Sunday, 29 April 2007

Danish Pastries

Ahh, the breakfast of champions. Whenever I start the day with a Danish pastry I raise my mug of tea to toast the good people of Denmark. Although, apparently, I should really be toasting Austrians and Americans as well. In all likelihood, what we know today as a Danish was created in Vienna and made its way to Denmark, and other countries in northern Europe, by some sort of pastry osmosis.

It’s real rise to fame was when it hit the shores of the USA, which it did with great fanfare and huge success. A Danish baker and self-proclaimed ‘patisserie-savant’ by the name of L.C. Klitteng came to America towards the end of the 19th century at the invitation of Broadway restaurateur Herman Gertner. Between them they managed to convert the nation to the wonders of the Danish. To do so they had to battle against the well established French pastries which were popular with the moneyed classes at the time. What ensued was nothing short of a propaganda war, albeit a reasonably friendly, and not to say tasty, one.

In newspaper ads and features across several years the two men extolled the virtues of Danish pastries with cookery demonstrations and tasting sessions, particularly in and around New York. My favourite quote from one of these is as follows:

‘There is a difference between the Danish pastry and the French. The French pastry is eaten daintily and slowly, allowing each new discovery to sink in, and the flavors to blend one by one, until the effect of the whole is an Arabian dream of gastronomic thoughts. But with the Danish pastry – you just tuck a small morsel under the tongue, roll up the eyes, say “Ah-h” as though there were a sky-rocket present, and it fades away and trickles down to the barbed-wire entanglements of the soul, a subtle something that clings like an opium eater’s dream.’
Nigella Lawson, eat your heart out.

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