Friday, October 24, 2008

The Great Perfect Pastry Treasure Hunt

The Great Perfect Pastry Treasure Hunt

Part of my rich Dutch culinary upbringing was the enjoyment of Dutch pastry. Growing up in a Dutch family, one of the most important celebrations that is celebrated, is the Birthday. Even when it is nobody's birthday, you are still confronted with birthdays every day! Most Dutch people display a birthday calendar in the bathroom, so as not to forget anyone’s birthday. The invitation to a birthday party is usually for 'coffee', from 8pm to 9pm; later on drinks are served. When visiting a Dutch friend at home, it is customary to take a bunch of flowers (quite inexpensive in Holland) or some candy. A bottle of wine is also appreciated. The custom is to bring pastry for colleagues at work to enjoy over coffee. It is customary to congratulate not only the person whose birthday it is, but also their relatives. To say "Congratulations on the birthday of your brother-in-law" would be quite normal. Growing up in family of 6, birthday parties were celebrated on a regular basis. And to accompany these birthday parties, the pastry was a celebration as well.

I was talking to my older sister about some fun or interesting memoirs, and she mentioned a story I didn’t know, simply because I was too young to remember. When my mom finally after many tries, got her Canadian drivers license, and a new car, a white 1966 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon, one of the very first road trips she made, back in 1966, was to Oakville, Ontario. Apparently in Oakville a new bakery just opened by a Dutchman, and he made as well these amazing pastries. Well so of course, my mom had to check them out! Our birthday party cakes when we were young, were a cheaper version of the special rich treats. From the age of 5 to about 12 our birthday cakes were always in a form of a doll, or figure and bought at the local bakery. After 12 we were graduated to the Dutch treat supremacy. The Dutch cake would always consist in one form or another of whipping cream, mocha flavour, nuts, light cake and meringue.

When we visited family in Holland, which we did quite often, with a big bouquet of flowers in hand, we were always treated and greeted to coffee and cake when we would arrive. In our family, we would very often be treated to the most famous pastry cake in Holland. It came from The Hague, and was from a bakery called “Masion Kelder” They made the ultimate meringue , whipping cream, hazelnut cake, or in Dutch the “ Schuim, Hazelnoot, Slaagroom Taart” . When we feasted on these cakes, second helpings were never questioned. My mom’s famous saying, “of course you can have a second piece, it’s all AIR!” (Referring to the meringue)

Again referring back to my previous blog entry on “Cultural Culinary Displacement Syndrome” with the consumption and enjoyment of these Dutch treats, what should have happened when the party or visit was over, was to climb onto your Dutch bike and ride home, burning the calories you just consumed. But no, not me, I climbed back into to mom’s great white whale of a car! With a glove compartment in her car that was always full of candy. She was a nervous driver, and the chewing or sucking on a candy always helps calm her driving nerves. Of course they were shared amongst all the passengers in the car at the time.

Over the years, the pastry selections in Toronto bloomed. With so many immigrants coming from Holland and Belgium, the need to cater to their pasty needs grew. Now in 2008 the pastries from many other European countries are available even in the local supermarkets. But the supreme Dutch method can only still be found in a few stores. There is a great catering company in Toronto that my company deals with on a regular basis, “Daniel et Daniel”, and in their kitchen they have a pastry chef, that makes these incredible pastries, that are as close to the real Dutch thing as you can get.

Even yesterday, my yonger sister mentioned to me that she found this most amazing new pastry shop in Yorkville, that had this meringue pastry to die for….you see even though my mom has passed away 3 years ago, the traditions continue to find the perfect pastry!

The Great Perfect Pastry Treasure Hunt, to be continued…

Here are some links in this story

Maison Kelder
Daniel et Daniel Catering Company
Picture of 1966 Pontiac Bonneville station wagon

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