A Dutch friend recently introduced me to the work of the devil.
After tasting these, it didn't take me long to find a recipe and try to make them myself. I am using my upcoming office holiday cookie exchange as the excuse.
I made my first attempt on Monday. As is the duty of any self-respecting baker, I did liberal taste-testing. I consumed 6,000,333 calories that day. (How do Martha Stewart, Rachel Ray, Delia Smith, the late Julia Child, etc., not weigh 600 pounds each?)
Anyhoo, I need work on the technique of sealing the pastry, but ohmyfreakinggod, these are delicious. They are supposed to be made in the shape of letters, hence the name "Dutch Letters," and according to several sites I found online, the traditional letter is "S" for Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas or Santa Claus, if you will) Day, December 6th, but the one my friend gave me was just a strip. I found some speculation online that this could be a "stick" which is what non-well-behaved children in Holland would receive for Sinterklaas Day. This is of course just representative of the true "stick." How could this treat be considered in any way a bad thing for bad children? With this as the punishment, kids would be lining up to be misbehaved. I infer that my friend was very badly behaved as a child. He was quoted in the paper as saying that eating these from the local church ladies' bake sale "really do bring me back" [to his childhood].
My letters could be an "I," one supposes, but since "I" had enough trouble sealing them in the first place, "I" was not about to start getting fancy and making letters. So sticks it was.
Here's evidence of my first run. My photo skills cannot show you the flakiness of the puff pastry and the delicate bite and the sweet almond taste.
More practice of technique is needed, but messy or not, it's confirmed: Work of the devil. Six million calories of pure bliss. My friend is out of the country, so he cannot judge how well I did with this first batch, but a couple of them are going in the freezer for him to try on his return. I did everything as directed in the recipe, except I made the job easier by using the food processor for mixing up both the pastry and the filling, with excellent results. And I did not sprinkle sugar on the top, because I believe the one he gave me did not have that. Next time I think I will put some of that oversized sugar crystal stuff on the top for wintry prettiness. Now I just need to learn to be more aggressive with the sealing of the pastry.
Or, say, for a holiday cookie exchange party, one could perhaps make a presentation something like this...
...in which the imperfections are no longer evident and it is cut down in size to two perfectly blissful bites. Fewer than 6 million calories each, even.
I highly recommend the recipe. It makes a delightfully flaky pastry and delicious filling. I only got seven of these sticks, plus a round cookie that I made with the dough trimmings, out of the recipe. I rolled the dough, I think, less than 1/4 inch, but more than 1/8 inch, thick. I would not want to go any thinner for my personal preference, but maybe they would be neater if they were thinner and had less filling inside -- and then you'd get the 12 that the recipe says.
Caveat: If you want to come out as svelte as you went in, just don't make them. Or go to the gym for about ten hours.
'scuse me. I need to go to the gym for about ten hours.
UPDATE: Some people are having trouble posting comments to Typepad blogs. I've received a few emailed comments (appreciated! thanks!) to this post, because people can't comment in the usual way. I went in to ask Typepad to whitelist those people who've written. I guess they've put the anti-spam filter on hyperdrive, which accounts for some of you being denied the ability to comment. The big losers are us, the bloggers, I guess, in this one, while we weather this storm. Bleh.
UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Keep commenting, even if they call you a spammer. I mean, just comment once. A new feature now puts any questionable spam comments into a spam folder that I can then go in and say, "No, Typepad, you were WRONG WRONG WRONG. This person is NOT a bad spammer," and publish your comment. So hopefully the problem is resolved. Hopefully.