Saturday, August 18, 2012

Dutch Letters

Dutch Letters and an experimental mess
Light, crisp puff pastry surrounding an almond paste & sugar filling.
I'd never even heard of Dutch letters until I moved to Des Moines, Iowa. Apparently they are one of the things to get when you go to the Pella Tulip Time Tulip Festival in May.  Jaarsma's Bakery is probably the most popular bakery in Pella. That's exactly where I tried them for the first time, and although I don't crave them like some people do, I enjoy them when I eat them. They're simply puff pastry surrounding an almond paste and sugar filling. That's really it. Just light, crisp pastry with a sweet center. Good stuff. 
I was making some puff pastry just for the heck of it today (I really need to stop doing these things, by the way) and I thought it was a good opportunity to use the almond paste I'd bought almost a year ago to try out Dutch letters. The actual pastry recipe I've seen is much less complicated than the puff pastry I made, and it tastes just as good and comes out just as flaky. I'm a glutton for complicated baking, though. Next time I'll try the complete Jaarsma's Dutch Letter Recipe that I found on the Midwest Living Magazine website. Thanks, Jaarsma, for being so generous with your recipe. 

Oh, and please note that I didn't make a double recipe of puff pastry dough. I just ended up with twice as much of the filling ropes as I needed, so I suggest making the double batch of puff pastry dough, unless you don't want lots of these Dutch letters and you don't feel bad about throwing away food or attempting to freeze it for another time.

Dutch Letters
     --partially adapted from Midwest Living's printing of Jaarsma's Dutch Letter Recipe

  • 1 double batch of puff pastry dough
  • 8 oz. almond paste
  • 1/2 cup white sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • water
Make puff pastry dough or buy some Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix the almond paste, white sugar, brown sugar, and egg white thoroughly. (I started with a fork and then just used my hands.) Roll almond/sugar mixture into thin snake-like strips about 3/8-inch in diameter. It's okay if they break and/or aren't perfect. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Take dough out and on a lightly floured surface, roll to a little less than 1/4-inch thickness. Cut 10x2.5-inch strips.
Brush one long edge with a little water and then place almond/sugar strip down the middle. Break off excess or add more if needed. Roll dough over almond/sugar onto the wet edge and press down slightly to seal. You can also pinch to seal to make sure it's well sealed. 
Form into a letter "S" on a parchment-lined baking sheet. (At this point you can also cut logs into threes to make reasonable sized sticks.) Repeat with remaining dough. You should be able to get 4-6 letters on a pan. Refrigerate remainders until ready to bake. When ready to bake, brush with a little water and sprinkle with some sugar.
Bake at 375 degrees F for about 20-25 minutes, or until well-browned on top. Let cool on pan 5 minutes before removing with a spatula to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 16 large Dutch letter S's or 48 sticks

A pizza cutter and a quilting ruler are perfect for this.
Almond paste & sugar ropes for the filling
That's about how they look before rolling.
Dutch letter sticks just cut.
I tried out different shapes. Although some were not
so attractive, they all tasted good. I think I've typed
that exact statement somewhere else in this blog.

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