No, she's not my Oma. Remember Chaliese from our previous almond bars. Remember her grandmother, Carolina Hujyboom van der Wouden. Well, I finally got to making the authentic recipe using the almond paste. And then tonight it was my duty as a food blogger to try the more American version (a stash of which lives in my freezer) and the authentic recipe. Yes, the life of a food blogger is difficult, challenging, sometimes even grueling. Fortunately, I have risen to the meet the obstacles, my friends; I have conquered all odds. And I have lived to tell you about it.
They were both good. Very good. And they were both almond-y. Very almond-y. The texture of both was also surprisingly similar--quite dense and moist, almost creamy if a cookie bar could be described as such.
I took it upon myself to taste the almond paste, which immediately brought back many food memories and reminded me of the fillings the Dutch use in, well, just about everything--sweet-wise at least. I don't know why it surprised me--maybe it seemed too simple that that elusive flavor/texture that I'd been missing ever since I came home from The Netherlands 11 years ago was sitting right there on the baking shelf at Schnucks. Once I'd even gone looking for a recipe for the filling and the one I made was okay, but it wasn't as right on as this paste was. Nevertheless, as something that got creamed in (instead of acting as a filling), this gave a surprisingly similar almond-y-ness to the cookie.
Oma Carolina Hujyboom van der Wouden's recipe, however, also used brown sugar, which gave the bars a more complex flavor, and added to the overall nuttiness of the flavor. Incidently, I've made the Americaniezed almond bars before with brown sugar and it didn't have the same effect. I'm not enough of a food scientist to be able to tell you why, but it didn't--there was something about the brown sugar/almond paste combo that did it.
Finally--and, for me, most surprisingly, the authentic bars had a butter-y flavor that was amazing. The recipes use the same amount of butter and yet in Oma van der Wouden's, you could really taste it in all it's buttery perfection. (Pardon me for the brilliant use of adjectives here: buttery, almond-y, nutty).
In short--they're both amazing bars. They also both taste fairly European to me (of course, that's coming from an American, so take it with a grain of salt.) The Americanized version can be made anywhere there's a grocery store with a mediocre baking aisle, and they're cheaper to make. The almond paste is going to cost you. Mine was $3.89 on sale. But. But. Oma van der Wouden's version was a richer and more perfect cookie. It was also just a bit more, well, Dutch. Make it for your dearest friends, or hide it in the freezer and consume it yourself. No one will ever know.
Oma van der Wouden's Dutch Almond Bars
Makes 24-36 bars
1 C butter
8 oz almond paste
2 C brown sugar, packed
2 C flour
1/2 C sliced or whole almonds
Cream together butter and almond paste. Add brown sugar and cream with fatty stuff. Beat in eggs. Mix in salt and flour.
Spread batter in 9x13 inch pan and press almonds into dough.