“Why do I get the feeling you’re going to be the death of me?” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
Lovely, glorious Banket.
Almond paste-based filling in a flaky pastry shell.
A compact, triangular area in central West Michigan (in case you aren’t aware) was a hotbed of Dutch immigration from the late 1800s through the post-WWII era. You’d be hard-pressed in these parts to go a day without finding a town, a couple of roads and more than a few companies with Dutch monikers. Moving in, people joke about having to add Van, Vander or De to their last name to find a job. And while it’s not really THAT bad, it is obvious that an historically Dutch lineage prevails in this region, from their hard-core religious fundamentalism (most moved here as religious dissidents, the Netherlands becoming much too liberal for their tastes) to a decided tendency toward being… um… well… ok, there’s not nice way to say it… hard-core cheap. On their behalf, however, I must admit that the decidedly day-to-day cheapness often translates into being remarkably generous to the charities and non-profit organizations of their choice.
A few of the Dutch culinary specialties are still in full-force in these parts (for better or worse), from the unfortunate Hutspot (or the kale version - Stamppot – if you want extra nasty) to the borrowed Nasi Goreng (colonial-era Indonesian) to the utterly divine Christmas delicacy, Banket. While I’m sure you could eat this year-round, I mean there’s not a LAW against it or anything, it’s really a Christmas only treat in my husband’s family’s book. The start of the Christmas season equals Banket, and Banket equals the start of the Christmas season.
This is my mother-in-law’s Banket recipe, which she got from her mother-in-law, who was born in The Netherlands. So there.
(makes 8 sticks)
1 pound butter (yes, 1 pound of real, honest-to-goodness unsalted butter)
4 cups white flour (no, this is not the time to try to sneak any whole grain flour into your life)
1 cup milk (2% is ok if you can’t bring yourself to use whole, but use whole – trust me)
Blend all together. Form into ball. Wrap well in waxed paper. Refrigerate 24 hours.
1 pound almond paste (usually found in tub or brick form in the refrigerated section)
3 eggs (no, Egg-Beaters won’t work – why are trying to ruin the Banket???)
2 cups sugar (yes, good old fashioned white sugar that will kill us all in the end)
Blend all together. Wrap up in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 24 hours.
Have on hand:
1-2 egg whites, beaten
white sugar (yes, more sugar, get over it already)
- Preheat oven to 350F.
- Divide the dough and filling into 8 parts.
- Roll out dough into very thin rectangle (approximately 6 x12). Store extra dough & filling in freezer, until needed.
- Spread filling, in a long tube, across the center of the rectangle.
- Fold one long edge of the rectangle over the filling.
- Fold both short ends of the rectangle towards the center.
- Using both hands (to keep first piece of the long rectangle folded over the filling), tightly roll the covered filling until it is completely covered by the remaining side of the dough rectangle. (Yes, it makes sense when you do it.)
- Set on parchment paper-lined baking sheet, with the dough edge underneath the Banket stick.
- Repeat above for 2nd Banket stick, leaving 3 inches between each stick.
- With a pastry brush, lightly coat the top of the Banket sticks with egg whites.
- Sprinkle sticks with sugar.
- Grab a fork and poke a few holes in the sticks to release some air while baking.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown all over. Do not over cook.
- Let cool for 20-30 minutes before cutting into 2-3 in pieces.
- Banket sticks can be frozen, unbaked, for up to 6 months if tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Do not allow sticks to be smooshed, bent or twisted in the freezer, as the dough will crack into pieces and the filling will maintain a semi-gooey consistency. Thaw approx 10 minutes before baking.
- Cupcake tins are really useful for keeping the individual dough and filling parts separated in the freezer, during assembly.