Saturday, February 25, 2012

Delectable Dutch Delight - Banket

Nothin says lovin' like Dutch treats from the oven; and this one is one of my favorites.

I promised Banket when I made my Almond Paste, so here we go.  True, it's a little past the season for Banket, but I like to think of this as playing "catch-up".  I made SO much Almond Roca, Fudge, Divinity and various Christmas Cookies as well as Christmas ornaments with the kids, that I really didn't have time to make this as well.  One only has so much time between ThanksGiving and Christmas Eve.

So what exactly IS Banket?  Well, it is the epitome of Almond Paste goodness, that is for sure.  Flaky, buttery pastry dough lovingly wrapped around that ever so evocative filling of Almond Paste.  YUM!  Baked until golden, then sliced on the bias to be served with coffee, tea or whatever you wish.

Traditionally served all over the Nederlands, as well as American Dutch communities, in copious quantities, around the Christmas holiday, Banket not only shows up in simple sticks, but in letter shapes as well.  I have not attempted to make letters as of yet, since I am perfectly happy with the sticks. 

If you don't feel like going to all the trouble to turn your pastry dough, you can opt for ready made puff pastry instead.  Though the only time I have ever had it made with puff pastry was when I bought it from a bakery. Most of the homemade Banket I have eaten has been made of turned "Pate Brisee".


385g (13.6 oz) (3 cups) AP Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
228g (8 oz) (1 cup) Unsalted Butter
1/3 - 1/2 cup Ice Water (depending on the weather)

2 large Eggs (separated)
228g (8 oz) Almond Paste 
125g (10 TB) Granulated Sugar
18g (2 TB) Cornstarch 

Place Flour, Baking Powder and Salt in a bowl; whisking to combine.

Add Butter, in slices.

Using the tips of your fingers, work the Butter into the Flour; producing little "flakes" (This is important; do not work it into "cornmeal" or your pastry will not be as flaky)

Add the Ice Water, beginning with about 5 TB (which is a little less than 1/3 cup) and work this into the dough until it just barely holds together. (if it is still dry add additional water 1 TB at a time.  Again, just until the dough comes together)

Immediately, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out.

Fold into thirds.

Turn the dough and roll again.

Fold into thirds.

Then wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to relax the gluten.

Remove the dough and roll out, then fold.

Turn, roll and fold again.

Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll it out a third time.

Fold into thirds, roll and fold into thirds again.

Wrap the dough and store in the refrigerator overnight.

Whew!  I know it's a lot of work, but the flaky pseudo-puff pastry you will end up with is worth the effort.

Now once you have the dough made, turned and stored in the refrigerator, you can make the filling, cause you can store that in the refrigerator as well... Or you can wait until right before you are ready to make your Banket.

Preheat your oven to 350 F degrees and separate your eggs... Beat the yolks with a fork.

Add 1 tsp of water to the Whites and whisk them until they just begin to foam.

Break up the Almond Paste into the bowl of your electric mixer and add the Egg Yolks.

Beat this well, until the paste becomes batter-like.

Meanwhile, combine Sugar and Cornstarch in a small bowl.

When the Almond Paste and Egg Yolks have become homogeneous, lower the speed of the mixer and begin adding the Sugar mixture.

Continue beating until a soft dough forms.

Divide this into 4 pieces of approximately 100 g each.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and divide into 4 pieces as well.

Roll each piece out into a 4 x 14 inch rectangle.

Roll the Almond Dough into a 12 inch snake and place it near the edge, then apply egg white wash to the short ends of the pastry.

Fold the short sides over the ends of the Almond filling.

Now roll the pastry around the Almond dough, leaving it a little loose.  (The filling will swell a little while baking so give it a little room to expand or it will burst out the sides.)

Apply more egg wash at the seam and pinch to close.

Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, seam side down, and continue this way until you have 4 sticks.

Make vents every inch or so down each pastry to allow for steam to escape.

Brush with the Egg White wash and sprinkle with a little granulated sugar, if desired. (I usually don't)

Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 15 minutes before move to a rack and cool completely.

They can be stored in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic wrap and aluminum foil for about 1 week or in the freezer for about 2 months.

Mine never seem to last that long, for as soon as they are cool enough to eat, I slice 'em up and consume with delight.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

A Tip o' The Hat - Almond Tricorn Hats (Pfaffenhutchen)

These have got to be one of my favorite old world cookies.  They are kind of involved to make, but well worth the effort. They are molded into a tri-corn shape; like hats from the colonial era (The History channel is showing something on the Revolutionary war as I am typing this) though I guess, since they are also known as "Parson's Hats", the clergy use to wear something similar.

Don't like almonds?  Don't worry, you can replace the almond filling with the more traditional Hazelnut one (which I will include as well) or simply place a cherry in the middle and call it a day.  :)

The oddest thing about this dough, is how it goes together.  You don't cream the sugar and butter together like is the practice with most cookie recipes.  This dough requires some of the flour to be worked into the butter first, sort of like making a Pate Brisee or Broken dough.  Working the flour into the fat first does 2 things;  not only does it make for a more tender cookie, but it also prevents the sugar from "cutting" too much air into the butter and causing excessive puffing while baking.  This would not normally be a bad thing, but in this case it could compromise the structural integrity of the "hat", thus leading to a "lava flow" of Almond Paste oozing over the rim.  That would be sad.

Almond Tricorn Hats

(or Parson's Hats or Pfaffenhutchen)
Almond Filling:
228 g (8 oz) Almond Paste
Pinch of Kosher Salt
1 large Egg
50 g (1/4 cup) Granulated Sugar
1 TB (15 g) AP Flour

Cookie Dough:
304g (10.7 oz) (1 1/3 cups) Unsalted Butter
450 g (15.8 oz) (3 1/2 cups) AP Flour, divided
300 g (10.6 oz) (1 1/2 cups) Granulated Sugar
2 large Eggs
58 g (2 oz) (2/3 cup) Dutch Cocoa Powder
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt

Almond Filling:
Beat crumbled Almond Paste, Salt and Egg until smooth.

With the mixer running, slowly sprinkle in the Sugar and Flour, beating until everything is well combined and smooth (about 5 minutes)

Move the mixture to a bowl, then cover and chill until needed.

Cookie Dough:
In a large mixing bowl beat margarine or butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed until fluffy.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the Flour and mix on low until combined.

Add the sugar and continue beating until it is incorporated as well.

Add the eggs and beat until combined.

In a separate bowl, combine the remaining Flour with the Cocoa Powder, Baking Powder and Salt.

Slowly add this mixture to the dough and beat until well blended.

Remove the dough from the mixer and knead it a little to ensure you have a well formed dough.

Divide the dough in half and form 2 disks, then wrap with plastic film and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Remove 1 disk from the refrigerator, roll to 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface and cut 2 1/2 inch rounds of dough.

Place them on a parchment lined baking sheet leaving 2 inches of space between the cookies.

Gather any scraps, re-wrap and refrigerate again.  (work with the second disk and then combine the scraps from both)
Spoon 1/2 tsp of the Almond Filling (or the hazelnut filling) onto the center of each round.

Lightly brush the edges with water.

Pinch the edges together to form a tri-corn hat leaving the filling exposed in the center.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or till edges are firm and the filling has begun to puff up.

Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before moving them to a cooling rack.

mmmm Tasty!

Next up?  Banket!  Or rather, Banketstaaf ...  The Dutch Treat of Christmas... Though it's a little out of season. 

Hazelnut Filling: (substitute for Almond Paste filling)
170 g (6 oz) (1 1/2 cups) finely ground Blanched Hazelnuts (Hasselnusse)
200 g (7.1 oz) (1 cup) Granulated Sugar
1 tsp Orange Zest
2 -3 TB Orange Juice

Mix Hazelnuts, Sugar and Orange zest together in a small bowl.
Add just enough Orange juice for form a thick paste.