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Photo © Kosmos
Definition: A gemberbolus is a sweet, sticky bun enriched with stem ginger.

There are many varieties of bolussen in the Netherlands, including the popular spiral-shaped and cinnamon-inflected Zeeuwse bolus (also known as Jikkemien), pretzel-shaped Hague bolus, ginger-laced gemberbolus, amandelspijs-filled orgeadebolus, a hybrid version with ginger and spijs, and various varieties of fruit-studded bolussen.

Origins and Etymology:

According to Het Nederlands Bakboek author Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra, the name of this treat was originally not Dutch. In fact, she argues that both the word and the bun probably originated in Spain, and offers two possible explanations. Apparently, the Spanish word for sandwich is bollo and several types of spiral rolls exist in Spain. It's possible that these spiral buns were part of the ration of the Spanish soldiers who were encamped in the Low Countries during the Eighty Years War (1566-1648). The other possible source of the bolus is also indirectly Spanish. At the end of the 15th century, during the Inquisition, Spanish Jews faced two choices – they could convert to Christianity or they could leave their homeland. Many chose to migrate to more hospitable places. Amsterdam was a popular choice, which resulted in a large Sephardic-Jewish community in the city. The syrupy ginger treat could be a delicious legacy of this mass Jewish migration to the Netherlands.

While the ‘normal’ bolus has gained wider popularity, the ginger version has remained confined to Jewish circles and a select few connoisseurs out there. In fact, they are still a popular Jewish-Amsterdam delicacy, but while they were once readily available at kosher bakeries in the city very few such bakeries remain, which means that the gemberbolus is now only produced in very small quantities.

Bake your own:

Gemberbolussen are somewhat tricky to make and shape at home, but the effort is certainly worth it. Bake up a batch at home with this gemberbolus recipe from Het Nederlands Bakboek.

Also Known As: Gemberbolussen (plural)
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