Authentic Danish “Thebirkes” pastry recipe

Is there really anything more Danish than Danish? I am of course talking about the world famous Danish pastry. Here’s how you make it at home – and it’s way easier than it looks!

The world famous Danish pastry is a funny one. In the English language, it’s called “Danish” – but in Denmark, and the other Scandinavian countries, it’s called Wienerbrød, or “Vienna bread” directly translated.

You see, Vienna was the hot spot for the cultural elite back in the day, so the Danish aristocracy was drawing cultural clout by calling it Vienna bread.

Another funny tidbit is the traditional filling called “remonce”. Now, to the Scandinavian ear, this is obviously French, and I was very surprised to find out that it is in fact a 100 % made up Danish word, and nothing even remotely close exists in French. Again, trying to draw cultural clout from France.

Finally – by looking at old recipes, it’s as if they have pushed it to the absolute border of physical possibility how much butter you could cram into this pastry; it was absolutely shocking.

The classic remonce filling for just 8 pieces if pastry is 100 grams sugar, 100 grams butter, and 100 grams marzipan. That, of course, comes on top of the 450 grams of butter for the dough itself…for 8 pieces of pastry

I did make it the original way, but it was to cloyingly sweet and rich, and we both felt almost sick after eating only half a piece!

Considering how expensive sugar and butter was back in the day, this is a prime example on how the elite manifested their wealth and power through food.

Though I have more than halved the amount of butter from the original recipe, make absolutely no mistake, this is NOT diet friendly in any way.

This same dough is used for both Thebirkes, Frøsnappere, Københavnerbirkes, Wienerbrød/Wienerstang and other Danish pastry. It’s basically all the same, but shaped differently and different filling and topping.

Ingredients

The dough

  • 50 g real butter
  • 375 g flour
  • 6 g dry yeast
  • 20 g sugar
  • 5 g fine sea salt
  • 200 g whole milk
  • 1 egg

Lamination

  • 200 g real butter

Filling

  • 100 g marzipan
  • 100 g caster sugar
  • 20 ml rum

Method

In a bowl, bring 50 g butter to room temperature, then rub the butter into the flour with your fingers. Tip in all the other dry ingredients and mix quickly together.

Tip in the milk and egg, then quickly bring everything together to a cohesive dough. Use your hands, alternatively a mixer with dough hook on the lowest setting. Stop immediately when the dough is cohesive.

You are not at all supposed to knead for very long, as this will strengthen the gluten too much, and make it very hard to roll out. In combination with the 50 g butter, it will make the dough very easy to handle. Tip your bowl over the dough and set aside to let the gluten relax for 15 minutes.

Note: If it is warmer than 20-22C where you bake, consider doing all the resting of the dough in your fridge. If the dough and butter gets too warm, it’ll become tricky to get good results.

When ready, quickly shape the dough into a rectangle. Roll until you have a rectangle that is 3 times longer than it’s wide, about 25x75cm.

Now comes the time to add the butter for the lamination. I have achieved the best and easiest results with a Norwegian cheese slicer, but a coarse Microplane grater will do very nicely too.

As you can see from the picture, you want to cover 2/3rds of the dough with butter, but leave 1 cm around the edges uncovered, so you get a good seal, and butter can’t escape.

If using a Norwegian cheese slicer, two layers of butter will give you somewhere around 180-220g butter depending on how thick it cuts, which is just fine. I prefer to err on the lower side cause there’s so much butter in it already.

Flip the uncovered third over the butter, and then flip again to cover the last visible butter. Pat and shape nicely together to a square with good, clean corners (important!), flip upside down so you get the seam underneath. You have now successfully laminated your first 3 layers in your dough.

Roll this square into a 75×25-ish rectangle again, and flip the first third over the second third over the third third, and into a square, just like above. Watch those corners. You have now created 9 layers.

By now the gluten will be worked up pretty tight, so it needs to rest for 15-30 minutes before you can continue. A longer rest, even 5 hours, is possible. Do whatever works best for your schedule.

When ready roll this square into a 75×25-ish rectangle, flip it back on it self again, and into a square just like before. Watch those corners. You now have 27 layers of dough, and that is sufficient. Give it a rest like before to let the gluten relax.

Last leg is to roll the dough into a long strip that measures approximately 80 cm by 30 cm. Start by rolling it lengthwise. If the dough starts to spring back, give it a 15 minute rest before continuing. When you have the length right, roll the width to 30 cm. Let it rest.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling my mixing the marzipan, sugar and rum into a paste.

Using your fingers, spread the paste by dotting it in one long strip in the center of the dough, from one end to the other. The paste will not be soft enough to spread with a knife, but try to avoid big lumps.

When the paste is spread, fold the 1/3rd that’s away from you towards you, and over the filling. Gently pat down and shape relatively nice and flat. Watch those corners.

Next, flip the 1/3rd that’s towards you over the filling to you have one long, closed package. Gently pat down and shape relatively nice and flat, and again – watch those corners. You could use a rolling pin to even things out for the final finish.

Measure the length of the dough strip in front of you, and divide by 8. Cut into 8 equal pieces with a pizza wheel, or a knife.

Put the pieces on (a) lined baking tray(s), and let rise until 50% increase in size.

Preheat your oven to 180C, brush with egg wash, and sprinkle very liberally with black poppy seeds.

Bake at 180C for 18-22 minutes. Let rest for at least 30 minutes before digging in.

These are best totally fresh, but keeps resonably well until the day after.

They freeze very well, so we only bake what we eat for the day. We take them straight out of the freezer, brush them with egg wash etc., and then straight into the hot oven for perhaps a few minutes longer than if baked fresh.

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