Of the many attractions in Pella during Tulip Time, few are as widely heralded and sought after as the sweet and flaky Dutch letter pastry. Pella’s downtown bakeries – the Jaarsma Bakery and Vander Ploeg Bakery – serve up a steady stream of the S-shaped treat, with lines that often extend well beyond their storefronts. Kristi Jaarsma-Balk, owner of the Jaarsma Bakery, says the popularity of the Dutch letter mainly grows by word-of-mouth.
“People hear about it and want to come and sample it, and once they do, they fall in love with it and bring them home to friends and neighbors,” said Jaarsma-Balk. “It just is a snowball effect from there, which is great for us.”
Of course, the Dutch letter wouldn’t be so popular if it weren’t for some of its finer qualities. Vander Ploeg Bakery owner Jeff Wichhart says the secret lies in the dough.
“I think the key to Dutch letters is the pastry itself,” says Wichhart. “Our puff pastry is a nice flaky dough. When you bite into it, it just sort of flakes apart in your mouth. And of course the filling is an important part too – everyone likes that almond filling”
Both owners agreed that the Dutch letter is, by far, their number one seller all year round, and especially during Tulip Time. The two bakeries sold an estimated 57,000 Dutch letters during last year’s Tulip Time celebration, and expect to top that number by the end of this weekend.