Danish pastry, Racine-style
By Vesna Vuynovich Kovach
in Racine County Visitor Guide
What original Racine creation is tender, feather-light flaky, and totally scrumptious? It’s kringle, Racine’s signature ethnic dish--a local treasure par excellence.
The kringle style of Danish pastry--an oval ring, generously filled and iced--was developed by Danish-American bakers in Racine. Like croissant, its culinary cousin, traditional Danish pastry is made by repeatedly rolling out a piece of dough, coating it with butter, folding it, and then letting it rest in a cool place.
During the cooling periods, a rich flavor develops, the dough rises, and the butter firms up so that dough layers will stay separate. The whole process takes three days.
Though it’s little known elsewhere, Wisconsonians are fondly familiar with this regional treat. But what’s not so well-known, even here in Wisconsin, is that up until some fifty years ago, kringle was neither oval, nor ever fruit-filled, nor even iced.
“Kringle” means pretzel in Danish, and that was the pastry’s original shape. But in the prosperous post-WWII years, sweet-toothed customers clamored for change: less dough, more filling. With a simplified inner tube-like design, bakers found they could stuff in lots more than the slender ribbon of almond paste used in the old country. The new shape also allowed for juicy fruit fillings, which would have popped the pretzel walls. Luxurious icing suited this sumptuous affair better than the sprinkling of granulated sugar used before.
Today, you can buy dozens of flavors of kringles at Racine’s several authentic Danish bakeries. It’s a genuinely American experience: Old World techniques skillfully applied to our zeal for variety and abundance--fresh-baked daily with pride.