I am used to names on foods that have nothing to do with it's origin. Nothing at all! I was reading a cookbook on foods from Scandinavia when I stumbled across a Danish pastry recipe where the author mentioned something about it having been brought in by an Austrian. I read that and though hmmmm? Really? So off I went to look!
According to the Los Angeles Times, this particular pastry began in France back in the early 1600's when a baker's apprentice in France made a huge mistake. He forgot to add butter to the flour when mixing up the dough so he tried to compensate by folding it in afterwards. Instead of a total failure, the finished product turned out to be lighter than any other pastry they had at the time. The apprentice ended up opening a cafe in Paris in 1622 where he served the "pastry of a thousand leaves".
His success lead him to open a second cafe in Florence where the Italians classified this a "folded pastry". Again this food gained so much popularity that Italian bakers took it to Austria. This pastry made it's mark in Austria where it moved to Denmark due to a strike of Danish bakers. The Danish bakers wanted a real wage rather than being paid in room and board. When the Danish went on strike in 1850, owners brought replacements in from Austria.
Since they didn't know the Danish breads, they made what they knew and when the strike finally ended, the "Viennese" had a place in Danish society and the Danes had to learn to make it but they upped the fat content and added more eggs to make it theirs. Eventually, the food became known as "Danish pastry" because the Danish bakers took it with them when the emigrated to other places including the United States where it kept the moniker "Danish". In Germany, it is known as the "Copenhagen and in Denmark it's a "Viennese".
The "Danish" made it's first appearance in the United States in 1915 when a Dane made them for President Woodrow Wilson's wedding. The Dane convinced a restaurant owner to sell his pastries there and they became quite popular, spreading around the country.
It is said that the best Danish pastry is made with chilled ingredients so that as the dough is folded, the layers stay separate rather than blending into each other. The Danish use jam, fruit, nuts, or cream as fillings for their pastry but in the United States, they prefer cheese, or a fruit jam type filling. Furthermore, connoisseurs believe that making them by hand produces a better result than using machines.
When I visited Germany a few years ago, I saw "Danish" in the bakery but I didn't know the name for it as I spoke little to no German and the lady who waited on me spoke little to no English. I pointed and held up fingers which she understood. I noticed they were not quite as sweet as the ones in the United States but they were good. One of these days I want to try making them at home. If I do, I'll take pictures and share the results with everyone.
I hope you enjoyed learned a bit about "Danish". Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear. Have a great day.