Bakers in New Amsterdam
Pretzel.png Sinterklaas Shoes.png Sinterklaas Cookies.png
Pretzels - Sinterklaas (Santa Claus) Shoes with Christmas Goodies and Sinterklaas Cookies

Objective: Describe the purpose of bakers in the New Amsterdam colony and explain how bakers contributed to daily life.

Essential Question: How did bakers contribute to the growth and success of the colony?

Historical Background:
Bread was the main staple of the Dutch diet both in the Netherlands and in the colony of New Netherland. Residence of the colony ate at least three times a day and bread was a key part of every meal. Bread in New Netherland was made mostly from wheat, which could be grown in abundance in this part of the world. Bakers baked both rye and wheat bread. White bread was the most desirable bread and therefore was consumed mainly by the wealthier residence of the colony.

Baking was a labor-intensive process that required significant amounts of time. The ovens were built with large bricks designed to stay hot for long periods of time. First, the baker would heat the oven with wood and clean out the residue when the oven was hot enough. Then the oven would be wiped clean with a wet cloth attached to the end of a stick. The baker had to knead the dough by hand or foot. Rye bread had to bake for 12 hours, while wheat bread had to rise twice and bake for an hour. The baker would blow his horn when the bread was ready so that his customers would know they could now purchase the bread and other baked goods.

The large amount of wheat bread and white bread produced by Dutch colonial bakers reflects the influence of geography on colonial life. The abundance of natural resources necessary for the production of large quantities of wheat allowed for the increased production of the more desirable white bread. The availability of resources also allowed for the production of holiday treats like sweet breads, cakes, and cookies.

Common Core Standards:
n RS 7.2 Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
n RS 7.4Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.
n WS 7.2 Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures/ experiments, or technical processes.
n WS 7.9 Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Document 1 - Baker's Receipt

Baker's Receipt.png

1. What is the title of this document?
2. When was it written?
3. What is the purpose of this document?
4. In the document above, line 3, it says "3 schepels of Dutch rusks". What do you think a “schepel” is? What is a “rusk”?
5. What did the baker make for the Van Rensselaer family? Make a list.
6. Write an explanation of this document in your own words. Explain what the document is, what the baker made for the family and how much he was paid. Use evidence from the document to support your summary.

Document 2 - "The Baker" by Job Berckheyde, 1681

Job Berckheyde The Baker 1681.png
Courtesy: Worcester Museum of Art1. What is the title of this painting and who created it?
2. Who is portrayed in this painting? What is he wearing?
3. List all the objects in this painting.
4. Why is the man blowing a horn? 5. Imagine the bakery. What do you smell? What do you hear?

Document 3 - "The Feast of St. Nicholas" by Jan Steen (c. 1663-1665)

Jan Steen Feast of St Nicholas.png
Courtesy: Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam
1. Who is portrayed in this painting? Count the adults. Count the children.
2. What is the girl in the center of the painting doing? Why is the boy behind her crying? What do you think the woman is saying to the little girl?
3. List all the objects in this painting.
4. What sounds can you imagine when you look at this painting?

  1. Reading - Determine the main idea for each document.
  2. Paragraph Writing - Using evidence from the documents, describe the life of a baker in a Dutch colony.
  3. Explanatory/Informative Writing - Using evidence from the documents, explain the importance of bakers in the Dutch colony.
  4. Technology – Using your ipad, create a video using "Educreations" or "Explain Everything" app. Download the image from Dropbox, annotate the image and explain what you see, using your responses to the questions above.

Recipes from Old New Amsterdam Small Seed Cakes

This recipe was adapted to use modern measures.

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon caraway seed, bruised in the mortar with a pestle

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add eggs one by one and incorporate thoroughly. Add seeds and flour a little at a time, stir well. Use 2 teaspoons to shape the cookies about the size of a nutmeg and place them on a buttered baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes, until the rims are browned. Makes 4 dozen.

Spiced Sweet Bread (Deventerkoek)

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup milk

Combine first six ingredients. Slowly add milk to make dough without lumps.
Pour into greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Loaf will be deep brown.

Source: "Everyday Life in a Dutch Colony: Exploring he Role of Community on the Dutch Frontier", Julie Daniels, NYS Archives and Jessica Maul, Archives Partnership Trust, August, 2015