Categories:Denmark Food HIstory Great Lakes Pastries Sweet Yeast Breads
History of Kringles:
Kringles are butter-layered Danish pastries that were first introduced to Racine, Wisconsin in the late 1800s by immigrant Danish bakers. In Denmark, they are traditionally pretzel-shaped, almond-filled coffee cakes called Wienerbroth (Viennese bread). At one time Racine was home to more Danes than anywhere else in the country and as a result there are more Kringler shops in Racine than you’ll find anywhere else.
The kringles were created by German bakers from Austria who introduced their method of rolling butter between layers of yeast dough and letting it rest for hours before baking. When Danish bakers in Copenhagen went on strike, the bakery owners fired them and hired replacements from Austria. Once the Danish bakers returned to their jobs, they continued to make dough the Austrian way. It is the shape of a kringle (pretzel-shaped) in Denmark, which is the Danish sign for a bakery (hence the name kringle). Outside every bakery in Denmark, you will find a sign with a kringle on it. A kringle is not only the dough, as it can be made of different types of dough.
Over the years, a variety of fruit and nut fillings were added, and in the United States (not Denmark), the pretzel shape was changed to its present oval shape to eliminate the unfilled, overlapping parts.
True kringles are very labor intensive and can take up to three days to prepare, as they are made with up to thirty layers of delicate pastry dough. The challenge for a kringle baker is to roll butter thinly between several layers of yeast-raised dough. According to kringle bakers, you must roll very slowly to make the layers thinner. The traditional Racine bakeries offer a flat, oval kringle. The best places to enjoy kringles are in the bakeries in Racine.
Racine, Wisconsin, is known as the “most Danish city in America.” One of its favorite Danish treats is the kringle. There is a story (or folk tale) about one resident:
Lars Larson, was on his deathbed in an upstairs bedroom. His doctor had said Lars would last for only a matter of hours. Lars woke from a deep sleep and sniffed. His wife must have just returned from the bakery, and the aroma of freshly baked kringles bought a spark to Lars. He whispered, “If I could just have a taste of kringle before I die, it would make my dying sweeter.”
He mustered every ounce of strength and got out of bed. Slowly he made his way downstairs and into the kitchen. there he spied two kringles on the counter. Just as he was reaching out to take a piece, his wife swatted his hand away. “Stop that,” she said, “We’re saving these for the funeral.”
Are you interested in purchasing and tasting an authentic Kringle made at a Racine bakery in Wisconsin? Check our What’s Cooking America’s Gourmet Food Store to purchase one.
Danish Kringle Recipe: