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Loren Mulder peered inside the Dutch Bakery’s walk-in freezer and admired its contents. Greeted immediately by a strikingly cold breeze, the large steel door swung open ever so slowly and revealed racks upon racks of already prepared Dutch pastries. The freezer was almost at full capacity.

“Usually you can walk in there,” said Loren, who co-owns the Orange City bakery with his wife, Kathleen. “Those boxes you see in the back? Those are boxes of almond patties. We can freeze those and package those beforehand. The rest of the stuff is unbaked yet. It’s getting to the point where we can barely get in and out of the freezer.”

When I met with Loren last week, the pastries he had already stashed away in the walk-in were many of the Dutch Bakery’s classic eats reserved for the upcoming Tulip Festival in Orange City -- a three-day event that highlights the town’s predominantly Dutch culture and history.

So it’s only fitting that the town’s Dutch Bakery prepare a near limitless amount of Dutch Letters, almond patties, “Dutch” pretzels, Dutch apple rolls, almond apricot bars, tea rings, specialty breads and other event items like the “Fudge Puppy,” which features a chocolate-dipped Belgian waffle on a stick and is then topped with whipped cream.

As one might imagine, taking up the most room in Loren’s walk-in freezer are the Dutch Letters and almond patties, both of which are made from sweet puff pastry filled with an almond paste; the only big difference between the two is that the Dutch Letters are often molded into the shape of the letter “S”.

So does Loren have a head count of pastries reserved for Tulip Festival? You bet! The baker said he’s married to a wife that has a habit of counting everything. As of last Saturday morning, Kathleen had counted a little more than 500 Dutch pretzels, almost 1,000 Dutch Letters and well over 3,000 almond patties.

“If the Tulip Festival is really good, that won’t be near enough,” said Loren. “By Thursday I’ll be scrambling to make a bunch more. If I have to, I have a bunch of people in the community that know how to make the pastries. So could probably bring five or six people in here and make some more real quick.”

Orange City’s Tulip Festival is the craziest time for Loren and Kathleen Mulder, who have owned the 44-year-old Dutch Bakery for the past 10 years. Loren said he begins thinking about the work involved in preparing for the annual Dutch celebration as soon it’s over in May.

“It’s like this little monster that sits on my shoulder all year,” Loren said. “We try to start getting some stuff lined up already in February and March. There are certain products that we don’t even think about until this week. There are still things I haven’t even made yet. I’ll make those on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And by Saturday I better have it all made.”

Luckily, Loren has already experienced his Tulip Festival crash course 10 years ago when he first bought the Dutch Bakery. He remembered it well.

“I did not have enough almond patties,” he said. “We were making almond patties as fast we could back here and people were actually taking orders for them. Kathy was going, ‘Can you get that many made before 5 o’clock?’ and I would say, ‘I’m trying! I’m trying!’ We don’t ever want to be in that situation again where people were coming in and couldn’t get the product. We want them to be able to experience Dutch pastries if they want them.”

Despite the hectic and rigorous demand from the Tulip Festival, Loren still wants to bring out surprise treats. This year, he said, the Dutch Bakery is attempting to make its own Dutch anise candy.

“It is hard candy and anise flavored and that’s basically all it is,” said Loren, holding the sweet between his fingertips. The candy has a striking red color and is lightly dusted with powdered sugar. “I’ve always done it for Christmastime, but that’s really a Dutch thing. So why aren’t we doing that at Tulip Festival? So I made a bunch ahead of time. That’s just something we thought we would try this year. Trying to keep Dutch things for the Tulip Festival as much as possible.”

After that crash course the first year, preparations for Tulip Festival happened much sooner for the Mulders. And so far, things are going smoothly for Loren and his help at the Orange City bakery. With the aid of an employee with experience at a culinary school, Loren feels much less stressed about Tulip-time.

“We’re ahead this year!” he said, elated. “I’ve got a smile on my face! This year that monster got thrown off my back pretty good.”

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Weekender reporter

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