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......
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 tablespoon of almond flavoring
3 red candied cherries
6 green candied cherries
½ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of milk
* 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.