I was visiting a friend, and we went to the Netherlands to see some of both hers and my old stomping grounds. She took me to S’Hertogenbosch or just “Den Bos” to locals where her family has a long history. Most of her ancestors had been bakers and one famous guy, Jan De Groot, apparently came up with a recipe for a chocolate ball pastry which became all the rage. Jan de Groot created the chocolade bolletje around the 1930, and the recipe has been handed down carefully from generation to generation, so now only a few bakers in town really know how to make the “real thing.”
Her grandfather’s bakery still exists across the street from the railroad station, and it is a very popular stop for locals and tourists alike. We happened to go there, though, on a Sunday and it was closed. I was so dissappointed, because I’d had my hopes up for one of these delicacies.
Not to let it put a damper on our day, we headed down to the city center to wander around. As we were headed to the main square, there was an open bakery that boasted “Chocolate Balls in the style of Jan de Groot.” You see the baker wasn’t related to the famous Jan at all, but had bought one of his relative’s bakeries, and along with it the recipe. He swore up and down that you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between those balls and the ones across from the train station. We just had to take his word for it, and by golly, they were the best balls I’d ever eaten! A sinful four to five inches in diameter, it’s basically a huge round cream puff filled with the most decadent thick cream imaginable with a gentle chocolate glaze surrounding it all. We had one with a cup of coffee, just like every other customer in the joint – no exceptions, and it was heaven!
As we engaged our host, interrogated might be closer to the truth, we found out a little more scandalous family history as well as heard all about how the town bakers had had an all out turf wars over certain famous recipes, in which the balls were only one. He was kept us laughing throughout our short stop, then sold us a sample of one of the other famous recipes that had been bought from the original descendent of Jan de Groot, a farmer’s cake (Bossche Bouwer’s Koeken). Somewhere between a fruit cake and a dense nut bread, you could see plenty of hungry Dutchmen tackling this baby.