What Is a Kringle and How Do You Make One?
Here’s what you need to know about the buttery, flaky Danish treat.
The kringle has become incredibly popular in the U.S., especially around the holidays. It’s not hard to see why the oval-shaped pastry has a cult-like following of devoted fans: The Scandanavian treat is absolutely irresistible. Here’s everything you need to know about kringles:
What Is a Kringle?
A kringle is a filled Danish pastry that’s notable for its oval shape and delicate, flaky layers. Common fillings include fruits, nuts, custards, and cheeses. You can find kringles year-round, but they’ve become particularly popular around the holidays.
Though anyone can bake a kringle if they set their mind to it, it’s definitely a labor of love — butter and flour must be painstakingly folded together over and over again to make the thinnest, flakiest layers possible. Anyone who has successfully made their own kringle, however, knows that the deliciously tender pastry is absolutely worth the time- and labor-intensive process.
The kringle’s roots (and the roots of most Danish pastries, really) can be traced back to a Scandanavian bakers’ strike. When the bakers of Denmark went on strike in the mid-1800s, the Austrians who were tapped to fill the gap in the workforce brought with them the technique of layering yeast dough with shortening. Even after the Scandanavian bakers returned to work, the intricate process remained a fixture of Danish pastry-making.
The Danes who settled in Racine, Wisconsin — which has been called the ''the most Danish city in America” — between the Civil War and World War I brought the method to the United States.
Scandanavian Kringles vs. American Kringles
To this day, Racine is famous for its flat, oval-shaped kringles. One Racine bakery in particular, O&H, has made the treat something of an icon around the country (the almond kringles you may have purchased at Trader Joe’s are from O&H).
Even the most devoted kringle fans in America may be surprised to learn that, traditionally, the pastry is pretzel-shaped. In fact, “kringle” roughly translates to “pretzel.”
If you ever travel to Denmark, you’ll notice that the many bakeries that line the streets feature a kringle (or what looks like an upside-down pretzel) on their doors. Though nobody is quite sure where the symbol came from, it now represents many bakers’ guilds in Europe. For reasons unknown, the Danish baking guild is the only one that is allowed to display a royal crown in its symbol.
Where to Buy a Kringle
Again, kringle-making is a labor of love. It can take up to three days to make one from scratch, so most people choose to buy them from the store.
So where does one find a kringle in the U.S. if they’re not lucky enough to be a Wisconsinite? Plenty of bakeries around the country do sell traditional kringles, but Trader Joe’s has become one of the most popular spots to find the ones produced by O&H.
“Patience is a virtue … at least that is what we believe! Throughout the years, our parents and grandparents have stressed the importance of following the recipes and methods established in Old Denmark,” O&H says of their process. “That's why when we create our kringle pastry, we gently roll butter into the dough and then let it rest overnight. We repeat the process for three consecutive days that results in our 36-layer-pastry dough. Once baked, it is exquisitely rich, yet light, tender, flaky and flavorful.”
If you don’t live near a TJ’s, you can order directly from O&H — find more information about their everyday and seasonal flavors here.
How to Make a Kringle
Of course, if you have the patience, you can totally make a from-scratch kringle at home. The basic process involves layering butter or shortening with flour, chilling the dough in intervals, filling and shaping the dough, brushing with an egg wash, and then baking. Here are a few of our favorite kringle recipes to try this year: