February 24, 2012

Dutch Letters

Readers who have popped in here a time or two over the last few months know that we just finished a relocation 1000 miles away to the deep South.  Readers who have been around a little longer might know that this was move number 11 for us.  From Los Angeles to Minneapolis, from Nashville to Birmingham and more than a few places in between, we've been blessed to have been able to relocate often and enjoy the awesome differences in the regions of this great country.  One of the food items I've got a craving for happens to be from a tiny little dot of a town in Iowa.

If you happen to be driving through the Midwest, be sure to stop by Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa and eat 2 or 3 Dutch Letters for me.  No, really

If I had to choose between Cream Puffs with vanilla infused whipped heavy cream or the traditional flaky almond Dutch Letters... I'm not sure I could.  I'll take both.  Two of each actually.  With fresh, hot, black coffee.

And if you aren't traveling through Iowa (that's not Ohio and not Idaho... but Iowa), then perhaps you might want to jot down this recipe, like I did, so I can make them at home.  Even though I know they won't be as fabulous as the ones made in Pella.  But, then again, they've been doing this since they opened in 1898.  They're pretty good at it by now.

Dutch Letters

4 1/2 c flour
1 t  salt
1 lb. butter, cold, cut into tiny pieces
2 eggs
8 oz. almond paste
2 egg whites
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
1 t  vanilla extract
scant 1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 c milk

In a large bowl, whisk together flour and salt; add butter and toss until flour evenly coats butter. In a small bowl, mix 1 egg with 1 cup cold water and add to flour-butter mixture; stir to form a loose dough. Transfer dough to a floured work surface, and knead until dough comes together, about 10 strokes. Roll dough into a 15" x 10" rectangle. Fold up the 2 short sides of rectangle so they meet in middle, and then fold dough like a book. Rotate rectangle 90°; repeat rolling and folding technique. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and chill for 20 minutes. Uncover; and repeat rolling and folding technique twice more. Wrap dough with plastic wrap and chill 1 hour.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, beat almond paste and 1 egg white on medium-high speed of a hand mixer until smooth. Add remaining egg white and the sugars, and beat until smooth, 1-2 minutes; set filling aside. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining egg and milk; set egg wash aside.

Cut dough crosswise into 4 equal pieces. Transfer 1 dough piece to a lightly floured work surface, chilling remaining 3 pieces. Roll dough into a 12 ½" x 10" rectangle; cut rectangle into five 10" x 2 ½" strips. Working with one strip at a time, put 1 heaping tbsp. filling lengthwise down the center of the strip, using your fingers to spread it to each end. Using a pastry brush, brush egg wash down one edge and then, beginning with the dry side, roll strip over filling and into a cigar shape. Transfer pastry rolls, seam side down, to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and form into an "S" shape; repeat with remaining dough, filling. and egg wash.

Heat oven to 375°. Brush each pastry with egg wash and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake, rotating baking sheets once halfway through cooking, until golden brown, 30-35 minutes. Transfer to a rack and let cool for 20 minutes before serving.Print Friendly and PDF