26 Apr 2023 at 17:11
The orange layer comes from scale insects and the HEMA made it big. And did you know that the tompouce is named after little people who performed in the circus?
Itinerant circus performers
In the United States and France they call him the mille-feuille or Napoléon. We named the tompouce after Tom Pouce, French for Tom Duim. That is how, says the Etymological Dictionary of Dutch, in the nineteenth century small people who performed in front of an audience were called.
Like the British Charles Sherwood Stratton, who traveled with the circus from the age of six. He was only 63.5 centimeters and his stage name was General Tom Thumb. He traveled through Europe in 1844 and 1845 and also came to the Netherlands. Presumably the name Tom Thumb became known here.
Small objects were named after these little circus performers, but with the French word for thumb: pouce. For example, a dwarf geranium, a small carriage and a parasol for ladies. And the first Amsterdam baker to make the pastry also named it after them: the tompouce.
Orange color not kosher
To get the orange color, E number E120 is used for most tompouces. This is a dye that is extracted from the cochineal aphid, an aphid species.
Customers don’t want bells and whistles on their tompouce.
Such an aphid is not halal, not kosher and of course not vegetarian. According to Islamic dietary laws, you can eat a grasshopper, for example in case of plagues. But not a louse that is pulverized because of its tan.
The HEMA tompouce contains a different type of dye, but it is not kosher or halal either. Gelatin is used in the cream, which comes from pork bones.
Which is better: the pink classic or the orange?
They are exactly the same, says pastry chef Antoinette, who helps queues full of hungry customers at the Bond en Smolders pastry shop in Utrecht on early King’s Morning.
“The only difference is the color. The classic tompouce is light pink. Sometimes someone would like a name on it, or a heart. Customers also don’t want bells and whistles on their tompouce.”
No chocolate, fruit, glitter or speckles, says HEMA. Customers don’t want that at all. “So we opt for one variant: the one and only orange HEMA tompouce.”
A whipped cream stripe in the middle, the orange tompouce doesn’t get any crazier. That stripe is the personal choice of the baker. It is not there with Bond and Smolders. But Antoinette’s parents, who used to run the place, sprayed it on. “That’s a matter of taste. They do it at Kwekkeboom.”
You can make tompouces in just four steps
A large slice of (homemade) puff pastry, pour cream on top, another layer of puff pastry and then the fondant on top. Then the gigantic tompouce is cut into pieces of 4 by 10 centimeters.
A tedious job, says baker Antoinette. Nowadays, a machine does this expertly.
HEMA made the tompouce great
HEMA did not invent the orange tompouce, but it did make it an icon. The company gave the common man a chance to eat pastries in the 1930s because it was affordable. HEMA has been selling the tompouces since 1932. Nowadays, about fourteen million are sold each year.
Sales explode around King’s Day. HEMA sells about twenty times as many in that week as in a ‘normal’ week, the company reports. In the week around King’s Day, this concerns about one million units.
Whether the HEMA tompouce is the tastiest? If you ask an artisan pastry chef, the answer is no.
Baker Antoinette van Bond en Smolders makes the cream based on milk and real vanilla. The puff pastry is also made of butter. “These are fresh products, so we make them every morning.”
HEMA produces its tompouce on a much larger scale. The filling consists of powder with water, says Antoinette. They are tasty, she thinks too. But take a bite of a more expensive, fresh tompouce from the pastry chef and you will never want anything else.