A Familiar Tradition



This is my grandmother, Henrietta. A fierce, young lady that’s not afraid to whip up a sugary desert. She’s our baker, and has been stuffing our family with her wonderful baking since my mother was a kid. For as long as I can remember, the weeks leading up to Christmas were a time for traditions that have been passed down for generations.

First to be made was the plum pudding with hard sauce. Taking a few months to make, it’s first baked, then wrapped in a brandy soaked cheese cloth. The cheese cloth is monitored never drying up, getting dowsed with more brandy when needed.

Next were the cookies. There were delicious snowballs covered in a thick layer of powdered sugar and then meringues that could make even the most sour person melt into a sugary bliss. Then came the glorious and ancient orange Charlotte Russe, a decadent custard cake that always made our mouths drool.

The last holiday bake was the most labor intensive, but our families favorite, the boterletter, or Dutch letter in English. This log shaped pastry its centered around the inch-thick, almond paste mixture that runs down the center of the foot-and-a-half long flaky pastry. She usually made about 25-30. Pictured above was the last boterletter bake in Hennie’s kitchen of 50+ years, where all of these traditions took place for our family. She has since downsized to smaller but equally as equipped kitchen and baked a fresh batch this Christmas at 89 years young.