A Danish pasty or “Danish” is a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry. Austrian bakers brought the concept to Denmark and it has since developed into a Danish specialty. Similar to croissants, it is a variant of puff pastry made of laminated yeast-leavened dough that creates a layered texture. Sometimes, it is filled with a fruit or cream cheese which is now popular around the world.
Danish pastry is prepared with yeast-leavened dough and contains wheat flour, milk, eggs, sugar, and large amounts of butter or margarine. The dough is rolled out thinly, covered with thin slices of butter between the layers of dough then folded and rolled several times, creating 27 layers. The process of rolling, buttering, folding, and chilling is repeated multiple times to create multi-layered dough that becomes airy and crispy on the outside. Butter is the traditional fat used in Danish pastry. Less expensive fats such as hydrogenated sunflower oil is used in industrial production.
Danish pastry was brought to Denmark following a strike amongst bakery workers in 1850 which 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 labour disputes ended, Danish bakers adopted the Austrian recipes, adjusting them to their own liking and traditions. This development resulted in what is now known as the Danish pastry.
One of the baking techniques and traditions that the Austrian bakers brought with them was the Viennese lamination technique. Due to such novelties the Danes called the pastry “wienerbrod” (Vienna bread) and, as mentioned, that name is still in use in Northern Europe today. At that time, almost all baked goods in Denmark were given exotic names.