Sunday, December 2, 2012

Banketletter

Three more days until Sinterklaas is here!! This is one of my favorite times of the year. The excitement of gifts, the abundance of food and the possibility of catching a glimpse of the good old Saint before he goes back to Spain is just about as much excitement as I can handle.

During this festive time of the year, we bake ourselves into a tizzy. Well.....those of us that live outside of reach of fabulous Dutch bakers and pastry shops who specialize in those sorts of seasonal things do. No Echte Bakkers here, sadly enough. Not even a mediocre baker who decides to go Dutch and bake us some good gevulde speculaas, kruidnoten, taai-taai or who makes borstplaat so that the ex-pats can enjoy a slice of something good with their coffee.

But there's no reason to pout. If Sinterklaas doesn't show up here, we'll have to go out! To the grocery store we go, and before we know, something lovely we'll have for our snout.....If you're familiar with the Dutch tradition of making rhyming verses to accompany the sometimes very elaborately wrapped gifts (called surprise), you'll forgive the snout part....very little rhymes with "out"!

All sillyness aside though, these are busy times. And these are times that call for something good to eat, something Sinterklaas-y. And what better than a good old fashioned banketletter? A crisp and buttery puff pastry roll, filled with sweet almond paste and sliced into thin rounds, to go with a strong and hot cup of coffee. Banketletters first appear right around Sinterklaas, shaped as an S or an M (presumably S for Sint, and M just because it bends easier ), but you can also shape it in an I or an O. Those are probably the most forgiving shapes, as trying to bend a stuffed tube out of puff pastry and almond paste is not as easy as it sounds..... Leave it plain for Sinterklaas or decorate with candied cherries and a frosting drizzle for Christmas. Either way, it's going to be good......

Banketletter
6 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 cups of ground almonds
1 cup of cooked white beans, rinsed*
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of almond flavoring
3 red candied cherries
6 green candied cherries
½ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of milk

Thaw the sheets of puff pastry  and lay them out on the counter: three in a row on the bottom, slightly overlapping their short edges, three on the top doing the same, but also overlapping by an inch the ones the three on the bottom.  Carefully use a rolling pin to seal the edges.

Pulse the almonds with the cooked white beans, the powdered sugar, the egg and the almond flavoring. If the mixture is too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour. Roll the almond paste into a log slightly shorter than the length of your puff pastry sheets and lay it on top. Now wrap the puff pastry around it, making sure there are no open lines or edges. Shape the letter to your liking (M, I, S and O’s are the easiest), and place it on a silicone mat on a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350F, brush the letter with egg wash and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden.

When the banketletter has cooled, cut the red candied cherries in half, and the green candied cherries in fourths. Mix the powdered sugar with the milk to make a glaze, and brush the letter carefully, place the cherries as seen in the picture.



* The addition of beans to the almond paste provides a more pliable texture to work with, but is not mandatory. In Holland, a more affordable version of almond paste is created with white beans and is called "banketbakkerspijs" instead of "amandelspijs". You are welcome to substitute the beans with another cup of ground almonds.

8 comments:

  1. Hello!! I just found your site and I LOVE it!!! We're Dutch (on my dad's side) and I know he'll love these! I was wondering if there's a way to copy the recipes here? Just for personal use of course, but I don't have a laptop and it would take a while to hand copy some of these. :) Thanks so much! Looking forward to checking out more recipes and seeing if dad recognizes any of them!!!

    Jessica

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  2. hello! this site is absolutely wonderful!!! i discovered it while searching for a recipe to make speculaasjes, which i since made, as well as the ontbijtkoek and de roze koeken. absolutely amazing. i spent already quite some time reading many of the recipes and cant wait to try out more. thank you so much!

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  3. Yes, this site is wonderful. Thank you very much.

    One question: What is the plural of "banketletter" in the Dutch language?

    Thank you,

    Tim Roufs
    Duluth, MN

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    Replies
    1. Tim, that would be "banketletters". Thanks for the compliment!

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  4. Nicole,

    I am so glad I found your site when I was looking for vla! I studied in Leiden when I was in college and I came to love so many Dutch treats! Have you heard of Jaarsma Bakery in Pella, Iowa? (www.jaarsmabakery.com) They ship boter letters ("Dutch letters"), gevulde koek ("Andre cookies"), and speculaasjes all over. Keep up the great work! I'm really excited about the Indonesian recipes here, too!

    Lisa Zylstra
    Pella, Iowa

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  5. love your site, been away from Holland for 50yrs+
    Can I grind the almonds in a food processor or Blender?

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    Replies
    1. Christine, I'd recommend the food processor over the blender (in a few batches), but either one will work!

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  6. Hi Nicole, kan ik deze invriezen? Ik wil er nu een paar maken maar graag t/m kerst bewaren. Zelfde vraag voor gevulde speculaas. Dank alvast!

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