When visiting Geraardsbergen, a city in the north of Belgium, you must try the local specialty, Mattes or Mattetaarten! A Mattentaart comes in a small round cakes-like shape that consists of a puff pastry, filled with a special filling called matt paste. The Geraardsbergse Mattentaarten are inseparably connected to the history and culture of the city Geraarsbergen and so on the rest of Flanders. Already in the 13th century, there was a troubadours song that referred to Mattes or Mattons. At that time that was the word for Mattentaarten, as well in French, German, and Flemish dialects.
A problem with storing the milk was at the origin of the invention of these Mattes. Till the 19th century, only monasteries and castles had cool cellars to store fresh products. The average farmer didn't have this possibility. Therefore they allowed the raw milk to curdle in mats and whey. The milk was cooked together with acidic buttermilk and then drained in a cotton cloth. This matt paste was mixed with sugar and egg yolks, rolled out on square pieces of puff pastry which were folded diagonally, and then baked in the oven.
On December 12, 1665, the bakers of Geraadsbergen set up the internal regulations and quality rules for making Mattetaarten. These rules were confirmed by an imperial decree on January 18, 1752. In 1978 the bakers founded the Brotherhood of the Geraardsbergse Mattentaart. You can now buy the little tasty cake at almost every bakery in Belgium.