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Classic Danish pastry is crisp, tender, light and slightly flaky and is simply referred to as "Danish." Genuine Danish is true pastry, falling somewhere between croissant and brioche, but contains about twice as much fat as croissant dough and American-style Danish. Plus, it contains an egg, which croissant does not. American-style Danish is far more sweet and cakey in texture.
SARAH SAYS: Danish pastry, however, actually originated in Austria. How it got to Denmark is subject to debate.
Danish is made from laminated yeasted dough into which butter is layered, similar to the method used for puff pastry and croissant. However, because it contains yeast, Danish require proofing before baking, so they can be layered as puff pastry.
SARAH SAYS: The folding process is repeated three times, eventually forming the requisite 27 layers that are one of the hallmarks of true Danish pastry.
Before baking, a traditional filling called Remonce, made of equal parts almond paste (or marzipan), sugar, butter and vanilla, can be spread on the rolled pastry dough. The other type of Remonce used is a creamed mixture of butter, brown sugar and cinnamon. Other fillings can be fruit jams and preserves, such as blueberry, apricot, sour cherry or other fruit, or cream cheese, vanilla or chocolate custard, nuts and raisins. Danish comes in all sorts of shapes, such as bear claw (Cockscombs), slips, snails, braids, envelopes, and twists, to name a few. Pretzel shapes, called kringles, are so popular that the pretzel has become the universal symbol for Danish bakeries.
When baked, Danish should have a crisp outer crust and a rich, tender,often described as "juicy" interior. The pastry should have a slightly layered interior, but not be as light nor quite as flaky as croissant. The layers of butter help separate the dough into the tender flakiness that distinguishes good Danishes. It rises because of the yeast in the recipe, as well as from the steam.
When baked, the butter worked into the layers of dough gives off moisture, and the resulting steam causes the thin layers of dough to puff and rise. In order to work, The butter used must be cold and malleable, perfect at 60 degrees F when rolled into the pastry; too cold and it breaks through the dough; too warm and soft, and it gets absorbed into the flour, destroying the layering and causing greasy results.