A pastry that’s known to every true Dutchie, but probably less familiar to foreigners. When visiting the Netherlands you will find them in every bakery window or supermarket. Crispy with a creamy filling, the shiny pink coating on top (which, by the way, is orange around the time of ‘Koningsdag’ or when the Dutch football team is playing, which is never). I’m talking about the tompouce.
The concept of the tompouce was born in 1858 in Amsterdam, when a local baker got inspired by a dwarf performing at a circus. The little man that was only 63 centimeters in length, and went by the name of Tom Pouce. His last name being the French word for the word ‘thumb’, referring to the size of his body.
By now, the Dutch tompouce can be found all around the globe. In Italy it goes by the name mille foglie, in Belgium they call it a boekske or glacéke and often change the pink icing for a white version. While in the United States, Sweden, Norway, and even Russia, where they are called the Napoleon.
There is a continuous, rather controversial discussion going on about the way in which the tompouce should be consumed. Multiple techniques are out there and even ‘experts’ have bowed their heads over the matter, but not one of them can be pointed out as ‘the one’. Let’s introduce you to five of the possibilities, so you can decide for yourself what works best:
- Put your fork in
This technique takes some time. Put your fork right onto the iced top layer and carefully push it through all layers until you reach the bottom. If you do it slowly enough, you can have all different layers in one single bite. If you do it too fast, chances are you ruin the entire thing.
- On its side
You can also put it on its side, this way the layers are more likely to stay together and you can easily take bite size pieces off with your fork.
- Take the roof off
The easiest way to eat a tompouce is to simply deconstruct it. You start by first eating the top layer that has the pink icing on it, then you can either continue eating the cream or eat the bottom layer with the cream on top.
- Spread it
Would you like the delicious cream to be on both the top and bottom layer? Then take the top off and spread an even amount of cream on the top and bottom half.
- Bottoms up
Want to enjoy all layers in one big bite? Then take the top layer off and turn it upside down. Continue by putting the bottom layer on the top layer you just turned around. This way you can take a big bite without having the cream fall out.
Want to try your own hand to baking a batch of tompouces? Then follow these easy steps.
The ingredients you will need are as followed:
- 250ml (8.5 fl oz) of milk
- 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla flavoring)
- 2 egg yolks
- 4 tablespoons of sugar
- 4 tablespoons of flour
- pinch of salt
- 1 sheet of puff pastry
- 1 egg, beaten
- 3 tablespoons powdered or icing sugar
- 2 teaspoons milk
- 1 drop red food colouring or red berry juice
Warm the milk, add the vanilla bean, and steep for 15 minutes. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar and salt, and then one tablespoon of flour. Stir until creamy.
Take the vanilla bean out of the milk, open it up, and scrape out the seeds (or add the vanilla essence to the milk) and stir. Take two tablespoons of warm milk and stir it into the egg yolk mix, then stir in the rest of the flour. Carefully stir all this back into the warm milk into the pan, put it back on a low heat and stir until it becomes a thick mass. Take off the stove and cover with a piece of plastic, to avoid forming a skin when it cools down.
Heat the oven to 200C (400F). Spray a baking sheet or pan with cooking spray. Cut the puff pastry sheet in 4 equal rectangular sections and place them on the baking sheet. Brush the top with the beaten egg, prick holes into the pastry with the tines of a fork and bake for 15 minutes, or until the dough is golden. Remove from the oven, take care not to burn your fingers while doing so, quickly and carefully pull the top from the bottom sheet. Set all eight pieces aside on a rack to cool.
Stir powdered sugar with the milk and the red food colouring into a thick icing, that will slowly turn pink.
Take the bottom part of one of the baked puff pastries and spread the cooled down vanilla cream on it. Top it with its corresponding iced top half of the pastry. When all four are done, carefully spread the pink icing on top: let it dry and enjoy! Whatever way of eating you end up choosing.
Text: Sanne Moonemans. Pictures: Sanne Moonemans.