Growing up, I lived in the vicinity of Pella, Iowa. Pella was originally settled by Dutch immigrants and is still populated by a high percentage of their descendants. Also, Pella is pretty serious about marketing its Dutch-ness. I am Dutch, so this is all pretty fun for me. Pella has two big “things.” One is Tulip Time, a festival in May when lots of people put on traditional Dutch clothes and they have a big parade. At Tulip Time, the other big thing comes out: Dutch pastries! Now, all this Dutch-ness has been a bit Americanized, and it’s an attempt to recreate the Holland of a few hundred years ago. Nevertheless, these pastries are tasty. Almond features prominently.
A bonus to all this deliciousness is that, when I was a kid, my grandma worked for one of the two main bakeries. At the end of a workday, she was able to purchase many of the leftover goods at half price, since they’d be discounted the next day. Hence, we had more bakery goods than the average family.
Since we started dating, my husband has been slowly working through the product line-up of Jaarsma Bakery. First were puff pillows, then cream horns, and now Dutch letters. Dutch letters are the premiere pastry of the town. In the Netherlands, Dutch letters are a Christmas thing and can be any shape. In Pella, Dutch letters can be any time but are always the letter S. They are also exported from Pella to gas stations around the countryside. My husband frequents these gas stations, and would really love the tasty treats every afternoon. However, they’re a bit more expensive than a doughnut. This week, I’m working on making Dutch letters.
The two difficult ingredients are almond paste and puff pastry. Almond paste can be purchased in some grocery stores, but I got mine from my Mom. She bought a giant can, and divided it into bags with 8 oz, two of which she gave to me.
I’m wiling to make homemade puff pastry, but for now I’m using the Pepperidge Farm sheets. Homemade puff pastry is effort-intensive–I want to make sure my husband likes the almond mixture, and I need to learn a little about how the stuff works, before I make my own. To make real puff pastry, the directions are roughly to make a pie-crust dough, roll it out, fold it, chill it, roll it, fold it, chill it, roll it, fold it, chill it, roll it, fill it.
For the filling, I use a recipe I found online, since the local bakeries treat their recipes as trade secrets. Now that you’ve seen the pretty pictures of actual bakery products, tomorrow you can see the products of my kitchen.