My mother's cousin, Martin Waalkes, recently said, "For Grandma, sugar and butter were spices." (Referring to my great-grandmother, Sarah Ritzema Waalkes.)
It's true: The Dutch are not known for extraordinarily flavorful food. In fact, I can't really think of any food they are known for, and I'm about as Dutch as any born, bred, raised, never-left-even-for-college West Michigander out there.
Geez, my life sounds bland, too.
But there is this one spectacularly scrumptious Dutch dessert that my family can lay claim to: banket (bán két).
Banket is a sweet pastry with sugary almond filling wrapped in a perfectly flaky crust, which originated in the Netherlands.
My grandma, Ruth Hennink, was well-known for giving out sticks of banket on Christmas day. Since she passed away in 2015, I've been missing the tradition and decided that, if it were to continue, I'd likely have to take it on myself.
So I enlisted my mom, Susan Olthof—who, BTW, is a local award-winning hobby chef—to teach me.
I brought along my sister, Julie, and my daughter, Ava. We used the Waalkes family recipe, which was once featured in The Grand Rapids Press.
Key Tips for Making Banket.
1. Pie pans and rulers are a must.
Having learned the genius behind measuring portions in the pie pan, Julie said, "Grandma was so smart to use a pie pan for measuring." That's right. We may not use as many spices as the average ethnicity, but we do know how to use the precise amount of resources and not a smidge more (aka being thrifty).
2. Nothing is more important than rolling and measuring.
If you decide to take on the task of making banket, you should know that you will be rolling and measuring dough. A LOT. My 13-year-old daughter was even complaining about her back aching afterward. But there's no way around it: Rolling and measuring dough is the key to banket. It makes the crust flaky.
We roll the dough out to 10" x 16", fold in thirds and repeat three times. (Four times is OK if you lose track, which we did because we were laughing a lot.)
3. Explosions happen.
Grandma called them "cookies"—the result of "exploding" almond filling that seeps from the vents atop the pastry. It happens occasionally. (Or, in my case, every time.) I'm quite certain that Grandma made up the term "cookies," but it is a lovely way to make the best of an "oopsie." And those golden-brown puddles really taste yummy. So, let's just go with it.
I'm not a fan of being in the kitchen. But for banket, family time and tradition, it is well worth it.
If you have a family food tradition that's tied to your heritage, e-mail me. We'd love to include you in an upcoming story.
Lisa (Olthof) Young is the marketing director at Serendipity Media.
Photos Courtesy of Lisa Young.