The Danish are coming — with actual Danish!
Copenhagen’s ubiquitous pastry chain, Ole & Steen, has opened its first US location in Union Square (two other outposts here are due later this year). The baked-goods store also has a large presence in the UK.
Along with the classic pastry in its NYC satellites, Ole & Steen will serve another Denmark staple: its distinctive rye bread, made with grated carrots, and which will star in several open-face sandwiches ($ 6 to $ 8, depending on the fillings, which include smoked salmon, herring and potato). You can wash these down with either Single Estate coffee ($ 3) or Danish beer ($ 8 to $ 9).
But most people will probably come for what Americans call Danishes, which appear on Ole & Steen’s menu under a variety of names, including Copenhagener ($ 3.50) and Spandauer ($ 4), a poppy variety. Another bakery highlight is the cinnamon social ($ 4.50 a slice), which, when ordered whole ($ 20), feeds six to eight people.
“It’s eaten as a social event,” says Gabe Sorgi, Ole & Steen’s head of US operations. “We named it ‘social’ because the translation from the English to the Danish didn’t work.”
The eponymous sweet treat — a lacquered, sweet pasty, often filled with jam or nuts — actually originated beyond Denmark’s borders during a bakers’ strike in 1850.
“They had to import bakers from other parts of Europe to get the bread out in the morning,” Sorgi says. “So they introduced the Viennese style of baking pastries, and it kind of blended in.”
And so the Danish was born. Nevertheless, the Danes hardly have a lock on their signature pastry. Here are some of the city’s other dealers in Danish delights.
At Boernum Hill’s Bien Cuit bakery, Danishes come in three nontraditional choices: broccoli and miso cheddar; potato leek; and honey, orange and fennel ($ 4.75 each).
“We want the flavors to be very interesting,” says chef and owner Zachary Golper.
He says the Danish has proved the perfect pastry for him and his team to experiment with at their in-house bake shop.
“When it comes to a Danish, the dough is different,” Golper says. “It’s got more egg in it. Most bakeries are just going to use the same dough as their croissants. If you’re really trying to stand out, you’ll make a Danish dough.”
120 Smith St., Boerum Hill and Grand Central Market; BienCuit.com
Brooklyn native Jesus Caicedo and his Danish girlfriend, Caroline Soelver, opened the doors of their Bed-Stuy bakery last year. While the spot specializes in Danish treats, it doesn’t sell any actual Danishes.
“I don’t think Danishes are actually Danish,” says Caicedo, who’s heard about their Viennese roots. He recommends Skål’s “buttery, flaky” frøsnapper ($ 6) and the rounder, poppy-seeded tebirkes (also $ 6), both of which are likely to be munched on the streets of Copenhagen.
Caicedo says he’s excited about Ole & Steen’s stateside arrival.
“They’re the kings over there,” he says. “They’re like Starbucks!”
His coffee shop and cafe, whose motto is “When Copenhagen meets Bed-Stuy,” has a full menu that ranges from pastries and avocado toast ($ 9) to Parmesan shrimp and grits ($ 10).
373 Lewis Ave., Bedford-Stuyvesant; SkalBrooklyn.com
Runner & Stone
The Gowanus bakery Runner & Stone is known primarily for its sandwiches, but it also sells Danishes in different flavors, depending on the season and even the week.
Currently, the bakery is offering raisin Danishes ($ 3.50), but “I’m always pushing for prune,” says co-owner and baker Peter Endriss. In keeping with tradition, Runner & Stone sticks to the sweet — raspberry, strawberry and peach — rather than the savory.
The jams are made in-house and sold separately as a spread for other sweets, at 75 cents for a 2-ounce cup. The dough is made with 10 percent local organic whole-wheat flour and 90 percent organic white-wheat flour, Endriss says, noting that a Danish is “not just about the filling.”
When he’s not hustling the pastries from his Gowanus home base, Endriss brings a basket of them to the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturdays.
285 Third Ave., Gowanus; RunnerAndStone.com
Aloaf was called Savoy until 2016, when baker Gordon Wu bought the business from his bosses. One thing that hasn’t changed is the Harlem bakery’s red-bean roll ($ 1.95).
A Danish in all but name, it has a distinctive red-bean taste and glazed texture, the red bean swirled into the bready pastry. Aloaf’s staffers recommend getting to the shop before 2 p.m., before it sells out (or gets cold).
Aloaf also offers a peach vanilla Danish and a cheese Danish ($ 1.95).
170 E. 110th St.; 212-828-8896