Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pella Tulip and Bakery Tour

Ezra & Max in front of Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa.
Ezra & Max humoring their Mom and posing in front of the tulips.

So, living in Iowa, I have the opportunity to experience the miracle of spring each year.  After bitter cold winters, spring really is a sign of new life and hope for me.  I never got that winter/spring analogy until I moved here.  In California where I grew up, it was always sort of spring--rarely super hot and rarely super cold.
Inside Vander Ploeg Bakery
 This is the second time I've made the drive (only an hour) to Pella, Iowa, to see the tulips.  And to sample the pastries.  As far as I can tell, there are two Dutch bakeries in the little town: Vander Ploeg & Jaarsma.  My friend Karla and I (and our boys) made sure to buy the goods from both bakeries so we could compare. Okay, it was all MY idea to do the comparing, but Karla, being the good friend that she is, went along with my zany idea.  She's such a giver.  
Pillow puff interior (blogspot isn't letting me place this pic where I want to)

Cream horn held by Karla's delicate hands.
Pillow puff held by my wrinkly hands.

We only compared two types of pastries on this trip, so as not to make ourselves completely sick.  Dutch letters and the cream pastries.  At Vander Ploeg, the cream pastry was a "cream horn," which is a spiraled puff pastry baked with coarse granulated sugar on top and then filled with a white cream that sort of reminded us of marshmallow fluff.  Quite tasty.  The Jaarsma version was called a "pillow puff" and was puff pastry with coarse sugar baked in a rectangular shape, sliced and then given a cream middle that tasted more like what we considered a traditional bakery frosting.  I think I liked the Jaarsma pillow puff better because the pastry seemed to be baked more thoroughly than the horn.  Both were delicious, though, of course.
The secret interior of the Dutch letter.

As far as Dutch letters go, I think Vander Ploeg was the winner for Karla, because it had the coarse sugar on top, but I preferred the Jaarsma because they used regular sized granulated sugar on top of theirs.  I plan on trying to bake some Dutch letters and post them in the near future, but for now, I just have the one pic of the half-eaten letter from Jaarsma. (Update: Here's the recipe for the Jaarsma's Dutch letters. You just have to click on the words there to get to the recipe, by the way. Enjoy.)
If you're ever in Iowa in early May, you really must make the trip to Pella.  It's quite a nice cultural excursion.
Inside Jaarsma Bakery, on the gift shop side

Some of the prepackaged baked goods at Jaarsma

Another shot of the Vander Ploeg Bakery case

Ezra enjoying a cheese stick from Jaarsma's Bakery

A simple glazed donut from Vander Ploeg's Bakery.  So soft and only slightly sweet.  Good.

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