A long-time, Wisconsin tradition is enjoyment of a Danish kringle on Christmas morning. Danish immigrants began the tradition when they settled southeastern Wisconsin in the 1800’s. Visit the Racine, Wisconsin area and you’ll find Danish bakeries laden with kringles handmade of light, flaky, layers of pastry dough wrapped around of all varieties of sweet fillings: fruit, nut, cheese, and chocolate. Pastry doesn’t get tastier.
But few Wisconsinites bake their own kringles. The labor and skill-intensive pastry is not for the novice baker. You won’t find a kringle recipe in Mom’s Updated Quick Meals Recipe Box: 250 family favorites in thirty minutes or less. You have to look in the Wisconsin Country Gourmet to find a kringle recipe. No Wisconsin cook can claim the title of chef if s/he hasn’t mastered the art of the kringle; and for this reason, I offer a recipe for cranberry bars instead. But more on that later.
So most Wisconsinites purchase their Christmas kringles and an extra one or two to freeze for later. Kringles are one of those remarkable foods that freeze incredibly well. Even when thawed after six months in the freezer only a Danish baker might know the kringle hadn’t been baked that morning. It’s a custom here in Wisconsin to keep a frozen kringle on hand to serve when friends drop in to visit.
Enjoying Danish kringle is such a strong Wisconsin tradition that Wisconsin culinary guides have to include a stop at a kringle bakery. When writing Wisconsin’s Hometown Flavors: A cook’s tour of butcher shops, bakeries, cheese factories, and other specialty markets, culinary historian, chef, and travel writer, Terese Allen, had to stop by the O & H Danish Bakery in Racine. Allen describes the family-history of the bakery and gives their recipe for kringle. But thankfully she also includes the bakery’s recipe for cranberry slices.
O & H Bakery’s recipe for cranberry bars is easy and taste bakery-wonderful. Okay, they’re not kringle. But when I served them to company my guest left with the recipe and my daughter said, “YOU MUST BAKE THESE AGAIN!” The recipe made so much that I even had enough to make a generous Christmas gift for a favorite neighbor. Click on “continue reading…” for O & H Bakery’s recipe for cranberry bars.