Hagel or Hagelslag is a Dutch bread topping. It is much like English hundreds-and-thousands, but has many variations. The basic form of hagel is small, sugary, cylindrical particles. The word hagel, which also means 'hail', is used to refer to any topping that can be sprinkled.
Hagel goes back a long time. In the Netherlands many supermarkets have their own version of standard hagel, but the most common brand is undoubtedly De Ruijter - 'the rider', a common family name. This company was founded in 1860 and now has many variations of hagel on the shelves from small particles to large flakes of chocolate.
Hagel is usually served with butter on beschuit - small round toasts often sold in Britain as 'Dutch toasts'. These are crunchy and are not as flavoursome as ordinary bread. This enables you to appreciate the flavour of the hagel, whose taste would be almost drowned out by wholemeal bread. Because these toasts are quite small, you can often eat them as a sweet ending to your lunch.
Celebrating a New Life
Hagel has a traditional role in Dutch culture at the birth of a child. When a baby is born, the mother and father provide any visitors with muisjes - literally 'mice'. Muisjes are small aniseed-flavoured balls in two colours. Originally the balls were pink and white, but they are now available in blue and white as well. If you have a son, you are expected to present blue and white muisjes, and if you have a daughter you should provide pink and white ones. Older children in the family, often take muisjes and beschuit to school or crèche when their brother or sister is born. So, as long as there are children being born in Holland, there will be some need for hagel.
Common Types of Hagel
Here are some of the more common kinds of hagel:
Muisjes - As mentioned above, these are small aniseed flavoured balls.
Gestampte Muisjes - Meaning literally 'squashed mice', it is an aniseed flavoured powder.
Chocoladehagel - Chocolate-flavoured hagel, which comes in white and milk chocolate versions, and as a mixture of the two.
Chocolade Vlokken - Flakes of chocolate, available in milk, white and a mixture of the two.
Vruchten or fruit hagel - A simple mix of orange, yellow and pink coloured hagel, which is sugary, but doesn't actually taste of fruit, as such.