FOR YEARS I could not understand danish pastry. Oh, I don't mean that I couldn't make it. I mean the esthetics of it. It doesn't look Danish. Just look at the furniture they make in Denmark. All straight legs, clear colors and flat, smooth planes. The whole country is like that, functional, sleek, modern. How could those same people make a pastry so baroque in it's overabundance? And then I found the solution to my small culinary mystery. In Denmark danish pastry is called Weinerbrod, Viennese bread.

Now that made sense. The Viennese are so baroque they are rococco. They decorate the decorations. No hard straight edges here, everthing is plump and soft. This is a people who could have glorified breakfast pastry by making it more buttery, more flaky, more fruit-filled and more delicious than any other in the world.

It doesn't really matter who invented this pastry, just as long as it is there for us to enjoy with hot coffee. And that can be the problem. Where are those wonderful little bakeries that served up warm danish whenever we got the urge? If you live in the suburbs, where do you find fresh pastry on a Sunday morning? If you don't find any, how do you read the Sunday supplements? You see how important this is, the whole world could crumble for a lack of cheese and danish.

Why not make your own danish pastry? It could be the best thing you've ever done for your Sunday mornings. DANISH PASTRY DOUGH 3 cakes yeast (or 3 dry envelopes) 1/2 cup warm water 3/4 cup milk 1 egg 1/3 cup sugar 1 teaspoon salt 3 cups flour 1 cup flour for rolling dough 3/4 pound (3 sticks) very cold butter

Dissolve yeast in water. (I do not proof cake yeast. I proof dry yeast only if it outdated.) Place the milk, egg, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat together. Add two cups flour and mix. sAdd the yeast and mix well. Add the third cup flour and mix vigourously for 2 minutes, using a dough hook if available. This dough will be soft enough to work with a wooden spoon if necessary.

Form the dough into a ball and place it on a pastry board floured with part of the 1 cup of flour. Roll into a rectangle about 18-by-24-inches. Slice the butter into very thin strips. Lay strips of butter on 2/3 of the dough. Fold the unbutterd third of the dough over the middle third. Then use a spatuala to pick up the folded portion and fold it over the end. Now fold the rectangle in thirds to make a block. It will be 9 layers deep.

Roll the dough out to a rectangle 18-by-24-inches. Fold the dough in thirds lenghtwise and then crosswise. Use whatever amount of flour is needed to keep the dough from sticking, but don't overdo it. Repeat the rolling and folding 2 more times. If the butter becomes soft, refrigerate for 1 hour before continuing.

Place the dough in the refigerator for 4 hours to rest.

Roll the dough and shape it according to the directions that folow the filling recipes below. Allow the shaped pastries to rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When you put a sheet of pastries in the oven turn the temperature down to 375 degrees. This preheating must be done for each tray of pastry. The smaller pastries will bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Large pastries may take as long as 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Danish Pastry may be frozen before or after it is shaped. Shaped pastries must be allowed to thaw and rise before baking. PRUNE FILLING 1 cup pitted prunes 1 cup water 1/4 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a 1-quart saucepan and simmer until the prunes are soft. Add water if necessary. Place the cooked prunes and all of the juice in a food processor, blender or food mill and process until smooth. APRICOT FILLING 8 ounces dried apricots 1 cup sugar 1 cup water 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Place all of the ingredients in a 1-quart sauce pan. Simmer until the apricots are quite soft. Add water if necessary. Place the apricots and any remaining liquid in a food processor, blender or food mill and process until smooth. CREAM CHEESE FILLING 2 tablespoons sugar 1 egg yolk 1/2 teaspoon vanilla 1 teaspoon lemon zest

Cream the cream cheese until soft and smooth. Add the remaining ingredients. ALMOND FILLING 8 ounces of almond paste or marzipan 1 egg white 1/2 cup sugar 1 teaspoon almond or rum flavoring

Mix all of the ingredients together until smooth.

Note: There are many fruit fillings available at the grocery store. They are usually found in either the gourmet or baking section. They may be used alone or in combination with the almond or cheese fillings. Some of the flavors include pineapple, cherry, apricot, prune, date and apple. Jams and preserves are often used also. One of my favorites is raspberry preserves. GLAZE 2 tablespoons butter 2 cups powdered sugar Milk or cream

Cream the butter into the sugar. Add enough milk or cream to make a thin glaze. This is always put on the pastry while it is hot. The glaze then cooks from the residual heat. STREUSAL TOPPING 1 cup flour 1/2 cup brown sugar 1/2 cup white sugar 1 teaspoon cinnamon 1 stick butter

Stir together the flour, brown and white sugar and cinnamon. Cut in the butter to make a coarse crumbly mixture. This topping may be used on top of any danish pastry. It does not increase the baking time. SPIRALS OR BULLS-EYES

Cut the basic recipe in half and roll each half into a rectangle 18-by-12-inches. Spread with a thin layer of almond filling. Roll up like a jelly roll. Chill for 1 hour. Slice in 1/2-inch slices. Flatten slightly. Place 1 teaspoon of fruit filling or jelly in the center of each circle. Sprinkle heavily with streusel. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place danish in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes. Drizzle with a little glaze while still hot. FRUIT BARS Roll one recipe of danish into a rectangle 18-by-24-inches. Cut into 3 strips 8-by-18-inches. Fold over a 1 1/2-inch strip along each long edge. This will hold the filling in during the initial baking but will eventually open during baking. Spread a heavy layer of cream cheese filling down the center of each strip. Spoon a thinner line of fruit filling down the center on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle heavily with streusel. Let rise until double in bulk. Place in a 450-degree oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 25 minutes. Drizzle with glaze. Cut into bars. ALMOND WREATH

Roll out a recipe of danish dough to a rectangle 18-by-24-inches. Spread with a double recipe of almond filling. Cover all but a 1-inch edge. Roll as for a jelly roll. This should produce a very thick roll with tapered ends. Form into a large crescent on a baking sheet. Make slices every inch that reach 3/4 of the way across the crescent. Fan out each slice so that the cut edges are exposed. Allow to rise until double in bulk. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place the danish in the oven and reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done through and golden.