The story behind the Antwerpse handjes

The Antwerpse Handjes is a cookie in the shape of a hand that has a reference to the legend of Brabo and giant Antigoon, their story was the foundation of the city. But what most people don't know is that the sweet delicacy originally came out of the oven in a small bakery of a Dutch-Jewish baker who owned a bakery in Antwerp.

It all began in 1934 in the Provinciestraat behind the Antwerp train station. Jos Hakker made his dough from butter, sugar, eggs, flour and shaved almonds. But what was more special is that he baked his recipe on a baking mold in the shape of little hands.

He actually made his dessert cookie to compete in a competition of the Royal Association of Master Pastry Makers of Antwerp. They wanted an original culinary specialty that could represent the city of Antwerp. Jos Hakker came up with the winning design and recipe. The shape, composition and packaging are now, through patent protection, the property of the Belgian union for bread, pastry, chocolate and ice cream. The cookies became very popular in no time.

Picture by Harry Fabel

During the Second World War however, Jos Hakker was deported by the Nazis to the Dossin barracks in Mechelen, where he later would be transferred to  the Auschwitz Concentration camps. But luckily he managed to escape, together with 66 others. He joined the Li├Ęge resistance were he wrote articles for the secret press. Those articles were later bundled in a book that appeared in French, English and Dutch. Later, after the War he returned to Antwerp and started his bakery again from scratch.

Picture by Pixabay

As a reminder to his remarkably story and the atrocities of the Second World War his granddaughter Joyce Hakker gave the original baking mold and the boxes in which they were sold to the Dossin barracks museum. And Jos Hakker, the inventor of the Antwerpse Handjes will also be remembered by the city of Antwerp because his little old bakery received a memorial plaque on the facade. The bakery however is no longer there.

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