Dutch letters from the Jaarsma Bakery

When I was a kid, we used to drive from Ankeny, Iowa (where we lived) to Brighton, Iowa, where my Grandma lived. On the drive, we usually went through Pella, Iowa, and if we were lucky, we’d stop at the Jaarsma Bakery and get my favorite dessert of all time… Dutch Letters. Jaarsma Bakery has been open since 1899, when it was founded by Herman Jaarsma who used recipes he brought over as an immigrant from Holland.

Dutch Letters from the Jaarsma Bakery
Originally, the Dutch Letters were made only as a special treat for Sinterklaas Day (the Dutch Santa Claus Day), December 6th. They are typically shaped into an “S” for “Sinterklaas” according to the website.

Now Jaarsma has a website and does online ordering, which quite simply kicks ass.

Jaarsma Bakery

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. Julian Greene

    Hmmmm…I grew up just 17 miles from Pella. We were always told that the “S” stood for “Strawtown”, the original name of the community before it changed to Pella.

  2. Steph Mineart

    Hmm. I was getting the “Sinterklaas” reference from the Jaarsma website.

  3. Sheryl

    Who cares why they are made in the shape of an S. They are just one of the best pastries ever!

  4. Darcy

    I was in Pella this weekend and had this treat for the first time ever and I am already online trying to find recipes for it! Now that I know I can order from Jaarsma Bakery online – who cares about the recipe! 😀

  5. Kathy

    I was in Pella just last week for the Tulip Festival, and had my first Dutch Letter from the Jaarsma Bakery. Even though my dad is Dutch, and his baker uncle used to make them for all his nephews and nieces (each in the shape of their own initial), I had never tasted one before. Probably because my mom is Norwegian, and her specialty is the best lefse you ever tasted! My info is that the traditional “S” is for Sinterklaas, but they can also be made into letters to represent each person’s name, or whatever you like.

  6. Another Kathy

    Dutch Letters are heaven on earth. I was there a couple of weeks ago and got a few and I’m already planning to get some when going through Oskaloosa next week. Jaarsma is there too. That simplifies life that week. lol

  7. Hannah Thompson

    My sister has been wanting a dutch letter for a while -every time we go to Orange City for tulip festival or what not, the bakery closes early and we don’t even know if they have dutch letters. So this saturday we planned to go to Rise Fest in Orange City, and finding the bakery again closed early, we ditched that plan and drove all the way to Pella, getting there just after six, but in time to make our purchases at Jaarsma Bakery before they closed! We lived in Pella and Otley when we were in gradeschool, so it was a nice trip. We have been sharing our two dozen Dutch Letters around and may have to make the trip more often. 640 miles round trip for heavenly pastries!! We also met some wonderful folks who sent us home with a tea ring with almond paste – oh my, we can hear angels singing with each bite. Thank you to the wonderful folks in Pella!

  8. Rhonda D.

    Had to get some Dutch Letters last weekend to take home to Texas. When I went to Central College we would go really early in the morning and get the leftovers from the day before while they baked new things. Love the Dutch apple bread too.

  9. Dessie C.

    While on summer break (years ago while in high school), I had the oppurtunity to spend a month in Pella. My sister Alice Dunn had moved there with her “new” husband at the time, and he had went to Central College and found employment at (I believe) Boomsma’s (sp?). That was one of the best months of my life. I absolutely adore the town and loved going for our morning walks and then stopping at the little meat store for what we were grilling that night. Then of course we had to make our bakery stop. The dutch letters were always fresh and out of this world. My brother in law had gone to college with one of the owners at Jaarsma so we were always greeted with a smile and kind words. What great memories and I hope to be able to visit the town with my children someday as my sister and brother in law have returned to Cincinnati. I have since then enjoyed the wonderful letters because my sister is a wonderful baker, but there is nothing like walking in that beautiful bakery with all of the wonderful smells. It is a stormy morning and the girls are at school hmmmmmm I think I might have to do some baking. I believe I have a can of almond paste……….

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