A friend of mine was in Iowa for work this week…and complaining about it (sorry Erin). After chiding her harshly (well actually not too harshly) I decided to prove her wrong. Now, I don’t know about you, but the way to my heart is through my stomach. I would have a hard time hating a place that has great food. Conversely, I have a REALLY EASY time hating a place with gross food. A really easy time. I am SERIOUS about food. In fact, when my honey and I are recounting vacation memories, they almost always center around eating; “remember those fried green tomatoes in Sea Side?” “Ohhh, what I would give for a gyro from Layla’s, oh and some Blvd. Bread” “I mean, Philly really ruined us for any knock off cheese steaks.” On and on we could go. We LOVE food.
SO….for my friend I suggested a few Iowa staples: Maid Rites, Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwiches, Cheese Curds, Caribou Coffee (this is a MN thing, but quite delish) and Dutch Letters. All of the above can easily be found in pretty much any major city in Iowa-except Dutch Letters. I tried really hard to hook a sister up, but in the end came up dry.
So what the heck are Dutch Letters? Dutch letters are these amazing almond paste filled flaky pastries sold in Dutch bakeries in Dutch towns in Iowa (and the occasional super market). They are shaped like S’s. I don’t pretend to know ANYTHING about Dutch culture, except they seem to have affinities for wooden shoes and windmills. But in these Dutch towns, almost everyone is of Dutch heritage and everything is pristine and their bakeries are simply SUBLIME.
The good news is this-I didn’t really come up dry because I stumbled upon a little recipe for Dutch letters that had rave reviews…almost all of which claimed it tasted just like the ones from Pella, IA (the most famous Dutch town). SO I set out to find me some almost paste and get crackin’.
This is the link to the recipe on All Recipes…I’ll show you how I did it in pictures below.
I halved the recipe because I can just tell you now, we don’t need a million pastries just hanging around our house (I gained just a few too many lbs at the last Ob visit-like 8 too many, so I’ll write the modified version and you can double it if you’d like-which I won’t encourage if it’s just 2 of you).
First I mixed 1 cup of flour, 1/8t of salt together. Then I cut in a stick of chilled butter (yes, a whole stick-can you hear my arteries clogging through your computer speakers? If it gets annoying, turn your volume down). After I cut in the buttter, I slowly added 1/6 C of ice water, until the mixture came together into a ball. This is not absolute, if you need more water, use it. I did. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
Next I mixed a tube of almond paste with 1/4 C of sugar and 1 egg. I’ve never figured out how to split an egg effectively, so I made the whole mixture and popped half in the freezer so I can impress my parents when they come down.
Then after 30 minutes of chill time for the dough, I rolled it out to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut it in 1.5 inch stripes.
Then I put my filling in a pastry bag and piped it into each strip. When the dough was filled, I simply folded each strip over and shaped them into S’s!
These were easier than pie and trust me I make a lot of pie and it’s way harder than these. They were so good, that my man, who can never figure out why I get so excited about Dutch Letters ate 1 and a half just tonight. If you are a displaced Iowan and need a taste of home, these are for you. Enjoy!
Now if someone could just fry me a Pork Tenderloin sandwich, I’d be in hog Heaven!