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Dutch Letter Bars

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When you grow up in Iowa you learn the beauty of a day trip. My childhood memories are littered with day trips all over Iowa and Missouri. For me, trips anywhere revolve around eating. One of the greatest places for food in Iowa is desserts in Pella. If you’ve never heard of Dutch Letters you are missing out! Jaarsma Bakery in downtown Pella will change your life.

I may love Dutch Letters but I never really want to spend the time making them. We’ve established that I’m a lazy baker. A couple of years ago this recipe appeared in the Des Moines Register close to Thanksgiving. God Bless them, it lets me get a taste of Pella without the road trip! If you like this recipe write it down because I have no idea where else to find it. In essence, it is the filling of a Dutch Letter made into a bar cookie. What’s not to love?

A couple of things: I didn’t have any sliced almonds in my pantry so my bars aren’t as pretty as they could be (sigh), also a can of almond paste is about 8 ounces so if you don’t buy it by the can keep that in mind.

Dutch Letter Bars


  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 can almond paste
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk, reserve the egg white
  • 1 ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons almond extract
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • sliced almonds
  • coarse sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In mixer, combine ingredients and blend well. Spread in 9×13 inch pan. Brush with egg white. Sprinkle with sliced almonds and coarse sugar.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown. Do not overbake.


About Meg

I stress-bake, a lot. When I'm not doing that I'm an Episcopal priest, wife, and mom. Have a recipe that just might lower my blood pressure or at least make my house smell good? I'd love to try it!

17 responses »

  1. What a brilliant idea! I spent hours in the kitchen sculpturing those letters (! Could have saved some time!
    I’m not an Iowan, but love everything Iowan (including my husband) and half-Iowan (our kids). Thanks for sharing!

  2. I went to college in Pella, and I think one cannot live there without becoming addicted to Dutch Letters and Pella Bologna! I love all things almond, and regularly make the Mecca journey to rack up points on my Jaarsma Bakery card and visit my son, who lives there. This recipe will help me in the meantime…

  3. Does almond paste only come in one size? How much is 1 can of almond paste?

  4. Shouldn’t there be cinnamon in these? Either the bar or with the course sugar sprinkle?

  5. I work about 5 blocks from Jaarsma and love love love the Dutch letters and everything made in the bakery. Thank you Jaarsma…..

  6. Do you use salted or unsalted butter?

  7. My husband just found this. Can’t wait to try it!

  8. How much is in a can of almond paste? I’ve seen it in tubes but not cans. What section do you find this in a store?

  9. I graduated from Central College in Pella. My friends and I made many many trips to Jaarsma’s!! Now my kids and I make Dutch letters at Christmas but I always thought they were too time consuming for an every day treat. I will have to give these a try!

  10. There are a couple of bakeries here in my hometown of Pella, Iowa. Vander Ploeg’s Bakery is also on the square and make wonderful Dutch pastries.

  11. Just to double-check…….that’s a can of almond PASTE, not the Almond PASTRY FILLING?? Can’t wait to make this! I have used refrigerated crescent rolls and spread them with a small amount of Almond Pastry Filling, rolled them up and baked as directed on the can. They taste quite a bit like the Dutch Letters, also. My husband brings me a Dutch Letter from the Dutch Oven Bakery (in Ames, IA) every Saturday morning, on his way back from an early Saturday meeting……I LOVE THEM!! Thanks for the recipe!

  12. Oh my!!! I just baked these and they are MARVELOUS!! I grew up 20 miles from Pella, IA and Jaarsma is my all-time favorite bakeries. We moved to California 27 years ago, and one of my “must stops” when I am in Iowa is Jaarsma’s bakery. Dutch letters are an all-time favorite for me, my husband and my grown children. This recipe is easy and almost as good as the real thing. My mom made almond bars when we went home for a visit because she knew they were my favorite baked good. I miss her and her almond bars. I never could get the hang of making the double crust for her almond bars. Now I can get the flavor without all the work. I just won’t get the love she added. Can’t wait to try them the next time my kids visit. Thanks!

  13. Sherry Hollingsworth

    Awesome, a must try for Christmas morning !!! Does anyone know how to make the Peanut Butter squares at Vander Ploegs ???? Those are a favorite also…Kinda like scotcheroos but MUCH better !!!!


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