europe to broaden his horizons and met an Austrian baker called Wiesel in Cologne. When Olsen returned in 1834 to take over his father’s business he brought back Wiesels’ recipe (and eventually Wiesel as well).

**It appears in the appendix of Paul Richard’s Pastry Book by Paul Richards (sic) published in Chicago. This is much earlier than the earliest reference quoted in the OED, citing Webster (1934).

***Both Edith (nee Bolling) and President Wilson had recently lost their spouses. Bolling is a Danish name, as it happens – there is a place called Bolling in Denmark – and it would have been nice to say that Edith’s parents had imported a top baker from their homeland. In fact William Holcombe Bolling (Edith’s father) could trace his ancestry all the way back to Robert Bolling(c1175-c1240) who was in fact English.


I suppose this could equally well be a nice, snappy General Ignorance question.


PICTURE OF A DANISH PASTRY (specially shot still, surely?)


s: OCF
s: OED

62608.  Wed Mar 29, 2006 7:48 pm Reply with quote

In 1988, US Presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater made a famous gaffe when caught on the hop by a question about the Danish decision not to allow US submarines in their harbours: "To me, Danish means breakfast". This caused a tremendous hoo-ha in Denmark, or 'Austria' as it is called by the Danes.


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