…You’re Not Much! This was a saying I heard from time to time while growing up. I come from a very Dutch family. Lots of Postmas, Hendrijkas, Wilhelminas, Dykemas! My parents were both born and raised in South Holland, IL, went to Dutch Reformed churches, and many of my extended family now lives in and around the Holland, MI area. I even heard a story once about a great-uncle who stopped attending services when they began giving them in English, rather than Dutch. Apparently, worship didn’t count if it wasn’t in Dutch!
My great-grandparents came over from the Netherlands, and it’s always been a source of comfort – knowing where I come from and my ancestry. I won’t say that my parents were fanatics when it came to maintaining Dutch traditions, but there were some things that my mom tried to teach us about and expose us to. One of those things was Dutch food.
I grew up eating something called stroopwafels, roughly translated as “syrup waffles”.
You’ve probably never heard of them unless you’re Dutch or you’ve been to Holland. These wonderful little cookies are absolutely fabulous and about as Dutch as you can get. Round and thin, they have a soft, syrupy center that is really more like caramel then syrup. Traditionally, these are put on top of a coffee mug or teacup so that they can soften even more before being eaten. I don’t know how to describe them – they aren’t exactly chewy, and they definitely aren’t crunchy (if you get a crunchy one, then it’s stale). They’re just soft, waffle cookies with a caramel center.
Then, there’s banket (pronounced bahn-KET). My mom used to make these from time to time, particularly around Christmas
Some people call them Dutch Letters, because the dough is formed into a letter. These are a long, straight, cylinder-shaped pastry with almond paste filling. Again, I can’t really describe them accurately. Imagine a flaky, buttery crust surrounding a dense filling infused with an almond flavor. Again, it’s wonderful and 100% Dutch.
I’ve been thinking about Dutch things lately because I found out about a warehouse near us that sells stroopwafels – All Things Dutch. So, I ordered a few packages, and they were great – just as delicious as I remembered. This warehouse also carries other Dutch foods from my childhood, such as De Ruijter’s Chocoladehagel Puur.
These are milk chocolate sprinkles that are put on top of bread, then eaten as a snack. My mom made these up when we were kids, but very rarely (it’s pretty unhealthy, after all – chocolate sprinkles on white bread?). But apparently it’s quite popular in Holland.
And then there are the windmill cookies – speculaas or amendelspeculaas. These were also around the house sometimes when I was growing up. They’re called windmill cookies because they’re often pressed into the shape of a windmill. They’re spicy, hard, and often have bits of almond in them (in case you haven’t figured it out, almond flavored food is big amongst the Dutch). These ginger cookies are called speculaas because of the fact that they are often pressed with a cookie mold. The Latin speculum means mirror, and these cookies are the mirror image of the mold used to make them.
If you’re interested in trying any of these foods, you could go to the All Things Dutch website (I recommend the Verwey 100% Roomboter Stroopwafels rather than the other brands). Or, you can try Peter’s Imports, which is where my mom got most of the stuff when she couldn’t get family to bring it down.
As for the banket, you can just follow my mom’s recipe, listed below…
1 C almond paste (not marzipan)
1 C sugar
2 eggs (1 separated)
1/4 C cornstarch
2 C flour
1 C butter
1/4 C cold water
Let paste, sugar, egg + 1 egg yolk, and cornstarch stand in a bowl for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Blend flour, butter, and water in a bowl, as though you are making a pie crust (dough may be refrigerated for easier handling).
When ready to prepare, divide dough into 2 equal parts. Roll dough on floured board into 8 x 13 inch rectangles. Cut lengthwise into 2 equal strips, each strip measuring 4 x 13 inches.
Prepare filling by mixing almond paste, sugar, egg + 1 egg yolk, and cornstarch. Form into 4 cylinders, each 12 inches long and roughly the diameter of a dime. Place filling on lengths of dough. Fold the short ends of the dough, then the long ends, moistening on one side to form a seal.
Place seam-side down on a cookie sheet. Prick holes or cut slices on tops of pastry for air to escape. Beat egg white, then brush the tops of the dough. Bake for 14 minutes at 400 degrees, then reduce heat to 325 degrees and continue baking for another 20 minutes or till tops are golden.