Eating Sprinkles the Dutch Way: Hagelslag on Bread

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[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Imagine a world—a magical world—where eating sprinkles is a normal everyday activity for people of all ages. Where you can eat sprinkles for breakfast. For lunch. For a snack in between breakfast and lunch. No birthdays or other special occasions required.

This magical world is in the Netherlands, where sprinkles, called hagelslag (translation: "hailstorm"), come in a variety of flavors, shapes, and sizes, and are most commonly eaten on top of buttered bread.

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The hagelslag section at a supermarket in the Hague. [Photograph: Jeroen D.]

Thanks to my Dutch friends Jeroen and Maaike and their generous package of 15 individual serving boxes of hagelslag and vlokken (shavings) in a variety of flavors (chocolate, vanilla, and fruit) and shapes (regular and extra large), I got my first taste of sprinkles-topped bread last month. And it was pretty damn good. Like, "Why haven't I ever eaten this before?" good.

But first, a bit of hagelslag history.

Out of the many brands of hagelslag in the Netherlands, the most famous ones are De Ruijter and Venz (today both owned by Heinz). Venz was the first chocolate hagelslag producer in the Netherlands, starting in 1936, while De Ruijter started making them in 1957.

But before there was chocolate hagelslag, De Ruijter started making chocolate flakes in 1955, fruit-flavored hagelslag in 1928, and muisjes ("little mice") in 1860, candy-coated anise seeds traditionally eaten on rusks to celebrate a baby's birth.

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To eat hagelslag the Dutch way, Jeroen's instructions say, "Take a slice of bread (white or brown), spread with unsalted butter, and sprinkle it well," allocating one box (15 to 22 grams) per open face sandwich. (He later told me you can also put it on toasted bread; it's just a matter of personal preference.)

Hagelslag is the magic ingredient that makes plain bread and butter taste like cake and frosting, sort of; it's like cake and frosting that are barely sweetened, but that's a good thing. The layer of mild crunch, sweetness, and flavor from the hagelslag transform plain ol' soft, airy bread—in my case, one of those almost perfectly square loaves from a Chinese bakery—spread edge to edge with creamy butter from ... well, a boring slice of bread with butter into something 500 times more fun.

Relegating sprinkle use to just ice cream and cake feels like such wasted potential. I don't think I'll be able to look at a loaf of bread without thinking what could be:

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Ahhh, glorious. Click for larger version. Makes a nice desktop wallpaper!

Overall consensus of the Serious Eats office: Hagelslag on bread is good. Very good. Not everyone was as enthusiastic as our cereal columnist, Leandra Palermo—she called hagelslag on bread "THE BEST THING EVER!!!!!!!!!"—but most of us enjoyed the marriage of sprinkles-bread-butter.

If you want to make your own sprinkles, our beyond awesome contributor Stella Parks has a recipe for that—two recipes, rather, for crisp and soft sprinkles—at her blog Bravetart.

Are you a fan of hagelslag?

About the author: Robyn Lee is the editor of A Hamburger Today and takes many of the photos for Serious Eats. She'll also doodle cute stuff when necessary. Read more from Robyn at her personal food blog, The Girl Who Ate Everything.

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