Would you be surprised if I told you that the Danish isn’t actually Danish? Of course you wouldn’t, because by now you well know that layered pastries weren’t invented by Europeans, but by the Arabs and/or Turks, and only arrived in Europe in the high middle ages. Just how they got there is anyone’s guess, since Christian Europeans and Muslims weren’t swapping recipes in those days so much as flaming spears.
But whether layered pastry was brought back from one of the later crusades, made its way up the Iberian Peninsula (which the Arabs owned from roughly 700 to 1400 A.D.) to France, or was simply introduced by some rough-and-tumble traveling baker types, it found its way into the heart of Europe around 1500. Once there, the idea spread rapidly to courts in Florence, Paris, and especially Vienna, where techniques for butter-laminated doughs like puff pastry were eventually perfected.
How do we know layered dough went to Vienna before it went to Copenhagen? In part because even now the Danes call Danish pastries Wienerbrot or “Vienna Bread”. Which is funny because in Vienna there’s a slightly different kind of pastry known as a Kopenhagener. What’s the relationship? Probably none, it’s just, you know…funny. Anyway, can anyone out there tell me what other Continental baked item is known as “Vienna Bread”? Anyone? Anyone? That’s right, the baguette, which was also came from Vienna…but more on that another day.
CORRECTION: I now understand from informed sources that Kopenhagener is in fact a German — not Austrian — term.