Paris has been rewarded with a glorious autumn, to make up for its washed-out summer. The air is crisp and the sun bright*, so much so that I have been cycling around town instead of hiding in the metro. I took a Velib home from the Persian cultural centre by the Canal St Martin, after their soothing tea with cardamom and dried lemon. I crossed town, cycling along the water, for another meeting of the Grape Leaf Club. This time we made chicken paupiettes and French onion soup, and each of us went home with a jar of stock and chicken thighs in a spicy marinade. I discovered a whole row of posts painted to look like Lego men up at Pantin and another line near Nation in rainbow colours. Some of the best street art is clearly temporary: condemned buildings soon to become flats, allowed to live a last hurrah with a swirl of graffiti.
A few weekends ago, we stayed inside for a Danish movie night. On the menu, Blinkende Lygter (Flickering Lights), rye bread with salami, cheese and mackerel, and meatballs with mashed potatoes to follow. The latter were pretty simple: veal and pork, an egg and some diced onion, all squashed into rounds, browned and finished with a cream and mushroom sauce. With the mashed potatoes, they were the ultimate comfort. It is amazing we stayed awake for the film, although it was actually quite funny – a black, bitter humour – starring a young Mads Mikkelsen.
While browning the meatballs, while the others were laughing in the other room and piling meat and cheese onto bread and teasing the cat, I was also rolling out the tebirkes** for the next day. (The kitchen is one of my favourite places to be during a party: I can hear and enjoy enough of the conversation while my hands are busy.) To continue the theme: Danish pastries for Sunday morning. But not the “Danishes” that people in Britain grew up with, custard and apricot and a thick glaze. I had never tasted anything like it. These tebirkes are a hybrid of a croissant, a brioche and a Germanic seeded roll. They have all the butter and flake of a French pastry (confusingly called “viennoiserie” here, from Vienna) but some of delightfully sour taste of a multi-grain sourdough – from the addition of yoghurt. Plus, they are rolled up with a marzipan filling that caramelises around the edges as they bake, and topped with more poppy seeds.
I took the recipe from this blog here and adapted the method a little to make it more familiar, more like making croissants. Unlike croissants though, tebirkes I am happy to make at home because I know they can’t be found within walking distance from my flat of a Sunday morning. They sound labour intensive but they only need a little work the night before, and a good hour or two to rise the next day. (And they could be frozen for later.) I love the way the dough is speckled with seeds, the poppy seed cap on top. When they come out of the oven, some of the filling will have oozed out onto the tray, forming a toffee-like, brandysnap brittle. Worth making for that alone. Chef’s prerogative. They should be flaky outside and chewy inside, with a satisfying heft. Mine have been approved by one Danish friend, but she admitted that as with croissants, each bakery makes a slightly different version. And from what I understand if you make them longer and thinner they can be twisted into frosnapper. An extended culinary research trip to Denmark is clearly required to check. Perhaps in the spring…
*Technically, I wrote this a couple of weeks ago. It rained all day this Sunday. But we did eat another batch of tebirkes, just to check they were still good.
**Pronounced tay-beer-kes. I think.
Tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)
adapted from Honest Cooking
125g unsalted butter
250 g bread flour
25g seeds (eg linseed + poppy)
20g rolled oats
4 g salt
8g fresh yeast (or 4g instant dried yeast)
125 ml milk
35g greek yoghurt
1 egg yolk
40g unsalted butter, room temperature
1 egg white (leftover from filling)
10g poppy seeds
Start by flattening out the butter to about 15x10cm: Fold a piece of greaseproof paper to the right size and enclose the butter within, then roll out with a rolling pin. Refrigerate.
Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl, including yeast (crumble it up if using fresh yeast). Make a well in the centre and weigh milk, yoghurt and honey directly into the well with the egg yolk. Mix with a fork until it comes together into a dough. Lightly flour the work surface, tip the dough out and knead for 10 minutes until smooth and stretchy. Try not to add too much extra flour, keep kneading and scraping the work surface. Once it is stretchy enough to form a thin membrane, shape into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and let sit at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.
Lightly flour the work surface and roll the dough out into a long rectangle, about one and a half times as long as the butter, and a couple of centimetres wider on each side. (E.g. about 25x15cm – see diagram above for proportions.) Brush off any excess flour, then place the butter at the top of the rectangle. Fold over the bottom end which should cover about half the butter. Then fold over the top so that the edges meet: basically the dough should have been folded in three, with the butter on the inside. Press the seams gently with the rolling pin to seal the butter in. Turn the parcel of dough so that it looks like a book – the seam on the right hand side, and roll it out lengthways, about 40cm long. Brush off any extra flour. Fold the edges into the centre so they meet halfway, then fold in half. The dough has now been folded in four. Wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate 30 minutes. (Optional: chill between the first two folds if the dough is too soft.) Finally, roll the dough out one more time (“like a book” again) to about 30cm long, and fold in three. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
Cream softened butter and sugar until smooth then grate over the marzipan and mix in well. Roll out the dough to a large rectangle (40x25cm approximately). Spread the marzipan mixture all over, but leave a border along the long side furthest away from you. Roll up the dough lengthways towards the border, press down gently to seal. Brush the log with thhe remaining egg white and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Cut into 8-10 slices. Either let them rise at room temperature for an hour or two, until doubled in size. Or refrigerate until the next morning. In a cold environment, to speed up the rising process I like to heat my oven to 50°C for five minutes, then place the tray of tebirkes inside and turn the oven off.
Once tebirkes have doubled in size, preheat oven to 225C. Get a couple of ice cubes ready. Open the oven, throw in the icecubes and quickly slide in the trays. Close. This will create a nice steamy environment and help them puff up. Drop the temperature to 180°C. Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden-brown all over. Serve warm. Best eaten on the first day, or gently warmed through later on.
(If making more than needed, either freeze extra tebirkes unrisen, or already baked.)