Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Dutch letter cookies

I've already sung my praises about the Des Moines Farmer's Market. This place is amazing, and I look forward to visiting it every year. When we go, we always order a breakfast burrito, a homemade cinnamon roll and Dutch letters.

Honestly, I'd never heard of Dutch letters until I met my husband. My first reaction when he asked me if I ever had a Dutch letter was, "a Dutch what?" Turns out that I was seriously missing out. Dutch letters are a classic Dutch pastry that is popular around Dutch/Amish towns in Iowa. They have an amazing, flaky and buttery crust and are filling with a sweet, tender almond paste. I had one bite of a Dutch letter and loved it.

Several years later, I attempted making my own. My in-laws were visiting one summer and I had just made some Dutch letters for them to try. Much to my surprise, they turned out pretty well (although ugly). I made them again recently and won the praises of my husband.

If you decide to make these, make sure you chill the dough really well before rolling it out. Otherwise, the dough will be sticky and hard to work with. Don't overfill the pastries or else it will ooze out the side and become hard to shape. And finally, make sure you bake enough of these because they will be gobbled up quickly.


Dutch letter cookies
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled or frozen
  • 1/3 cup ice water
  • 8 ounces almond paste
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 TBSP milk of choice
  • coarse sugar, for sprinkling (optional)
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Using a pastry cutter or two forks, cut in the cold butter until the mixture resembles small peas. Slowly add in the ice water and knead with your hands to form a ball. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes (preferably more).

In a medium sized bowl, mix the almond paste and granulated sugar together. It will be hard to stir, but keep working at it. Add the egg and mix until there are no more lumps. Transfer to a pastry bag or a heavy-duty zip-top bag with a corner snipped off.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone baking mat.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out the chilled dough into a rough square so it is about 1/8" to 1/4" inch thickness. Cut the dough into strips about as wide as a ruler and about 10-12" inches in length.

Pipe some almond filling onto the bottom half of the long strip. Fold the top half of the dough over and pinch the edges to seal. Make sure no filling comes out. Shape the strips into an S-shape. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough. You may have some filling left over.

Brush the tops of your shapes with the milk and sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. If you don't have coarse sugar, you can use regular (granulated) sugar.

Bake in your preheated oven for 15-20 minutes or until the tops turn a light golden brown color.

Cookies can be stored in an airtight container and is best eaten on the same day. They will start to get soggy after a day but can be stored in your container for several days. The cookies can be frozen and reheated in the oven as well.

Yield: About 12 Dutch letters

Source: Slightly adapted from Allrecipes.com

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