Last week when Jason Lilley of Jason Bakery in Cape Town posted a picture of golden pastries covered in poppy seeds, our hearts were set aflutter. Though reminiscent of pain au chocolat, they weren’t croissants or even Jason’s infamous doughssants, but something entirely new, so we set out to investigate.
A tebirkes is a Danish pastry and, in Jason’s words, “to the Danes what croissants are to the French”. Traditionally, they are made similarly to croissants, with several fluffy layers and lots of butter. They are then filled with almond-scented frangipane – or remonce, as the Danish call it – and topped liberally with poppy seeds. The name derives from the Danish for tea (te) and poppy seeds (birkes).
The result is flaky, fragrant, satisfying and admittedly messy. (We don’t recommend eating a tebirkes before a meeting, at least without a tooth check for those pesky poppy seeds!). The frangipane filling isn’t overwhelming or overly sweet and, upon tasting, even marzipan detractors give it the thumbs-up. It’s simple but filling, delicious but less guilt-inducing than a pain au chocolat.
Though attributed to Denmark, the origins of tebirkes are actually found in Austria, where they were first baked in the 18th century. According to Honest Cooking, Austrian bakers then brought the concept over to Denmark, where it was refined, sweetened and filled. And, finally, they’ve now reached the Cape’s shores.
Get yours at Jason Bakery on Bree Street in Cape Town on Fridays for R30 each.