Nearly every office vending machine has at least one danish. The plastic-wrapped pastry usually has a plop of red or purple jelly at its center, and is zig-zagged with sugary icing.
This is not the concoction that nineteenth-century Danish bakers envisioned when they started playing with a Viennese recipe for buttery puff pastry. Their danish was a delicate stack of eggy dough, its layers spackled with almond paste. It was such a refined treat that Woodrow Wilson reportedly served danishes at his 1915 wedding.
Bakeries on both sides of the Atlantic have since fortified the original Austrian preparation with apricots, lemons, cherries and cream cheese, but the 47-year old Nielsen's Pastries serves a danish that Denmark's first borrowing bakers would surely recognize. As Nielsen's website says, this is the danish "the real Danes come in for."
Nielsen's angular danish tastes of butter without tasting like a butter stick: It's too flaky to register as heavy. It's thinly filled with butter and almond paste, and covered with poppy seeds as tightly grained as fine sandpaper. Poppy seeds are no longer fashionable, of course: They have a reputation for getting stuck between teeth and screwing up drug tests. But the seeds are rich and savory, adding an Old World note to a morning pastry that never really needed the fruit and cheese updates.