Sunday, April 24, 2011

Vrolijk Pasen!

In case you missed it, today is Easter Sunday (Pasen). Here in Maastricht, this means two* things: 1) Everything is closed. A lot of stores are closed here on Sundays, but on Easter even things that are usually open on Sundays are closed. This in turn means that 2) people have nothing else to do but hang out with their families and gorge themselves on the enormous variety of Easter treats available in grocery stores and bakeries.

*Actually, this particular Easter there is a third item of note: it’s also my birthday! I’m 24 today! But since we figured most places would be closed today, Todd and I celebrated last night with dinner at a Greek place right around the corner from us. Pretty good, but my God is it expensive to eat out here! I don’t know if I’d go back to this restaurant: at typical Maastricht prices, you should only eat at places you really really enjoy, and I’d say this was just average. It was only steps from our door though, and off the main drag so pretty empty, unlike other places more scenically located, so it has that going for it.

Anyway, enough about me, more about the goodies! The Dutch are seriously into Easter-themed baked goods and sweets (and so am I, in case you hadn’t noticed). So yesterday I decided to take my camera for a spin in the supermarket and document some of them (I think I’m starting to become known by the people who work there as the weird American who photographs their food. At least I haven’t been asked to leave yet.) Just to give you an idea, this shelf displays only a small fraction of the goodies on offer (you can click any picture on this blog to make them larger, by the way):

 A lot of the packaged goods in stores are products (koekjes and koeken, or cookies and cakes, mostly, though you can see meringues in there too) available year-round that have been “Easterized” with the addition of yellow icing and/or pastel sprinkles, and the tacking on of paas or lente (Easter and spring, respectively) to the name. Let’s take a closer look at a few:

This one is a treat that is actually made specifically for Easter (forgive the cellophane, I felt weird going into bakeries to photograph the fresh ones):

Paasstoll or Paasbrood: Fruited Easter bread. Probably the most ubiquitous Easter treat to be found here. The supermarkets all carry a number of varieties and every bakery seems to make their own version. It’s basically a sweet yeast bread with various nuts and fruits (sometimes no nuts, but always raisins and often candied peel as well as other fruit), often dusted with powdered sugar and occasionally frosted. The taste is very similar to stollen, the German Christmas bread, and in fact the Dutch also serve Paasstol at Christmas, when it is called Kerstol. I think most European cultures have a similar bread served at either Christmas or Easter or both. The thing that makes Paasstol unique (and particularly wonderful, to me at least) is the log of almond paste* that is enclosed within the dough before baking, giving it a yummy surprise in the center when you slice it.

*The Dutch seem to be as crazy about almonds as they are about waffles: they’re liberally sprinkled on at least half the baked goods here, and almond paste and marzipan make frequent appearances. Gevulde koeken, which just means “filled cookie,” a buttery round pastry filled with almond paste (amandelspijs), is one of their national treats. There is also a spiced version, gevulde speculaas, which I haven’t managed to find yet somehow.

As in America and pretty much every other Western culture that has succumbed to rampant commercialism, the stores in Maastricht also offer more egg, bunny and chicken-shaped confections than you can shake a stick at. Like these for instance:

Paashaasjes: Easter bunny rolls with an egg tucked inside. Or these:

Brioche chickens! (That’s “Fruited Spring-bread," [Voorjaars-brood; voorjaars is a synonym of lente] you see in the background: I think it’s basically the same thing as Paasstol but without the almond paste.) Of course there’s marzipan bunnies and chicks (mmmm, marzipan, one of my favs!):

And Easter wouldn’t be complete without… chocolate!

I can’t count how many of those little chocolate eggs I’ve consumed since I’ve arrived, and the stores carry a ton of flavors here, as evidenced by the shot of the Jammin candy store’s chocolate egg stand, above (I just tried a dark chocolate one flavored with advocaat, a custard-like liqueur made with egg yolks, sugar and brandy, apparently a typical drink at Christmas, like eggnog, but also popular now at Easter). They do not, however, have marshmallow Peeps, possibly my favorite Easter candy from the States (they do shape their weird, fruity marshmallows into bunnies and chicks and things, but that is obviously not the same thing.) Luckily my mom, possibly anticipating this, sent me an Easter package containing a box of yellow bunny Peeps (superior to the original chicks, in my opinion, because you can bite the ears off):

Since Todd doesn’t really like candy (!) and had never even heard of Peeps before now (!!), I have them all to myself! Happy Easter everybody! Or as they say in the Netherlands (as you may already have guessed from this post's title) Vrolijk Pasen!


  1. Happy Easter and Happy Birthday too!

  2. Todd you never heard of Peeps!?

  3. No. I don't think so at least. BTW you might want to clarify who you are so as not to confuse people.....

  4. Hey Katie and Todd,

    Fun to read your blog Katie, I get hungry every time I check it out. Give me a little heads up on wine if you get a chance to check it out.

    Todd's Uncle Richard

  5. I'm probably the wrong person to ask about wine, but I will check it out. We just bought a bottle each of South African Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. I'll consider a post on what wines are popular here, and whether they make any in the Netherlands.