Jaarsma Bakery of Pella Iowa is Worth the Detour

I found myself driving from Ottumwa, Iowa to Omaha, Nebraska, jumping between two different travel writer assignments and made a little detour to the charming town of Pella, thanks to the recommendation of my friend Sara. She bragged up the quaint town and Jaarsma Bakery, and it’s Dutch Letters to the point that I knew I had to stop and see it for myself.

We all like a taste of delicious pastry now and again, and the selection of Jaarsma Bakery offers this and so much more. Most people, if not all, love to have a piece of a delicacy, especially if it is from a different cuisine than they are used to. But with all the fabulous taste that is behind the recipes of Jaarsma, who are they, and what is their mission in wanting to change the face of pastry for the best?

All About Jaarsma Bakery

Jaarsma Bakery has a rich history dating back to 1898 and is one of the only spots in Pella, Iowa, to offer the treats they do. They are a Dutch pastry shop founded by Harmon Jaarsma, a Holland native who brought the recipes with him when he came to live in the U.S. Since being established in Iowa, they have been working endlessly to satisfy the tastebuds of everyone who steps through their doors daily.  

The Baking Trend

Unlike the popular oven of today, Jaarsma had to do their baking on two brick ovens he owned at the time. When the firewood was lit, and the ashes brushed out, they would put the bread in to bake, after which the buns were done followed by the famous Dutch Letters and cookies. They would then allow the oven to cool before it was lit again for another round of baking. In addition to being the bakery outlet, the same location was also used as a coffee shop and dwelling house for the family. Out of all the lovely treats prepared at the bakery, the Dutch Letters were an all-time favorite for everyone. However, they were only made on Sinterklaas Day, which is the Dutch Santa Claus Day, and was formed in the letter ‘S’ to mark the special day.

I just adore the whimsical costumes the Jaarsma Bakery staff wear as uniforms!

Shining from the New Location

As time went by, Harmon’s son, Frank, took over the business, and with a mission to upgrade and offer more to the public, he moved the bakery to its current location, Pella, Iowa, in 1948. Frank and his two sons Howard and Ralph, dedicated their lives to serving fresh bread to the community for years until 1973 when tragedy struck, and the bakery was burned down. However, even though it hurt, Howard and Ralph were not going to let the life and passion of their grandfather and father go in shambles as later on, they rebuilt the bakery at the same location. The Jaarsmas chose this location because they have a connection with the place, and it has a “community” feeling to it.

A Generation of Fresh Pastries

The mission is still living today as the bakery is now being operated by Harmon’s great-granddaughter, Kristi, and her husband, Dave. The same tasty recipes are added to every batter they prepare with added ingredients from Netherland. The bakery now offers a full line of tasty treats such as flaky pastries, delicious bread, cakes and cookies, and so much more. You can be assured of quality in every bite you take. They pride in the way they make their products as each is produced from scratch each day. Are you planning a special event anytime soon and need some fantastic delicacies to treat your guests? Then choosing from their Jaarsma Dutch Speculaas (spice cookies) or Boter Koek (Almond Butter cake) will be your best decision.

If you haven’t tried Jaarsma Dutch Letters, you are missing out!

The Theme Behind The Dutch Letters

The Dutch Letters produced by Jaarsma Bakery has a significance as the owners are dedicated to their cultures and traditions. The Letters pastry, which is formed in a letter ‘S’ represents Sinterklaas (Santa Claus in English) and is made exclusively for the day. However, you can order it whenever you desire for a daily treat or to compliment your special occasion or event.

The letters are filled with a tasty almond filling, baked to a light golden brown, and a sprinkle of sugar to complete. The idea of them being a “sweet treat” is a problem to many but not so with Jaarsma as they desire to satisfy your tastebuds while considering your health.

Oh. My. God.

I ripped into one while sitting my parked car and groaned so loudly that passersby stared at me. Then I had a Sinterklaas cookie that reminded me of the old almond windmill cookies my grandma used to give me. Then I bit into a White Walnut Bar. Then I bit into a Figure 8 cookie…

Um, I might have bought a few bags of assorted treats…but trust me, most of them made it home to the family.

Their Pastry Collection

Jaarsma Bakery has a wide array of pastries to choose from. They have:

  • Plain cookies as well as cookies with different types of fillings. Their cookie collection includes Almond Macaroons, Butterfly Cookies, Almond-filled cookies, and more.
  • Apple-infused bread, Currant-Almond Bread, Cinnamon Bread and a special delicacy, the Apple Sweetheart.
  • Various bars that are made infused with different fruits and nuts like apple, almond, walnut, and pecan.

They also have rolls, candies, and different assortment of cakes.

A Must Try!

For sure, the next time you visit Pella, Iowa, you have to make a stop at Jaarsma to get your tastebuds tantalized with some fantastic pastries of old. They ensure all their foods are prepared with diligence, care, and passion. The ingredients combined will leave you wanting more, and the collection of pastries is not limited for you to choose from. Whether you are touring alone, with your significant other, or with friends and family, this location is ideal for creating memories. They prepare everything fresh, so no need to worry about stale or frozen treats.

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