Tebirkes are traditional Danish Poppy Seed Pastries. Denmark’s answer to France’s flaky and buttery croissant.
They’re typically sold in Danish bakeries and pastry shops, enjoyed in the morning by coffee loving locals dunked in a frothy latte or alongside a pot of tea.
It’s easy to make an authentic Danish Poppy Seed Pastry recipe at home. The mouth-watering treats feature two layers of laminated yeast dough that are stuffed with sweet marzipan.
Before baking the popular Danish pastries they are sprinkled with poppy seeds then served warm once beautifully browned and flaky.
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What Are Tebirkes?
Danish Tebirkes is to Denmark, what the croissant is to France – a culinary trademark and old, beloved baking tradition.
Te means “tea” and birkes means “poppy seed”. So Tebirkes are pastries featuring poppy seeds that are meant to be enjoyed with tea or coffee.
Classic Danish Poppy Seed Pastry features two layers of flaky, buttery, laminated yeast dough, stuffed with a layer of sweet marzipan filling. Poppy seeds are sprinkled on top before baking in the oven until golden brown and crunchy.
Even though the name refers to Denmark, the origin of these pretty marzipan-filled pastries are actually Austrian and date back to the 18th and 19th century. Austrian bakers brought the tradition of the buttery bread to Denmark during a bakers strike. The new style of baked goods were quickly adopted by local bakers, adding more butter, sugar and filling and refining the method of rolling and folding, making the pastry even more rich, sweet and flaky.
In the English speaking world a Danish pastry, sometimes shortened to just Danish, is known as a multilayered, laminated sweet pastry in the viennoiserie tradition. Danish Pastries in Canada and the United States are typically baked in a circular shape, filled with fruit compote and drizzled with icing.
Our easy Tebirkes recipe showcases the traditional way to make flaky Danish poppy seed pastry.
Travel To Denmark by Baking Tebirkes at Home
I love traveling to Europe!
During my first visit to the continent I traveled for 3 months by train and plane. I had the opportunity to eat my way through Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Russia, Estonia, Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia, Hungary, Slovakia, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland.
I first tasted authentic Tebirkes at a friendly neighbourhood pastry shop in Copenhagen. The bakery specialized in Danish poppy seed pastry and a local woman in line for her coffee suggested I order not one but two as they, “are just that good.”
I loved biting into the crispy and flaky texture of the pastry dough, which contrasted beautifully with the sweet, smooth almond-flavoured filling prepared with marzipan.
I watched the coffee loving locals at the cafe as they dunked pieces of their Tebirkes in foamy lattes and cappuccinos. A must-try breakfast treat when visiting Denmark!
Once back home from a Danish holiday you’ll have a newfound appreciation for the flavours of Scandinavia and can impress friends and family by making this mouth-watering Tebirkes recipe.
My Family Loves Danish Poppy Seed Pastry
After falling in love with Tebirkes on a visit to Denmark I wanted to introduce the flaky Danish pastry to family back home.
I knew my parents would rave for Tebirkes because they love flaky pastries like croissants, almond-flavoured desserts and poppy seeds on their bagels.
I prepared these Danish Poppy Seed Pastries during the holidays so we could enjoy them as a festive treat at Christmas brunch. It was a cold winter day when I rolled out the buttery laminated dough. A sweet perfume of roasted almonds wafted from the kitchen, enticing my mother to snack on one of the pastries hot out of the oven!
While we enjoy making this Danish Poppy Seed Pastry recipe year round, it’s nice to cozy up to hot-out-of-the-oven Tebirkes by the fire with a hot mug of coffee on a chilly day.
Since Tebirkes are time consuming to make, a labour of love, I always like to double the recipe so I can store leftovers in the freezer to enjoy later.
Tebirkes Recipe Baking Tips
Our homemade Danish Poppy Seed Pastry recipe is fun to make at home.
- Before preparing this recipe be sure to test your yeast to ensure it is active.
- The key to making perfectly flaky Tebirkes is using very cold butter. Be sure to store the butter in your fridge or freezer before making the the dough.
- When rolling out the dough be sure to generously flour your kitchen counter so it does not stick.
- Use a ruler to measure the dough to ensure each of the Danish Poppy Seed Pastries are a similar size and shape.
- If you stretch and twist the dough before letting them rise, you get what’s called a Frøsnapper.
What To Serve With Danish Tebirkes
Tebirkes are enjoyed year round in Denmark, typically as a breakfast pastry. You can purchase them at local cafes and bakeries in the morning, best paired with a hot coffee or pot of loose leaf tea.
In our family the tradition is to make these decadent marzipan-stuffed Danish pastries during the holiday baking season for Christmas brunch.
If you’re hosting a Scandinavian themed dinner party pair this Danish Poppy Seed Pastry recipe with:
- Boller I Karry Danish Meatballs in Curry Sauce
- Swedish Rhubarb and Custard Tart
- Köttbullar med Gräddsås Swedish Meatballs
- Smorgastarta Swedish Sandwich Cake
- Kardemummabullar Swedish Cardamom Buns
- Jordgubbstårta Gluten Free Swedish Strawberry Meringue Cake
- Flaky Swedish Rhubarb Cherry Pie
- Swedish Pickled Rhubarb
How To Store Danish Pastries
If you have leftover pastries you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Don’t store them at room temperature as they have a high butter content and can get mouldy quick.
You can store Tebirkes in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let them thaw to room temperature then pop them in an oven or toaster to reheat and make them crunchy again. Do not use a microwave as they will make the pastry turn soggy and soft.
How To Make Traditional Tebirkes Danish Poppy Seed Pastries
Tebirkes Danish Poppy Seed Pastry
- measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- Mixing bowls
- Rolling pin
- Sharp Knife
- Spatula or Wooden Spoon
- Pastry brush
- baking sheet
- 150 g Marzipan
- 125 g Salted Butter softened
- 3 tbsp White Sugar
- 1 Egg beaten
- 2/3 cup Poppy Seeds
- 25 g Yeast
- 2/3 cup Lukewarm Water
- 1 Egg lightly beaten
- 1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tbsp White Sugar
- 2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 300 g Unsalted Butter cold, cut into thin slices
- In a large measuring cup add the warm water, yeast, egg, salt and sugar. Mix to combine. Stir in the flour, then knead on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a bowl and cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface into an 18 inch square. Arrange a square of the butter slices in the centre at a 45 degree angle to the corners of the dough so it forms a diamond inside the square. Fold the dough corners over the butter to encase it fully and seal. Roll out the dough into a rectangle.
- Take a shorter side and fold 1/3 of the rectangle over towards the centre. Do the same with the opposite side. You will now have a pile of 3 layers, as you would with a business letter. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Repeat this rolling and folding procedure 2 times, letting the dough rest for 15 minutes between each folding session in the fridge.
- For the filling, mix the marzipan, butter and sugar into a smooth paste and set aside at room temperature.
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 22×14 inches, then cut it in half lengthwise. Spread half the filling evenly, lengthwise, down the centre of the dough rectangle. Fold the plain sides of the dough over the filling. Repeat with the other dough rectangle and the rest of the filling. Push the seams of both parcels gently together and turn them over so they are seam side down.
- Brush with the egg and dredge in poppy seeds. Cut across into 2 inch slices and place on baking sheets lined with parchment. Cover with tea towels and let rise in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Bake for 5 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 400 F and bake for an additional 15 minutes.
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