Breaking News: Check out our new recipe for Banket Bites — a new variation on this traditional Dutch pastry.
Important Update: If you’re having trouble getting your hands on the almond paste necessary to make banket, see this latest post on how to make your own!
Second Update: We’ve just posted a cautionary tale on what NOT to do when making this banket recipe. THIS recipe is perfect. Barb’s experiments were much less than perfect. Read about what NOT to do.
If you were to ask any of my family, nuclear or extended, what is THE most important family heirloom recipe, I think almost everybody would answer that it’s Banket. (Pronounced bahn-KET.) In my house, it is not Christmas until we’ve made Banket. Banket is a traditional Dutch pastry (have Barb and I mentioned that we are 100% Dutch? Our grandparents came over from Holland!) that is made in long tubes of pastry, with an almond paste filling. Some people shape the tubes into letters–into “Merry Christmas”, for example. We just do long skinny “baguettes”. It is unbelievably delicious, and any time I have served it to non-Dutch people, they have just about died from the deliciousness. (Now THERE’s a news headline for you–“Woman dies after sampling exquisite pastry, autopsy shows pleasure overload.”) Anyway, this is a wonderful thing, and is totally worth the very involved and time-consuming preparation.
•1 lb. butter (Update: I just had TWO batches of this fail because I used warm butter. It needs to be cold, and cut into smaller chunks, so that it breaks into sorty of grainy granules, rather then just creaming into the flour.)
•4 c. flour
•1 tsp. baking powder
•1 tsp. salt
•1 c. ice water
If using a Kitchenaid mixer, mix the butter, flour, baking powder, and salt first, then drizzle in the ice water a little at a time, JUST until the dough forms a ball. (It might be a little less or a little more than 1 c., and it MUST be ice water.) If mixing by hand, cut the butter into the dry ingredients with a pastry cutter until all the butter is mixed in and the mixture is grainy. Then add the water a little at a time.
Roll the dough into a long oblong strip. Fold it in 1/3’s (fold the ends in 1/3 of the way) and let the dough rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or more.
Roll out into a long strip again, and fold in 3 again. Let rest for another 20 minutes.
Roll out 3rd time in long strip, fold in 3, let rest in fridge. Make filling (see below.) In a small bowl, whisk 2-3 egg whites with 1/4 c. water.
•1 lb. almond paste, crumbled (don’t use marzipan–it has to be almond paste.)
•2 c. granulated sugar
Mix completely, then let chill in the fridge for 20 minutes or more. Divide filling into 8 equal parts.
Cut dough into 8 equal parts. Take one part and roll into a long strip (around 15-18″ long and about 6″ wide.) Put 1/8 of the filling along the strip in the middle, making an even ridge of filling about 1/2″ wide. Leave 1/2″-1″ of dough free on the ends. Fold the ends of the dough over the filling. Fold one side up over the filling, then the other. Using a pastry brush, brush egg white/water mixture along the seams, and use fingers to seal. Place tube (it will be around 1-2″ in diameter) on a long cookie sheet, seam side down. Brush top with egg white/water mixture, and sprinkle with a little sugar.
Repeat procedure with each of the 8 dough/filling portions. (I usually bake 4 sticks on a cookie sheet, but if you shape the tubs into letters, you’ll need to do each one separately.) Pierce the tops every 3-4 inches with a knife.
Bake at 450ºF for 15-20 minutes, until the top of the pastry is golden brown. Don’t be alarmed if some of the almond paste spills out–it is a favorite sneaky-snack in our house to eat the spilled almond paste after the pans come out of the oven. Let the pastry cool completely, then wrap tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil. To serve, cut in 1″ slices and serve on a beautiful plate. (or alternately, if nobody is looking, eat half a stick as fast as you can, skipping the plate. :-D)
P.P.S. You may have to do some serious looking to find almond paste in the quantity you need. You can find little tubes of it in the grocery store baking aisle, but it’s ruinously expensive there. It’s best if you can find a predominantly Dutch community and buy the almond paste in #10 (7 pounds!) cans. I buy mine at a Dutch store in Jenison, Michigan, near Grand Rapids–I think the last can I bought cost about $30. It keeps practically forever if you wrap it tightly and store it in the freezer or coldest part of your fridge. I generally make at least 2 or 3 batches each year, and put all those sticks into the freezer. They make a great hostess gift or neighborhood gift, as well as a last-minute entertaining stand-by. Plus, I try to have at least 2 sticks left for Christmas Day, since it isn’t Christmas without banket. Try it–it’s so worth the effort!