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Chocolate Sprinkles Arrive from the Netherlands

The classic way for Dutch kids to start their day

Although it’s not a combination that has historically been given much thought on this side of the Atlantic, the practice of eating bread and chocolate in tandem has long been hugely popular in Europe. The Pain au Chocolat I wrote about last week is one of the most famous French versions. Alternatively, many French folks will put a chunk of good chocolate into a piece of freshly baked baguette and eat it as is. The Chocolate Sourdough bread at the Bakehouse is one of our American adaptations, and the Roadhouse’s new pancakes made with freshly-milled spelt and laced with French Broad chocolate chips are another awesome addition.

a piece of white bread spread with butter and covered with chocolate sprinkles on a blue plate
If you go to the Netherlands, the combo is altogether different. There you’ll see slices of buttered white bread that have been covered liberally with chocolate sprinkles. You read that right—chocolate sprinkles are the star of the morning meal. While we think of sprinkles here as something kids like to see on cupcakes, in the Netherlands, sprinkles are serious business. The formal “invention” of sprinkles in this way came in 1919. How did sprinkles show up on the Dutch culinary scene? One version (as Ted Ownby of the University of Mississippi told me 20 years ago, “All origin stories are disputed”) is that they were invented in Amsterdam by a candymaker named B.E. Dieperink. Dieperink, it seems, was inspired by bad weather. One day when it was hailing outside, he came up with the creative idea to make a confection that resembled the pellets that were falling from the stormy Dutch sky. The original version was crispy, anise-flavored sprinkles. Dieperink named them Hagelslag, meaning “hailstorm” in Dutch.

The chocolate sprinkles seem to have followed about 15 years later. They quickly became a huge commercial and culinary success.​ Since the middle of the 20th century, Dutch kids have delighted in eating slices of generously buttered bread, covered completely with chocolate sprinkles, for breakfast. Sprinkles in the Netherlands are serious business—they take up the same sort of significant aisle space in Dutch supermarkets as tuna, anchovies, and sardines do in Spain. To illustrate the seriousness with which they’re taken, many families with kids will pack a box of them for travel abroad, in much the same way some children bring stuffed animals. For folks who grew up with them, the Hagelslag offer a sense of continuity and calm comfort.

Unlike the kid-style sprinkles they sell here in supermarkets, the Dutch ones actually have flavor and are made from good chocolate. The Dark Chocolate are my preference. I have happily eaten them out of hand, as well as made myself a slice of buttered bread and Hagelslag to have as a snack. We also stock the Milk Chocolate version for those who are so inclined. Assembly couldn’t be easier. Stop by the Candy Store to buy a box (or two). Pick up a loaf of Bakehouse White bread (which is far more flavorful than standard supermarket white breads). When you get home, cut a thick slice. Spread on a fair bit of room-temperature butter. Cover generously with the sprinkles! Smile. Eat. Enjoy!

Go for the Dark Chocolate

And maybe the Milk Chocolate, too

P.S. You won’t see chocolate sprinkles on the Zingerman’s Mail Order site, but we’d be super happy to send some of the Hagelslag your way. Email us at [email protected] soon!

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