Kringle pastry is a type of Danish pastry which is specially worked and kneaded so that it becomes light, flaky, and very rich, almost like French puff pastry. Traditionally, kringle pastry is used to make a round filled coffeecake which is also known as a kringle. Kringles are very popular in the American Midwest, where a number of Danish people settled during the 1800s. Specialty bakeries are often willing to ship their kringle to people in areas without a ready supply of this food, and it can also be made at home.
The base of the pastry is a rich, buttery dough which is allowed to rest overnight before being kneaded, rolled and folded in a complex process which creates thin layers in the dough. As the dough bakes, these layers separate slightly, turning into a flaky, dense pastry. The dough is filled with ingredients like chopped nuts or fruit, and it is shaped in an oval before baking. To serve, cooks cut wedges of kringle pastry out of the oval.
The original kringle was apparently baked in a pretzel-like shape, but over time the crossed folds of pastry were eliminated in favor of a simpler oval. Almonds and almond paste were the filling of choice for early versions of the kringle, but a wide variety of ingredients are used today including other nuts, cherries, raspberries, and apricots. Many cooks drizzle glaze or powdered sugar on their kringle after baking, to make it especially sweet.
Danish immigrants to the United States brought kringle pastry with them in the 1800s, and several towns in the American Midwest are renowned for their kringle. These regions sometimes sponsor annual baking competitions, along with attempts to break kringle size records. Fans of this Danish food claim that the best kringle pastry takes three days to make from start to finish if it is rested and assembled properly, although some bakeries prefer to significantly shorten the process in the interest of being more efficient.
Because kringle pastry is challenging to make, home cooks might want to consider cheating and using commercial puff pastry dough or a rich bread dough like that used for brioche, since this will cut down on assembly time dramatically. The dough should be rolled out into a long, narrow rectangle so that the filling can be spooned into a long line down the middle, and then it can be rolled up into a tube which can be bent into the desired oval shape and brushed with egg before baking for a glossy finish.