Danish pastry is a sweet pastry which has become a speciality of Denmark and is popular throughout the industrialized world, although the form it takes can differ significantly from country to country. The ingredients include flour, yeast, milk, eggs, and generous amounts of butter. A yeast dough is rolled out thinly, coated with butter, and then folded into numerous layers. If necessary, the dough is chilled to ease handling. The rolling, buttering, folding, and chilling is repeated several times to create a dough which is buttery and flaky. However, not all danishes are made this way.
A Danish varies significantly from country to country and region to region. In the UK, various ingredients such as jam, custard, apricots, raisins, flaked almonds, pecans or caramelized toffee are placed on or within sections of divided dough, which is then baked. Cardamom is often added to increase the aromatic sense of sweetness.
In the US and Canada, Danish pastries are typically given a fruit or sweet bakers cheese topping prior to baking. Danish pastries with nut fillings are also popular.
The Danish as consumed in Denmark can be topped with chocolate, sugar or icing, and may be stuffed with either jam, marzipan or custard. Shapes are numerous, including circles with filling in the middle (known as "Spandauer's"), figure-eights, spirals (known as snails), and the pretzel-like kringles.
Danish pastry is, like the croissant, said to originate from Vienna and is called wienerbrød (ˈʋiˑʔnɔˌb̥ʁœˑʔð, lit, "wienerbread" (corresponding to the French Viennoiserie, ie a hotdog bun) in Denmark as well as Iceland, Norway and Sweden. In Vienna, however, the pastry is known as "Kopenhagener Gebäck" or "Dänischer Plunder" , and its origin may well be the Turkish baklava.
L. C. Klitteng, of Læsø, Denmark, popularized "Danish pastry" in America in the years 1915-1920. The Danish was, according to Klitteng, the dish that he baked for the wedding of United States President Woodrow Wilson in December 1915. Klitteng toured the world to promote his product, and he was featured in such 1920 periodicals as the National Baker, the Bakers' Helper, and the Bakers Weekly. Klitteng opened a short-lived Danish Culinary Studio at 146 Fifth Avenue in New York City.