Danish Pastry (Wienerbrød)

Danish Pastry Wreath

Danish Pastry Wreath

by Cat, Dec 2012 (photo, right, from Blame it on the Food.com (1)

Danish pastry is a close cousin of puff pastry, requiring the same technique of repeated rolling, folding and chilling of the dough. But Danish pastry is sweet, and filled with almond paste or other fillings of your choice (I love date filling), and shaped into wreaths, bearclaws, butterflies, snails and other shapes.

The other day, the new owners of the Grateful Bread here in Bigfork got a request for a Wienerbrød (Vienna Bread) from a customer. They didn’t know what that was, and spelled it as Veinerblood. They decided to ask me if I knew anything about this. After scratching my head for a few moments, I figured out what was meant, and promised to bring them a couple recipes, one from The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (2), and one from Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen (3). Meanwhile, they found a great recipe online by searching for ‘Danish Pastry Wreath’ (per my suggestion); see Taste Book.com (4).

Although my Mom was first generation Danish American, she never made this pastry. I didn’t learn about it until I went to college at PLU (Pacific Lutheran University), and my across-the-hall neighbor, Diane, told me about Danish pastry (See Danish Christmas Tree).

Classic Danish Pastry

This is the classic method of making, folding, rolling, and twisting the dough for Christmas wreaths. You can fill with any coffeecake filling you like, and decorate as desired. I like the red and green candied fruit as in the photo above, and almond paste filling. I also like the idea of making the smaller rings which I can give as gifts. But I have never made this before. maybe one of these years….

This version is from The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck (1), but I’m sure when I actually make it, I will modify it somewhat.

The method of making the yeast dough into flaky, buttery layers is very similar to that of making croissants, or that of my first Puff Pastry recipe (although that is not a yeast-risen dough).

Start witih a solid pound of butter (as opposed to divided into separate quarters) if you can get it, and cut it in half. Otherwise, let 2 quarter-pound cubes of butter warm enough that you can work it, then combine the cubes into one solid brick, reserving 2 tbsp of butter separately.

The original recipe makes two large Danish rings, but I’ve reduced it to make one large Danish ring. There are many different fillings, but my favorites are nut, prune, apple, or almond paste. I will add these recipes one of these days. The almond paste filling from the Taste Book.com (4) recipe can be used in the mean time.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Dough:
  • 1 package dry yeast (or 2 ¼ tsp bulk yeast)
  • 2 whole eggs or 3 egg yolks
  • 1 ½ Tbsp Rapadura sugar (or white sugar)
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • ½ tsp freshly grated orange rind
  • ⅛ tsp ground cardamom seeds
  • ½ tsp real vanilla extract OR ¼ tsp almond extract
  • 2 cups unbleached white flour (plus up to 1 cups extra for rolling & shaping
  • ½ cup cold milk (plus approximately 2 Tbsp as needed)
  • 1 cup (½ lb)  butter, firm but not ice cold
  • Baking:
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 2 tsp fresh cream
  • apricot glaze
  • rum fondant (optional)
  • Equipment:
  • flour sifter
  • small and large bowls
  • rolling pin
  • pastry cloth
  • pastry scraper
  • foil
  • baking sheet


  1. Dough: Prepare yeast as directed on package (or proof it in scant ¼ cup warm milk; scald first, then cool, if milk is raw).
  2. Lightly beat eggs or yolks in a small bowl, adding sugar, salt, grated rind, cardamom and almond/vanilla extract. Add proofed yeast.
  3. Sift 2 cups flour into large bowl. Make a well in center of bowl. pour yeast mixture into the well. Add 1 cup of the milk and ¼ cup butter (cut into pieces).
  4. Mix dough with finger tips, adding more milk if necessary to make a medium-soft dough. Knead in bowl about 5 minutes, until smooth but not elastic. Then flour dough and let rest in fridge for 10 minutes.
  5. Prep butter: Meanwhile, prepare remaining butter into a flattened brick. Lightly flour some waxed paper or a pastry cloth, then roll out the brick of butter into a square about ⅓ inch thick. Use plenty of flour under and on top of butter to keep it from sticking, and loosen it frequently as you roll. Cut the square into two pieces, and place them fridge between sheets of waxed paper.
  6. Roll, fold and chill dough: Remove dough from fridge and roll out on well-floured cloth to make a rectangle, 3-times longer than wide, and about ⅓” thick. Brush excess flour from dough, then place one piece of the butter in the center. Fold one end of dough over the butter, then place second piece of butter on top and fold over other end of dough. Press edges together.
  7. Turn dough, changing its position so that the short ends are parallel with the edge of table nearest you. Roll out on well floured cloth with a firm and even motion so that the butter spreads with the dough. Work quickly but check underneath the dough frequently to ensure it isn’t sticking. Roll to rectangle 3-times longer than wide, about ⅓” thick. Fold both ends to meet in the center, and press edges together. Then fold in half as if closing a book, to make 4 layers of dough. (See bottom sketch (by Cat), in Puff Pastry recipe, copied below).dough sketch-puff pastry fold
  8. Flour dough and place on baking sheet. Cover with foil and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  9. Repeat rolling and folding three more times, chilling 20 minutes between rollings. Be sure to change position of the dough each time before rolling (so that it is rolled in different direction). The short ends of pastry should always be parallel with edge of table nearest you before rolling.
  10. After final rolling, chill dough at least 3 hours before shaping and baking.
  11. Shaping a pastry ring (about 12 inches in diameter):
  12. Use above recipe. Roll out into a thin rectangle 6” x 25” x ¼”
  13. Spread dough with thin layer of filling. Fold lengthwise into thirds, making a strip 25” x 2”. Roll gently to flatten and lengthen slightly.
  14. With a knife, make 3 incisions lengthwise, spaced equally, almost the full length of the strip, leaving an inch or so uncut at each end.
  15. Form the twist: Take one end in each hand and turn to lightly roll the ends in opposite directions to form a long twist, stretching dough slightly. Continue to hold ends so they won’t unwind, and shape into a ring, crossing ends and pressing them down firmly to join.
  16. Holding joined ends down against the table with one hand, flip ring over toward you with the other hand so that ends are concealed underneath. Place on prepared baking sheet. Press down top of ring slightly to flatten.
  17. Chill again until cold, about 20 minutes for small pastries or 45 minutes for large ones (as for 2 Danish rings).
  18. NOTE: Small pastry rings are made the same way, with smaller amounts of the dough and rolled thinner, then cut crosswise into ¾” wide strips, with only one lengthwise incision down center of each before twisting. One-half of the above pastry recipe will make 20 small rings.
  19. Baking:
    1. While dough is chilling, preheat oven to 450°F, and lightly grease baking sheets.
    2. Place chilled pastries well apart on baking sheets. Brush all over with egg yolk mixed with cream.
      • Small pastries: bake for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 375°F. Continue to bake 10 – 15 minutes, or until golden brown.
      • Larger pastries (as for 2 Danish rings): bake at 450°F for 15 minutes, then 30 – 40 minutes at 375°F, or until golden brown.
    3. Remove from oven and immediately brush with hot apricot glaze, then, if desired, with rum fondant; however, pastries rolled in sugar before baking need no further glaze of any kind.

Danish Pastry (Rough Method) with Apples & Almonds

This is a different, easier version, which I’ve adapted from Wonderful, Wonderful Danish Cooking by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen (2). It still involves rolling the layers of dough and butter, but in a simpler way.

In this recipe, the dough is flavored with almond extract, and the filling is mainly apple, but you could omit the extract, or use a different extract, and you could use a different filling. Or you may choose to add chopped nuts to the filling.

I’ve not tried this yet, and I don’t know how many small pastries it will make, but it should make 1 pastry wreath.

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • Dough:
  • 2 tsp bulk baker’s yeast
  • 2 Tbsp lukewarm milk
  • ¾ cups milk
  • 3 Tbsp soft butter
  • ½ tsp Unrefined sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp Rapadura sugar (or white sugar)
  • 1 whole egg + 1 optional yolk
  • ½ tsp freshly grated orange zest
  • ⅛ tsp ground cardamom seeds or ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ⅛ tsp real almond extract
  • 3 ½ cups unbleached white flour (includes extra for rolling & shaping)
  • ½ cup (¼ lb) soft butter
  • Filling:
  • cooked apples
  • small amount of cream
  • nutmeg, cardamom or cinnamon
  • Baking:
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Decoration:
  • 2 Tbsp powdered sugar (Rapadura brand, or Make Your Own Unrefined Powdered Sugar)
  • ½ Tbsp water
  • ground or slivered almonds
  • Equipment:
  • flour sifter
  • 2 small bowls
  • large bowl
  • rolling pin
  • pastry cloth
  • pastry scraper
  • baking sheet


  1. DoughStir yeast into lukewarm water and set aside to proof.
  2. Heat ¾ cup milk, then whisk together with 3 Tbsp butter, the salt and sugar in large bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add proofed yeast.
  3. Beat eggs well in small bowl, then add spice, zest and extract and mix. Stir into milk mixture.
  4. Sift 3 cups flour into another small bowl. Then gradually work 1 cup of the flour into the mixture in the  large bowl. Beat well for 100 strokes, then add 2 cups of the flour a little at a time, until well mixed. If it is too soft add more flour 1 Tbsp at a time.
  5. Turn out onto floured board and knead with floured hands until dough is smooth.
  6. Clean out bowl then oil or butter it. Put dough into bowl, then turn it over so the top is oiled; cover with a damp cloth and set in a warm place until doubled in bulk (2-finger test). Punch down, then return dough to floured board and roll out to a ½” thick rectangle.
  7. Spread half the softened butter over half the dough, fold other half over it and roll again to a thickness of ½ inch. Spread remaining softened butter over half, fold other half over and roll again to ½ inch thick.
  8. Filling: Mix apples, cream and spices of your choice until creamy.
  9. At this point you can proceed with the filling and shaping described in the above recipe. OR cut into rounds, squares or triangles, place 1 tsp filling on each, fold over and press edges together lightly, letting a little of the filling peek out.
  10. Transfer to baking sheet.
  11. Brush with a beaten egg and bake 15 – 18 minutes in a preheated 450° F oven.
  12. When cool, frost with icing made of 2 Tbsp powdered sugar and ½ Tbsp water. Sprinkle with ground or slivered almonds


  1. Blame it on the Food.com photo (blameitonthefood.com/tag/danish-pastry) NOTE: currently seeking permission to use the photo
  2. The Art of Fine Baking by Paula Peck
  3. Wonderful Wonderful Danish Cooking, by Ingeborg Dahl Jensen.
  4. Taste Book.com Danish Pastry Wreath recipe (tastebook.com/recipes/2438531-Danish-Pastry-Wreath?full_recipe=true)

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