Tag Archives: marzipan

tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

17 Nov


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.

tebirke diagram

Tebirkes (poppy and almond danish pastries)

adapted from Honest Cooking

makes 8-10

125g unsalted butter

250 g bread flour

25g seeds (eg linseed + poppy)

20g rolled oats

4 g salt

10g fresh yeast (or 5g instant dried yeast)

125 ml milk

35g greek yoghurt

15g honey

1 egg yolk


40g sugar

40g unsalted butter, room temperature

50g marzipan


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.)

quince and marzipan tarte fine

22 Oct

She pulled down the branches and I twisted them from their stalks, one two three too many to hold. I dropped some into the unruly grass. When the tree was bare we came back to the kitchen with our haul and put a couple of the hefty quinces and some sugar in the pressure cooker, to test.

Then immediately forgot about them.

We had made quince mush; they had totally disintegrated. Lovely. My mother set about resurrecting it, and I started on a tart. (It was an incredibly nice moment, stepping around each other in the kitchen as we made dinner together. Not dictated by time or recipes, free to use the fresh ingredients we had picked from the garden and, uh, supermarket.)

The mush turned out beautifully in the end: mixed with almost equal quantities of jam sugar and boiled for barely five minutes, it became a stiff jam with a faint scent of citrus besides that particular quince taste. We filled three jars (fresh from the dishwasher, no need to sterilise) and turned them upside down to seal. Delicious both on toast or porridge in the morning, and with cheese in the evening like the Spanish membrillo.

The tart too was better than expected: since we sliced the quinces thinly and popped them straight into boiling sugar and water, they were poached in under five minutes. Then, a circle of puff pastry, ready rolled, and a smaller circle of marzipan on top. The quinces arranged in a delicate spiral into the centre, each slice overlapping slightly, covering the marzipan and leaving a border of pastry to puff up in the oven.

And that was it, simple. Except that in the course of baking, the plain quince pieces blushed pink, ranging from a golden rose to a autumn orange. The very edges charred black, turned up like the dry leaves carpeting the lawn. It was beautiful, more so when brushed shiny with the leftover poaching syrup.

If my mother hadn’t been there, I probably wouldn’t have attempted a quince dessert – too much hassle, I thought. As it was, it was both easy and delicious: the fruit tender and perfumed, the pastry crisp, the marzipan just a thin layer of sticky sweetness to bind it all together.

Obviously, I could have made it with apples (no need to poach first) just as you could make rabbit stew or jugged hare with a chicken breast, but I would have missed out on something special, something seasonal.

Quince and marzipan tarte fine

adapted from an apple tart recipe by Bruno Loubet

2 large quinces (about 800g total)

200ml water

100g sugar

225g puff pastry, all-butter ready-rolled

100g marzipan

Heat the sugar and water in a deep frying pan to a gentle simmer. Peel, core and slice the quinces one at a time and drop the slices in the syrup immediately so they don’t go brown in the air. Throw the cores in as well for extra flavour. After 4-5 minutes they will go tender and a little translucent, fish them out and spread out on some paper towel to drain. Repeat with the rest of the quinces, add more water/sugar if necessary. Save the syrup, discard the cores.

Heat oven to 180C.

Unroll the puff pastry, hopefully already in a circle, onto a large baking sheet lined with baking paper. If not cut the biggest circle possible. Score a smaller circle about 3-4 cm from the edge using a plate as a guide. Roll the marzipan out very thinly to fit this smaller diameter and lay inside the scored mark.

Pat the quinces totally dry with more paper towel, and arrange them on top of the marzipan, not on the border of puff pastry, in overlapping spirals.

Bake for 30 minutes or so, until the pastry has puffed up around the edges and the quinces just start to go brown at the tips. Brush immediately with the leftover poaching syrup.

Serve warm with crème fraîche or vanilla icecream.

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