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Friday, December 31, 2010

Appelbeignets (Dutch Apple Donuts)

Sometimes, things just don´t go as planned. I know, I know....one of those ¨"such is life" things... But I had really planned on making Sugary Snowballs tonight. Snowballs are made of a light choux dough, fried in oil, then filled with whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. Yep, a real killer, but what a great way to wrap up the old year with something that has at least two out of the five funky food groups (i.e. fat and sugar)!

I started late and a little hurried, couldn´t get the right consistency and the snowballs turned out to be little golfballs instead. Very dark brown with a raw center, yuk!!! So after another batch and still getting the same results, I decided that it was too late for snowballs and too late for oliebollen (the yeast dough has to sit and rise for a while). Hurray for never-fail-favorites, because I made appelbeignets instead and they were fabulous, as always. They´re apple slices, dipped in batter, then fried in oil. Technically not a donut at all, but the cored apple slices do give it a donut-esque appearance.

It´s hard to mess up an appelbeignet. Also known as appelflappen, these are a favorite treat. The apple brings some lightness, albeit subtle, to the oily batter and adds a pleasant sweetness. Any apple will work except for the Granny Smith: too tangy, too juicey and it doesn't hold up well. I used Golden Delicous for this recipe.

Appelbeignets
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of cinnamon, ground
2 apples, peeled and cored
1/4 cup of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of milk
1 egg
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Pinch of salt

1 tablespoon of powdered sugar

Slice the apples in rings, about 1/4 inch thick. Stir the sugar and cinnamon together and sprinkle over the apple slices. Set aside. Mix the flour, milk, salt and baking powder together for a batter. Put the slices in the batter and coat them on both sides, then drop each slice of apple carefully into the hot oil. Turn over when they're golden brown on one side and fry the other side, remove when both sides are done. Drain on a paper towel to capture the excess oil and transfer to a new plate. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and eat while warm.

This batter is a very neutral one and can be used for a variety of fruits. Try bananas (cut a small banana in half lengthwise and then each part in half), pineapple rings (drain on a paper towel before adding to the batter) or add some cinnamon or flavoring to the batter itself. There is no sugar in the batter to avoid excessive and premature browning.







I wish you all a very happy New Year, with lots of love, good food and dear friends!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Kerstkransjes

Kerstkransjes, or cookie Christmas wreaths, are a typical sight in Dutch Christmas trees. Sprinkled with sugar, decorated with slivered almonds, round, scalloped, chocolate,...they come in a variety of shapes and flavors, but always with a little hole in the middle so you can tie it to a branch of the tree.

Most often, they are part of the initial decorations in the tree as soon as it´s set up, but will be eaten slowly and sneakily by the kids, the husband or the family dog, only to feign utter dismay when the whole tree is empty and all you find is empty ribbons. Smart moms usually have several packages at hand to replace the empty spots in the tree, but ever smarter moms (or dads, or anybody else for that matter) bake their own!

The recipe is as simple as can be, and would be a fun project to do with kids or friends on these cold, blistery days. I´m posting a simple, straightforward recipe but you may consider making it your own. Sprinkle with colored sugar, add some chocolate or cinnamon to the recipe, or you might even dip the cookies in chocolate before hanging them in the tree. Just make sure you hang the chocolate ones higher up in the tree so Fido can´t get a nibble, chocolate is presumably bad for animals....

Kerstkransjes
1 cup of flour
1/4 teaspoon of salt
3 tablespoons of butter, cold and diced
1-2 teaspoon of baking powder
1-3 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon of vanilla
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
2 tablespoons of milk

Mix the flour with the salt, the sugar and the baking powder. Carefully knead in the cold butter, then add in the vanilla, lemon zest. If the mixture is too dry, add in a tablespoon of cold milk at a time. Knead everything into a pliable dough, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for an hour, to let the flavors blend.

Roll the dough out on a lightly dusted counter. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use a drinking glass, or a cookie cutter of any shape, to cut out the cookies. Use the end of an apple corer or a large straw to poke a hole in the middle of the dough. When all cookies are cut and cored, place them on the parchment paper, brush them with egg and sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, sliced almonds or colored sugar on top. Bake on the middle rack until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool on a rack. Cut ribbons and thread through the hole, then put a knot in it and decorate your tree as you see fit.



I wish you all a wonderful, magical Christmas time!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Worstenbroodjes

Sometimes a smell will trigger memories or initiate thoughts of a particular season: the air will smell like "fall" or "summer", a plate of steaming mussels may remind you of a holiday at the coast, the aroma of roast turkey will take you back to Thanksgiving.

The smell of worstenbroodjes baking in the oven remind me of Christmas. You can eat these meat-filled rolls all year, but they seem to be favored during the colder months. They are perfect to hold you over from dinner to midnight on New Year's Eve, to give you a little something to eat after First Christmas Day's hefty lunch if you are too full for dinner but still want to eat something....


Worstenbroodjes are typical from Brabant, a southern province in the Netherlands. Both Brabant and Limburg are the more gastronomically exciting provinces in Holland. Brabant is proud of its koffietafel, a lunch or brunch served with a large variety of rolls, breads, toppings, meats, cheeses and jams and copious amounts of coffee, and the Limburgers can boast about their many pies, vlaaien. Brabant is from old also the province that excelled in producing large amounts of pork, hence anything made with pork often received the adjective Brabants, meaning "from Brabant". It did not need necessarily be a traditional product from the region.

In this case, Brabantse worstenbroodjes are indeed traditional from the area. In other parts of the country, the saucijzenbroodje is favored, but worstenbroodjes fit in perfectly with the koffietafel and aren't as rich.

Worstenbroodjes
For the rolls
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of warm milk, plus two tablespoons
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of active dry yeast
2 teaspoons of sugar
2 tablespoons of butter
1 egg

For the filling
1 lb ground beef (preferably half-om-half i.e. half beef, half pork)
1/2 cup of panko or breadcrumbs
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley (optional)

For egg-wash
1 egg
2 tablespoons of water

Activate the yeast by stirring it into the warm milk. In the meantime, mix the flour with the salt and the sugar. When the yeast has proofed which takes about five minutes (it's now all bubbly and smells great), add it to the flour and mix it in. Drizzle the melted butter on top, continue to mix and finally add in the egg. Mix briefly until it all comes together, then take it out of the bowl, and knead for about five to ten minutes by hand. Grease the bowl, add the dough, turn it over so it's coated, and cover. Let rise for approximately thirty minutes or until 2/3s larger in size.

In the meantime, mix the ground meat with the spices, the breadcrumbs, the eggs and the milk. Cut off 2oz portions and roll into a small ball. Set aside while you do the rest. When they're all divided into 2oz portions, carefully roll each ball out into a sausage shape, about five inches long. Cover.
Carefully punch down the dough. Divide into 2oz pieces and roll each piece into a ball. While you work on the rest, keep each one covered underneath a tea towel or plastic wrap, you don't want them to dry out.

Now, with a rolling pin, roll the dough into an elongated oval, slightly larger than five inches long. Place one sausage on top, fold over the short edges, pull over the long edge and carefully roll the sausage into the dough, pinching the seam.

Place each sausage roll on some parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover and let them rise, at room temperature, for forty minutes to an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375F. Brush the sausage rolls with the egg wash and bake for approximately twenty to thirty minutes.


Don't stick with just the traditional salt, pepper, nutmeg combo. Have fun with it and add some paprika, some all-spice, you may even add some small chopped onion or garlic. As with everything, recipes are just a guideline!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Taaitaai

Taaitaai is an age-old typical delicacy that's eaten during the Sinterklaas days. Taai (rhymes with "I" and means "tough") may well refer to the chewiness of the sweet dough. It is similar to speculaas, with the added flavor of aniseed, but misses the typical speculaas crunch: instead its dough is taai: tough and chewy.

Saint Nicholas grew out to be the protector of small children: in one story he brought back to life three young boys that had been killed. In another, he prevented three poor sisters from having to go into prostitution by throwing three bags with money into their home, one bag for each girl for her dowry. This may have sparked his status as protector of marriages, or matchmaker, and might have started the tradition of giving a taaitaai doll, a "vrijer", to an unmarried girl.

Taaitaai is usually baked in human shapes: often it's an image of Sinterklaas himself. The smaller versions are eaten as a treat or a cookie with a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate. The larger size taaitaais are called "taaipop", i.e. taai doll. But in older days, as I learned by reading Dutch writer and poet Jan Ter Gouw (1814-1894), "Taaitaai, sweet as syrup, tough as leather and as brown as old sealing wax, was baked in a variety of shapes". Male and female dolls for the young people, shaped as a church for the religous folks, large hogs for grandpas and cat-shaped for grandmas, all richly decorated and sometimes even covered in gold leaf. Young men would gift a decorated taai-taai doll to a girl they were interested in marrying. The doll would be carved in the dough before baking and outfitted with elements and symbols referring to the pursuer's trade. These dolls were called "vrijers" or "lovers". The young man would return the next day: if the "vrijer" had been eaten, the girl accepted the proposal. If not....well, move on to the next one!

Most children that celebrate Sinterklaas are too young to be bothered with vrijers, but as adults it might be a fun tradition to continue.

Prepare the dough preferably a couple of days beforehand: the spices will be able to blend and provide a wonderful flavor. As with so many Dutch recipes, the ingredients are few so top quality is key!

Taai-taai
2 cups of self-rising flour
1/3 cup of honey
2 tablespoons of pancake syrup
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground aniseed
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
1 egg

Warm the honey and the pancake syrup until they are easily pourable. Add all the spices and the salt to the flour, pour in the honey/syrup mix and knead into a flexible, non-sticky dough. (You may have to add some water, one tablespoon at a time, to achieve this.) Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for several hours or, preferably, a day or two.

Lightly dust the counter with flour. Roll out the dough about half an inch high and cut out the shapes. I used gingerbread men. Heat the oven to 350F, place a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet and transfer your cookies. Brush with beaten egg and bake for approximately 20-25 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Taaitaai dolls, the Dutch "Chewy Louies"

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Gevulde Speculaas

Three nights from now, Holland will be celebrating Saint Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. About a week before December 5th, children all over the country will place one of their shoes, filled with hay, a carrot or a handwritten letter, by whatever heating system the house possesses: a fireplace, gas furnace or central heating system. Why? Because at night, Saint Nicholas is supposedly roaming the roofs on his white horse Amerigo and has his helpers, Black Petes, go down the chimney to retrieve the gifts for the horse or the letter addressed to him. The letter usually contains the customary requests for presents and the assurance that the writer of the epistle had been an obedient, kind and pleasant child all year long. In exchange for Amerigo's goodies and the letter, Black Pete usually leaves a small piece of candy or fruit.


Courtesy of Sint.nl
On December 5th, the family gathers in the living room after dinner, children sing Sinterklaas songs at the chimney and at one particular time of the evening, there is knocking on the door. Knock-knock-knock! Any child that has been a pain in the neck to his parents all year and has a minute bit of a conscience will now be, if not fully in tears, at least in some type of panic. The person knocking on the door is ofcourse Sinterklaas. He is here to deliver presents to the kids that have been good all year. If you're lucky, the old saint is so busy that, upon opening the door, all you find is a big bag of wrapped gifts. But if you have vengative parents or a miffed neighbor, you will find the actual saint standing there with his helpers. At this point, any kid worth his weight will regret all the mischief from the last year: after all, Saint Nicholas has a big book that has every thought, action or word recorded and there will be no point in denying it. Oh boy!

Children that have been naugthy will be put in the, now empty, gift bag and taken to Madrid in Spain, where Sinterklaas lives the rest of the year. What happens to them there is unknown. Many a smart alec will try to trump Sint and say that he'll be glad to go to Spain: the weather is nice year round and he wouldn't have to share a room with his sister.

I honestly don't know why we believed such drivel as children: any kid will at one point in time wonder how the horse gets up on the roof, much less stay there, how Black Pete can climb down the gas furnace, get all your stuff and then make it back up again without leaving any kind of charred evidence, why Sinterklaas bothers to travel all the way from Madrid on a steamboat and doesn't take an airplane like everybody else (and even more, how does he do it, since there is no direct waterway connected to the ocean from there) and why Sinterklaas looks and sounds so much like Uncle Steve. It must be because, eventually, we figured out that the adults amuse themselves so much with the anticipation, the hiding of the presents and the playing of Sinterklaas, that as a child, you don't have the heart to tell 'm that they're insulting your intelligence. You''ll play along as long as you get what you asked for. And you know you will, because it's been weeks since you found the wrapped gifts hidden away in the hall closet and you've undone one corner of each package to see what you were getting. Score!

In the meantime, grandma and granda sit back on the couch, drink a cup of hot chocolate or something stronger, and help themselves to another slice of gevulde speculaas. It's the traditional baked good for these festive days and although it is pretty much available year round, it still seems to trigger that Sinterklaas-feeling around this time of year.

Gevulde Speculaas
For the dough
2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
1 cup brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1 stick and 2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg yolk

For the filling*
1 cup of almonds, whole
1 cup of powdered sugar, packed
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon of almond flavoring

Pour two cups of boiling water over the almonds and let them sit for about fifteen minutes. Rinse the nuts with cold water, and slip off the brown skin. Save twelve half almonds for decorating. Put the almonds in a blender and pulse several times until they have a wet sand consistency, that should take only a few pulses. Place the almond meal in a bowl, stir in the sugar, the egg white and the almond extract. You should have a creamy, spreadable consistency. If not, add in a little bit of the yolk (beat it first) at a time until you do. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix the flour, the speculaas spices, the sugar and salt. Cut in the butter with two knives until the butter is reduced to pebbles and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the milk and the egg yolk and knead the dough until it comes together. Pat into ball, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.

Divide the dough in two parts. Grease a 9" pie pan or springform and roll out the first dough. Cover the bottom and the sides of the pan. Spread the almond paste over the dough, roll out the second dough and cover the filling and the edges of the pie form.

Brush with the remaining egg yolk, place the 12 almond halves on the pie and bake at 325F for about 35 minutes until done. Let it cool before taking it out of the spring form, then carefully slice into 12 pieces and serve.



Saturday, November 27, 2010

Arnhemse Meisjes

Arnhem is, no doubt, mostly known for its role during the Second World War. The movie "A Bridge Too Far" with some of the world's best actors (Sean Connery, Michael Cain, James Caan, Anthony Hopkins, Ryan O'Neal, Robert Redford, Elliot Gould, Gene Hackman) and directed by Richard Attenborough, chronicles the events around Operation Market Garden.

But even before the bridge, and the actors, and the movie and that horrible war, there was something else that was unique to Arnhem: its girls. Noooo, not those kind of girls. A light, sugary, flaky cookie called Arnhemse Meisjes, or Arnhem Girls. Maybe because the girls were sweet and eh....flaky? I don't know. I've never met anybody from Arnhem, to my knowledge, so I have no opinion on the matter.

Its cookies however....They became famous because Roald Dahl, the writer, once stopped in Arnhem on a book signing tour. While he signed away, he was offered coffee and a cookie. He kept eating and eating (thereby dispelling the terrible myth that the Dutch are so tight-fisted that they will only serve you one cookie and then hit the lid on the cookie jar), and fell in love with the cookie. When he was done (signing or eating, I'm not sure) he expressed his admiration for the cookie and said it was the best cookie in the world. Well! Either way, he obtained the recipe from the local baker and it was published in his book  "Roald Dahl's Cookbook".

Nowadays, there is only one official Arnhemse Meisjes baker: bakery Jurjus in Arnhem. These cookies stem from 1829 when baker Hagdorn was busy inventing new cookies that would do well at parties and festivities. One day, he made a cookie in the shape of a shoe sole, sugared it and baked it, and hey presto! the Arnhem Girls were born. The slightly flaky yeast dough pairs nicely with the sugary topping. It is an easy cookie to make and will delight many!

Arnhemse Meisjes
1 full cup of all-purpose flour (approx. 150gr)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup of milk, warm (but not hot!)
1/4 teaspoon of active dry yeast
4 drops of lemon juice
1 stick of butter, room temperature
Sugar

Mix the flour and the salt, stir the yeast in with the warm milk and let it sit for a couple of minutes so the yeast can be activated. Stir the milk and yeast into the flour, add the lemon juice and stir again. Now add the butter in small amounts while you knead/stir until everything comes together. Shape the dough into a sausage, wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Take out the dough and divide it into equal pieces, little less than 1oz or 20 gr each. The recipe above should give you approximately 16 cookies. Roll each piece into a small ball. Pour several tablespoons of sugar on the counter and roll the dough balls through the sugar. Wrap and refrigerate. Turn on the oven to 350F.

Retrieve the sugary dough balls from the fridge. Place a dough ball on top of the sugary counter and use a rolling pin to roll each ball into an oval shape, about 3 inches long. Turn it over and press the cookie into the sugar, making sure that both sides are well covered. Place each cookie on a silicone mat or parchment paper on a baking sheet. When all cookies are made, sprinkle the remaining sugar over the cookies and bake them golden in approximately 20 to 25 minutes.

The cookies will puff up, the sugar will caramelize and you will have a wonderful and unique cookie to serve with coffee.



Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Schoenlapperstaart (Cobbler's Pie)

De Verstandige Kock’ ("The Sensible Cook") was first published in 1667 in Amsterdam. A rather thin cookbook, it contained recipes for the average citizen, not wealthy but not overly poor either. Its last print was from 1802. For those that do not read Dutch, there is help as the book was translated by Peter Rose in 1998. It contains a myriad of recipes and historical facts about the way the Dutch cooked and how it impacted the Dutch settlements in the Hudson Valley.

I've copied below the original text that belongs to the recipe I made today, a centuries old but still popular dish in the Netherlands.

"Om een schoenmakerstaert te backen: Neemt suere Appels, schildtse, aen stucken gesneden en gaar gekoockt, wrijft die kleyn, neemt dan boter, Suycker, en Corenten, yder na zijn believen, en dat samen met 4 à 5 eyeren daer in gheroert, neemt dan geraspt Tarwenbroot, en doet dat onder in een schootel, daer op u Appelen geleght, doeter weer geraspt Tarwenbroot boven over, en deckt dan toe met een decksel van een Taertpanne, en vuur daer op gheleght, maeckt een goede korste."

(To bake a cobbler's pie: take sour apples, peel them, cut them in pieces and boil them until soft, mash them, take butter, sugar and raisins as much as you please, and mix this with 4 or five eggs, take shredded wheat bread, and put it on the bottom of a dish, put the apples on top, cover it again with shredded wheat bread and cover it with the lid of a pie dish, on which you place coals, makes a good crust).

I guess punctuation was not that big of a deal in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, we use rusks (beschuiten) or in my case, panko, the japanese variant of breadcrumbs, instead of "shredded wheat bread". I much prefer panko for sweet dishes like these, as it's lighter, a little sweeter and is closest to the rusk crumb. To this dish you can add raisins if you wish, or a pinch of cinnamon, ginger, cardamom....it's a great dish to experiment with. For those that don't want the sugar, the pie holds its own made with a sugar-substitute as well.

Now, why is it called a cobbler's pie? Many have ventured a guess, but nobody so far has been able to give a valid explanation. But it's a wonderful, light dish to finish a meal with, or to accompany a hot cup of coffee or tea, mid-morning. And maybe that's something a hard working cobbler can appreciate as well.

Schoenlapperstaart
4 small apples
1/2 cup of water
1/2 stick of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla
3 eggs, separated
1 cup panko or breadcrumbs

Peel, core and cut the apples in small pieces. Place them in a saucepan with the water, the butter, sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil, stir well, then simmer until the apples are done and you can mash it into apple sauce.

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolks and the panko with the apple mixture, then carefully spoon the egg whites through the mix. Don't overmix it, as you want to keep the air in the egg whites!

Grease a pie pan, heat the oven to 350F, carefully pour the apple batter into the dish, and bake for about 50 minutes. Cool, dust with powdered sugar (if you like) and cut into large slices.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jodenkoeken

The Dutch have a huge cookie culture. The shelves in the grocery store are loaded with sugary breads, cookies, tarts and every other product that can be eaten with a cup of coffee or tea. It is said that the Dutch will only offer you one cookie with your hot beverage, as they are so tight-fisted, but I have yet to experience that. Most hosts just leave the cookie jar on the table and invite you to help yourself.

A traditional Jodenkoeken cookie can.
Beside the coloring, flavors and shapes of the cookies, the most memorable are without a doubt their names: bokkepootjes (billygoat's legs), kletskop (bald head or chatterbox), Weesper moppen (blobs from Weesp), Arnhemse meisjes (girls from Arnhem), ijzerkoekjes (iron cookies), lange vingers (long fingers) or kattetongen (cat tongues). Another cookie with a huge following is the so-called "jodekoek" or Jewish cookies.

The story goes that Davelaar, a cookie baker, bought a bakery from a retiring Jewish baker in the early 1920. The bakery was famous for these large, sweet and buttery cookies and Davelaar continued to bake them, selling them in metal cookie cans and charging a deposit. During the seventies, the name of the cookie was considered not-politically-correct and Davelaar changed it for the export cookies, but never did for the national market. To this day it's called "Jodekoek" or Jewish cookie.

The size of the cookie is most remarkable, it measures a whopping 3.5 inches across. Not very impressive for an American cookie, but most certainly for a Dutch one. The ingredients are few but come together wonderfully as a sandy, buttery cookie: do make sure you use top quality ingredients.

Jodekoek
1 stick of butter, room temperature
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
1 cup of self-rising flour, packed

Cream the butter and the sugar. Add the milk, the cinnamon and the sugar. Knead the flour into the mix, blending all the ingredients. Wrap in foil and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Dust the counter with flour and roll the dough thin, about 1/4th of an inch or less. Cut out the cookies with the help of a canning ring for widemouth jars, it's the right size. Place the cookies on parchment paper on a sheet pan and bake for approximately 15 minutes until golden brown. The last few minutes you may want to keep an eye on the cookies as they "over-brown" rather quickly.

Enjoy with a cup of hot tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sint Maarten Wafels (St Martin Waffles)

November 11th is an important date in Holland. For children, it marks St. Maarten's day, the day kids venture out in the evening carrying small candles in paper lanterns to sing songs at each door and get candy or fruit in return.

Prince Carnaval 1973
For the grownups, "the eleventh of the eleventh" at 11:11am initiates the beginning of the famous Carnaval season. It is the day that the new Prince Carnaval is elected, who in turn announces his "adjudant" or helper, and the "Raad van Elf", the eleven organizers who will be tasked with setting up parties, parades and ofcourse, determine the theme of this year's carnaval. The number 11 has, since old times, been the number for fools and simpletons.

But back to St. Maarten, one of the most recognizable saints in Catholicism. For him November 11 wasn't such a good day, as that is the day he was buried. On his way to somewhere, St Maarten saw a poor beggar by the side of the road who needed protection from the cold. St. Maarten cut his coat in two and gave the man one half, later having a vision about Jesus wearing half of his cape. The next day, when he woke up, the cape was miraculously restored.

Whether this ritual was originally pagan (carrying lit candles or "holy" fire around the neighborhood at dark was part of a fertility ritual that was a widespread custom in Western Europe at the time) or traditionally religious in nature (on November 11, the reading of the Bible is verse 11:33 of the book of Luke, ""No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light."). Either way, it is a begging fest, much needed during the lacking winter months. It was definitely a festivity for the poor, as one song indicates:

Hier woont een rijk man,
Here lives a rich man
Die ons wat geven kan.
Give us something sure he can
Geef een appel of een peer:
Give an an apple or a pear
We komen ’t hele jaar niet meer.
We won't come around for another year

As with many things, these festivities usually find place in the southern, mostly Catholic, region of the country. The kids in the northern regions however have caught on to this free candy thing and now, too, stroll the dark nights. After having collected enough candy the kids gather with their parents at the town square where a huge bonfire is lit to celebrate the end of the evening. Most paper lanterns end up in the bonfire, and children are handed hot chocolate and waffles to warm up.

St Maarten Wafels
2 cups of self-rising flour
2 eggs
1 cup of milk, warm
1/2 stick of butter
Pinch of salt
Pinch of cinnamon

Mix the flour and the eggs, melt the butter in the warm milk, add the salt and cinnamon and beat everything together into a smooth batter. Heat up the waffle iron and bake waffles golden. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve warm.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Honingkoek (Honey Cake)

Breakfast is always a treat in Holland. The amount of cold cuts is amazing, the cheese is fabulous and the large variety of breads always makes it difficult to choose from. If you're not in the mood for bread, you can pick a beschuit, a cracker or a large slice of "breakfast cake" or ontbijtkoek.

Rye flour adds flavor and
color to peperkoek
Ontbijtkoek is a spicey cake-like bread. The enticing mix of cinnamon, ground cloves and nutmeg is the basis for a large variety of ontbijtkoeken, not all of which are solely for breakfast.  It can be sliced and eaten by itself or improved with a dab of real butter as a snack or with a cup of coffee. The texture is slightly moist and sticky. Ontbijtkoek is also known as peperkoek if it contains white pepper besides the traditional ingredients, honingkoek if it has an additional amount of honey, gemberkoek if the cake is studded with candied ginger or kandykoek when the top of the cake is covered in sugary pearls.

Today I was in the mood for honingkoek. It's an easy cake to bake, it fills the house with lovely smells and it's a perfect afternoon snack for a cold, wintery day such as today. Instead of baking a large loaf, I made two small ones. One goes in the freezer for later and one....eh...is gone already. If you wish to bake a large cake, just double the recipe but stick to one egg.

Honingkoek
2 cups of self-rising flour (250gr)
1/2 cup of brown sugar (75 gr)
1/2 cup of honey (75 gr)
1 cup of milk (120 ml)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground aniseed
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
1 egg

Grease a cake pan. Preheat oven to 350F. Add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix until you have a smooth batter, approx. 2 minutes. Pour into the pan, bake for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.


Cool on a wire rack. Slice, butter and enjoy!
Best saved in a plastic bag at room temperature, will keep for several days.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Boerencake met appel en kaneel (Cake with apple and cinnamon)

I don't know why the Dutch tend to add the prefix "boeren" (farmers) to food items that are larger than usual. Boerensoepgroenten (yes, that is a word!), or farmers soup vegetables, are the same vegetables as the traditional soepgroenten that consist of carrots, leeks and celeriac, but cut in larger chunks. The same with "boerencake": it's like any other cake, just larger. Odd. Maybe it's because the Dutch farmers work hard and need to eat more food?

On Sunday, my dear friend Naomi brought over a bucket full of apples to process. I ate some, baked with several others and am dehydrating the rest. Since the weather looks just like a typical Dutch fall weather (cold, rainy, dark) and I have not much else to do but watch the apples dry, I decided to bake a golden boerencake with some apples and cinnamon to bring a little bit of light into the kitchen. It worked!

It is important that your ingredients are at room temperature as it will improve the texture of the cake.

Boerencake
1 1/2 stick (200g) butter, room temperature
3/4 cup (150g) sugar
4 eggs, room temperature
pinch of salt
1/2 cup (60g) milk, room temperature
1/2 lemon, zest and juice
1 1/2 cup (200g) self-rising flour, room temperature
2 apples
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon sugar

Cream the butter and the sugar until they've formed a cohesive, fluffy mass. Add the eggs, one by one, until all absorbed. Add the lemon zest, half of the milk and half of the flour with the mixer on low. Make sure there are no lumpy bits. Now add the rest of the milk and the flour (keep one tablespoon), one tablespoon at a time until everything's well mixed. Now mix to beat air into the mixture for a good five minutes on medium speed.

Peel and dice the apples, toss with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and one tablespoon of flour and fold into the batter. Grease the cake form, spoon the cake batter into the form and bake on the middle rack in an 350F (175C) oven, for about an hour until golden, or until a toothpick comes out clean.



Invert onto a rack, turn over and cool before slicing. I like to use half fresh, half dehydrated apples for this recipe.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Arretje's cake

During the early years, before and after the war, companies in Holland realized that one way of reaching into the tightly pinched pockets of the Dutch housewife was through the hearts (or the constant whining) of her children. Marketing companies invented mascots, fictitious people and fantasy figures to distinguish their company from other ones, and promoted their products in marketing materials such as booklets, cartoons, radio ads and even short movies. Especially the cartoons were very popular among the younger kids, and if you happened to own some, you could be assured of plenty of attention!

Flipje is sharing Betuwe goodies
with his friends.
Image from
www.levensmiddelenkrant.nl/
Piet Pelle was a fictitious young man who rolled into one exciting adventure after the other on his Gazelle bicycle. Flipje from the Betuwe, a fertile fruit growing region in the Netherlands, was something akin of a young man, with a human head, the body of a raspberry and limbs made out of currants. His head was adorned with a chef's hat and he would always end his adventures with a party, inviting everybody to eat copious amounts of jam, fruit juice and other fruit related products that, oh coincidence, all came from the Betuwe region. Joris Driepinter, Joe ThreePints, was the figure for the dairy industry, showing that by drinking three glasses of milk a day, you would have enough strength to even lift up a car. Okay.

Arretje Nof was another one of those concoctions of the marketing agencies. The Nederlandse Olie Fabriek (Dutch Oil Factory, or NOF) published regularly booklets about the adventures of a young Arab boy called Arretje-NOF. The cartoons could be purchased by saving coupons with points that were printed on the packaging of NOF products. Not many remember the cartoons but the one thing that, to this day, appears prominently in traditional Dutch desserts is the so-called Arretje's Cake.

The NOF board butchered a beautiful Italian recipe for chocolate salami, stripped it from all quality ingredients and replaced it with affordable items that were easy to find for the Dutch cook: margarine (which the NOF happened to produce in large quantities), dry cookies, sugar and cocoa powder instead of butter, luxury cookies and quality chocolate. Nevertheless, the Arretje's cake (presumably named because that's what Arretje celebrated his birthday with) became a huge success in Holland and has become one of those indelible memories of treats that grandmas make for their grandchildren.

Is it tasty? Most say that they love this no-bake cake. You can hardly go wrong with sugar, cookies, chocolate and butter. Try for yourself and see what you think! The original recipe calls for shortening but margarine, or even butter ("real butter" as the Dutch say) is more commonly used.

Arretje's Cake
2 sticks of margarine
About 60 dry cookies
1 1/2 cup of sugar
3 tablespoons of cacao powder
1 egg (or a splash of milk, if you don't want to consume possibly raw egg)

Melt the margarine slowly, until just melted. Mix the sugar, cacao and egg in a separate bowl, carefully stir in the margarine until you have a thick chocolatey paste. Smash the cookies into small bits, add them to the chocolate and stir until everything's well mixed. Line a cake form with plastic film, pour in the cake batter and pat down to remove all air bubbles. Cover and refrigerate for 24 hours, then cut thin slices of the cake with a wet knife. This cake is extremely rich!

Monday, October 4, 2010

We're expanding!

Dear readers,
Believe it or not, but Dutch cuisine is gaining momentum in the culinary world! Because of the incredible interest that has been shown in Dutch baking, we've expanded and added a new site: My Dutch Cooking Blog! Remember hutspot, kaantjes, erwtensoep? Always wanted to know how to make bitterballen?
Recipes will soon be posted!
Kind regards en tot ziens!
Nicole

Friday, September 10, 2010

Appelbollen (Dutch Apple Dumplings)

Those of you that read my other blogs know that, these last several years, I've been picking fruit in local orchards around the valley for most of my cooking and canning. For one, the price you pay for fruits when you pick them is at least fifty to 70% cheaper than in the store. The fruit is also fresh off the tree so it still has all its vitamins and minerals and, on top of that, you support your local farmers. A win-win for all, and it's a fun day out for the family. 

Early summer is cherry time, mid summer is peach and plum time, and now that the weather is cooling down a bit the apples and pears are getting ready to be picked. Oh joy!! Apples play an important role in the Dutch kitchen: apple sauce is a standard condiment for many potato-based dishes (ever tried French fries with mayo and apple sauce? Don't knock it before you try it, it's the way Dutch children eat their fries) and a key ingredient in potato salad, Hete Bliksem (mashed apples and potatoes) and ofcourse in desserts: Dutch apple pie, apple beignets and the old-fashioned Dutch apple dumpling, the appelbol. Sweet, firm apples in a puff pastry cover and filled with soaked raisins and walnuts.....What a delight! You want a firm apple for this dessert: I used a Golden Delicious that Capucine picked for me, but a Jonagold or a Braeburn will do just as well.

Probably not a coincidence that these dishes do best in a wintery, cold setting. The appelbol is more often than not a sugary treat with morning coffee, a sweet ending to a long, windy walk along the beach or together with a cup of hot chocolate after ice skating on the canals. Appelbollen are usually served warm and without any additional adornments such as whipped cream, but the last several years people have been adding warm custard or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's all good!

You can buy the puff pastry, but it's easy enough to make it yourself in case your store does not carry it or charges an exorbitant price. Here's a link to an easy recipe for home made puff pastry dough.

Appelbollen
4 medium sized apples
4 tablespoons of golden and red raisins, mixed
1 tablespoon of walnut pieces, small
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoon of demerara sugar, divided (or use plain sugar)
4 tablespoons of apple juice or rum
4 puff pastry squares
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon of water

Preheat the oven to 375F. Wash the apples and core, but do not peel. Mix the raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar and add the apple juice or rum. Set aside and soak for a couple of minutes, then fill each apple with the mixture.

Set each apple, top side down on a square piece of puff pastry and wrap the apple. Make sure all sides are covered and clinging to the apple. If you have some extra dough left, you can make stems and leaves and wrap the apple with an additional decorative something or other, but it's not necessary. Place each apple in a buttered ramekin, smooth side up. Make an egg wash with the yolks and the water, and brush on the dough. Sprinkle all four apples with the remaining sugar. Bake golden brown in 20-25 minutes.

Eat warm!



Saturday, September 4, 2010

Oranjekoek (Frisian Orange cake)

Originally a Frisian wedding delicacy, this treat studded with candied orange peel and spices is a delight to the tastebuds. Nobody quite knows where and how it originated, and why it's called Oranjekoek if the frosting is pink, but who knows.. (oranje means "orange" as in the color, not the fruit.)

The House of Orange-Nassau, the aristocratic dynasty from which our royal family stems, lent the colorful addition to our country's current three colored flag: red, white and blue, with a separate vane in bright orange to show loyalty to the royal family. During international sporting events, you can recognize the Dutch supporters by their orange outfits, wigs and other sports-related items.

But back to the Oranjekoek. The original version is a single layer cookie/cake, frosted with a pink glaze. The dough contains crushed aniseed (gestampte muisjes) and nutmeg and is, combined with the sweetness of the glaze, a great addition to your morning coffee or afternoon tea. More recent versions of the cake contain two layers, separated by a filling of almond paste and a swirl of whipped cream on top. I've chosen to bake the single layer cake, but did add a bit of whipped cream and some finely chopped candied orange peel, for looks. The koek is originally served in squares and because of its cookie texture is easily picked up by hand and eaten as a cookie, rather than a cake. It will keep great in lunch boxes or cookie jars. Because of its slightly dry nature, it goes well with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

Oranjekoek
1 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter, cold and cubed
Pinch of salt
1 medium egg
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground aniseed or 1/4 tsp anise extract
zest from one medium orange
cup ground aniseed or anise extract
1/4 cup of candied orange peel
Ice cold water

For the glaze:
Powdered sugar
Blueberry juice

Mix the flour, sugar and salt together, then add the butter in small chunks. Keep mixing while you add the egg, nutmeg, aniseed and zest. Add a tablespoon at a time of ice cold water to knead into a stiff dough. Fold in the orange peel. Heat the oven to 375F. Grease a baking pan or baking sheet, shape the dough into a rectangle, square or pat it into the baking pan (allow for about an inch height). Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake is done. Let it rest in the pan for about five minutes, then cool on a rack.

When the cake is completely cooled, turn it over and glaze the flat side with a glaze made of powdered sugar and blueberry juice. You can also use red coloring. Let the glaze dry for at least an hour. Cut into squares, pipe some whipped cream on top and decorate with candied orange peel, or serve just as is. You can wear an orange hat if you want to :-)



Thursday, August 19, 2010

Stroopwafels (Dutch Caramel Waffles)

Some things you just don't try at home. It's either too much work, or your palate and mind are so accustomed to a certain (industrialized) flavor that, even if you are willing to go through the trouble of baking yourself, you are never entirely satisfied with the result..... It tastes alright, but it just doesn't have that.... hmmm ....factory-mass-produced-riddled-with-preservatives-kind-of-flavor, you know?

So too, I thought, with the ultra-traditional Dutch stroopwafel. Homemade ones are hard to come by because it's so much easier to grab a packet of ten at the store when you're grocery shopping. But for those of us that grew up in Holland, the sweet perfume of stroopwafels baked fresh at the local market is engrained in our smell-cells. Once a whiff of it hits our nose we follow its lure, much like the Hamelin rats, that leads us to the small waffle cart where a line of salivating children and adults patiently waits their turn. After seeing a waffle cone machine for sale on our local Craigslist I had stroopwafels on my mind........so I purchased the waffle maker, went to work and am pleased to say that the flavor surpasses the factory-made ones! Here is the result!



If you have Dutch friends but have never heard of, or tried stroopwafels, your friends have been holding out on you. Expats jealously guard their stash of stroopwafels, right next to the loot of fruit hail, chocolate flakes and stomped mice. Dutch food is not easy to get a hold off and visitors from abroad will often haul tons of packages of the caramel filled cookies, guaranteeing a warm welcome and a tolerance towards an extended stay.

A stroopwafel is a combination of two cookies and a caramel center. It is said to have originated in the city of Gouda. Since Gouda is also famous for its wonderful cheese, I'll go with that. The Goudese obviously have great taste! The cookies are best when eaten lukewarm, warmed up while resting on the rim of a cup of coffee or tea. Easy to make, stroopwafels will delight everybody in your family, Dutch or not!

Stroopwafels
For the dough
4 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 scant teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup of white sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1/2 cup of warm water
2 large eggs
pinch of salt

In a kitchen mixer, mix the flour, yeast, cinnamon and sugar and cut in the butter until it resembles small pellets. Slowly pour in the warm water and allow the dough to start coming together, then add the eggs one at a time. Finally add the pinch of salt and knead the dough for a minute or two until it's nice and solid.

Cover and rest for 30 minutes.

For the caramel
1 cup of brown sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons of pancake syrup
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract

Melt the sugar and the butter, stirring slowly over a low heat. Add the cinnamon and the pancake syrup and continue to stir until the caramel comes together and slowly bubbles. Keep stirring because at this stage it's easy to burn! Make sure all the sugar has dissolved and your caramel is nice and creamy (Do not try to lick it from the spoon because you'll burn your tongue!) then add the vanilla extract and blend it in. Keep the caramel warm.

Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. It's easiest to weigh the total dough and divide by 20, the pieces should come out at approximately 50 grams each. Roll them into small marbles and cover with a damp cloth, you don't want them to dry out while you're baking!

Heat your waffle cone machine or your pizzelle iron according to instructions. Place one dough ball in the middle, press down the top lid and bake each waffle for approximately 40 seconds. Check to see if it's browned nicely and a little puffed up, remove it from the machine and place it on a flat surface.

Now you have to work fast. As long as the waffle cookie is hot, it's pliable. The moment it cools, it will break on you so make sure you have all the items you need within reach.

Place your hand on top of the cookie and slice it horizontally in two. (If it's too hot, use a pot holder). Since the yeast made the cookie puff up a little bit, this should be easy to do with a sharp, non-serrated knife. Place a generous size dollop of gooey caramel on top of the bottom cookie, replace the top part and gently push down on it so that the caramel spreads. Pick up carefully and put on a rack to cool off, and put the next dough ball in the waffle maker. You'll soon get the hang of it!

Many will cut the edges off the cookie so that it is a uniform and nice round shape. I'm not that particular for home use so I just left them as it was, but did cut some into flowers to have with my afternoon coffee.


Saturday, May 1, 2010

Krentenbollen for Queen's Day! (Dutch Raisin Rolls)

Hip hip hurray, it's Queen's Day! In Holland, every April 30th we celebrate old queen Juliana's birthday with lots of flea markets, orange pastries and, for those so inclined, lots of beer. I haven't celebrated this yearly holiday for over 10 years and only remember it because it's also my brother Lucas's birthday.

But I did want to do something festive and Dutch and even if it wasn't an orange pastry, I did want it to have at least an orange tint to it. Lien from Notitie van Lien baked wonderful krentenbollen, or raisin buns, for BBD#28 last month and I was dying to try them.

I remember eating krentenbollen as a child. I was not particularly fond of them but would eat them anyway: my love for all things bread would always win, even though the raisins made the bread feel moist and gooey and every now and then you'd hit a bitter, burnt raisin. My mom would pack one with butter for school or we'd get them on Sundays as a special treat for breakfast.

After I moved away from Holland, it was never a food that I craved but it's so typically Dutch that I feel the need to bake them for this Queen's Day. So put on your tiaras, wear something orange and let's bake!

Krentenbollen
3.5 cups flour (or 500 gram)
1 tsp salt
3 tsp dry instant yeast
1 cup milk, luke warm
1 egg
1/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons soft butter
1/2 tsp grated orange peel
1/2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 cups of dark raisins
1 cup of currants*
3/4 cup of chopped dried apple

1 medium egg, whisked (to glaze)

Mix the egg with the milk, yeast and 300 g flour. Add sugar, butter, grated zests and the rest of the flour, stir until all flour is moist. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes.

Knead the mixture to a supple dough (in machine or by hand). If you knead by hand you can knead in the filling immediately. If you knead with the machine, first make a supple dough, then work in the filling by hand, so the raisins/currants won't break up.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let stand in a warm spot for 45 minutes.

Divide the dough in 12-18 equal pieces, shape into rolls and flatten them a bit. Place on a baking sheet covered with baking parchment, cover with greased plastic and let rise again for 1 - 1,5 hours.

In the meantime preheat the oven to 400°F.

Brush the rolls with the beaten egg and bake them for about 15 minutes (depending on the amount/size you made them) until light golden and done. Let them cool on a wire rack.

(adapted from "Kleine broodjes van ver & dichtbij"- I. Berentschot)



* if you can't find currants, just alternate golden raisins with red raisins. I soaked my raisins in warm water before adding them to the dough. You may want to adjust your water/flour ratio if you do or don't.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Paashaasjes (Easter Bunny Rolls)

I was supposed to be working in the garden today. My mind was all made up: I was going to re-pot the tomatoes and peppers so that they could stretch their toes a bit, I was going to rake the leaves towards the fence and if the weather would warm up just the slightest bit, I was determined to move four of my raised beds so that I could make some adjustments planting-wise. Yeah.....never did happen. The moment I was ready to step out the back door, brimming with sugar-induced confidence, it started raining. Hard.

All this pent-up energy had to go somewhere, so I turned to my baking books and decided that something had to give. After my first gluten-free disaster (not the last one, I presume) I wanted to bake something easy, quick and given that it's Easter this weekend, I looked for something Easter-ey. And I found it! Cute little Easter bunnies, clutching an egg in their bready little paws, with raisins for eyes, stared at me from my old Albert Heijn cookbook. "Bake me, bake me!" they seemed to say. Oh well, I've always been a sucker for rabbit, so here goes....

Paashaasjes (Easter Bunnies)
4 1/2 cups of flour
1 cup of warm water
1/2 cup of buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon of salt
6 small eggs
1 egg, beaten

Mix the flour with the warm water and the buttermilk, sprinkle the yeast on top and knead. Add the salt and continue to knead until the dough comes together. Cover and rest in a greased bowl, rise until double. Punch down and divide into six equal parts. Relax the dough for five minutes, then roll into rectangles of approximately 7 to 8 inches tall. With a sharp knife, make a cut of about two inches length-wise in the top and in the bottom part of the dough: those will be the ears and legs. Put three raisins (two for the eyes, one for the nose) where the face is going to be and make a cut on each side of the dough to form the cheeks of his face. Stretch both of those cuts, put an egg on its tummy (somewhere between the chin and the beginning of the legs) and fold the dough over, like arms. You may have to shape the dough a bit into a "bunny" shape. Place the bunnies on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Brush the dough with egg wash, cover and let rise in a warm place until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until golden.


Yup, there are only three. Because I am not creative this way at all and after making three of these odd creatures, I decided to bake an egg braid with the rest of the dough. Check it out here: http://breadbutterandbuns.blogspot.com/2010/04/easter-bread.html