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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Tompoes (Napoleon)

The tompouce, or tompoes, is a traditional Dutch pastry that is often served with afternoon coffee or at celebratory events like birthdays. It's similar to what's known as a Napoleon here in the United States, Napoleonbakelse in Sweden and Finland, and Napoleon-cake in Norway and Denmark. In Holland and Belgium it is called a tompoes, or tompouce (Tom Thumb). The odd coincidence that both Napoleon (Bonaparte) and Tom Thumb were vertically challenged may not be such a coincidence after all, but I would have to look into that a little further. Other countries, with perhaps less inclination towards fairy tale or historic nomenclature, just call the pastries custard or vanilla slices. What sets the Dutch variety apart is the sickeningly sweet Peptobismol-esque pink icing, often topped with a complimentary white stripe of whipped cream, as if the caloric content from the pastry itself was not enough.

It's a pastry that is much favored by all and, as the national sense of humor dictates, is the traditional choice for being served when one is visiting with one's family inlaws for the first time or when one has to make a good impression of oneself and is now challenged with having to eat a pastry that is going to fall to pieces the moment one bites into one end. Both the tompoes and the Bossche Bol, which I'll bake sometime soon, are the two top pastries that are a devil to eat, either by hand or with cutlery, without making an absolute mess.

But in case you were in a situation where manners do not matter, the easiest way to consume this lovely baked good is to grab the bottom layer firmly between thumb and index and attack it, one bite at a time, short side first.

1 cup of milk
1 vanilla bean (or 1 tablespoon of vanilla flavoring)
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of flour
pinch of salt
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten

Warm the milk, add the vanilla bean and steep for 15 minutes. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar, add the salt and add flour, one tablespoon. Stir until creamy.

Take the vanilla bean out of the milk, open it up and scrape out the seeds (or add the vanilla essence to the milk) and stir. Take one tablespoon of warm milk and stir it into the egg yolk mix, then stir in the rest of the flour. Carefully stir all this back into the warm milk into the pan, put it back on a low heat and stir until it becomes a thick mass. Take off the stove and cover with a piece of plastic, to avoid forming a skin when it cools down.

Heat the oven to 400F. Spray a baking sheet or pan with cooking spray. Cut the puff pastry sheet in 4 equal rectangular sections and place them on the baking sheet. Brush the top with the beaten egg and bake for fifteen minutes, or until the dough has puffed up and is golden brown. Remove from the oven, and taking care not to burn your fingers, quickly and carefully pull the top from the bottom sheet. Set all eight pieces aside on a rack to cool.

For the icing
3 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
2 teaspoons of milk
1 drop of red food coloring

Mix the sugar with one teaspoon of milk and the food coloring. Stir until blended, then add the remaining milk to make a quick icing.

Take the bottom part of one of the baked puff pastries and spread the cooled down vanilla cream on it. Top it with its corresponding top half of the pastry. When all four are done, carefully spread the pink icing on top: let it dry and eat!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Appeltaart (Dutch Apple Pie)

With all due respect, the apple pies sold as Dutch apple pie here in the United States are wonderful......but not very Dutch. I'm actually not entirely sure why they're called Dutch, something to look into. Perhaps it stems from the Pennsylvania Dutch, which aren't actually Dutch at all, but Deutsch which means "German". Eh...yeah....that's a whole other can of worms I really don't want to get into :-)

The dough is made with butter and eggs and the apples are flavored with lemon juice and speculaas spices. It's usually baked in a springform and shows the filling through an elaborate lattice cover. It's seems like a lot of work, but trust me: it's so worth it!

Grandmother's Apple Pie
For the dough
2 cups of all purpose flour
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1.5 stick of butter, cold
2 tablespoons of ice water
2 egg yolks, divided
1/2 teaspoon of salt

Mix the flour with the sugar and cut in the butter until the flour turns into small pea-size pellets. Add 1 tablespoon of ice water, one egg yolk and the salt and quickly knead the dough into a cohesive whole. Add more ice water if the dough is too dry. Pat into an oval, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For the filling
6 small apples, peeled and cored
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 cup of golden raisins, soaked*
1 tablespoon of speculaas spices
2 tablespoons of cream of wheat
1/4 cup of sugar
2 slices of white bread

Quarter the apples and slice them. Toss them with the lemon juice, raisins, speculaas spices, cream of wheat and sugar. Set aside. Cut the crust off the bread and cut it into small cubes.

Butter a springform. Take the dough out of the refrigerator and remove 1/5th of the dough. Roll the rest into a large circle and line the form with the dough. Do not crimp. Put the bread cubes on the bottom of the dough, pour in the apple mix. It's okay to push it down so as to fit more. Now remove 1/4th of the leftover dough, roll the rest out and cut into 6 strips. Place three strips crossing from left to right, the other three from right to left. Press lightly where the strip connects with the pie dough. Now roll the last piece of dough to form a rope the length of the springform's circumference. Place the rope all around the pie, covering the lattice strip ends and press down to flatten the rope. Brush everything with the egg yolk and bake in an 350F degree oven for approximately 75 minutes.

I baked eight one serving pies instead of one big one with this batch. Seven went into the freezer and one was saved for the picture. Well......one half of one, I guess, I have to be quick around this place!

* Soak the raisins in warm apple juice or, if you're so inclined, in a bit of rum. Lovely!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Fryske Sûkerbôle (Frisian Sugar Loaf)

Sûkerbôle or suikerbrood is a traditional bread from the northern province of Friesland, in Holland. Other provinces such as Limburg and Brabant have a similar recipe for sugary bread loafs but what makes it Frisian is the high amount of sugar. In comparison to other regional recipes, Frisians use twice as much sugar.

The sûkerbôle was often given to a new mother to celebrate the arrival of a baby-girl; for baby-boys it was a raisin cake.

The sugar used for this recipe is called pearl sugar and hard to find in a regular store. Crushed up sugar cubes are a good substitute: add half a cup of cubes to a towel, fold it and whack it with a rolling pin. Not too hard! You want to have sugar lumps, not finely ground sugar. Handfold these lumps in the dough after the first rise.

Fryske Sûkerbôle
4 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 stick of butter, melted
pinch of salt
3/4 cup of warm milk
1 teaspoon of dry active yeast
3 tablespoons of ginger syrup*
2 eggs
1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 cup of crushed sugar cubes plus one tablespoon, divided

Add the yeast to the warm milk. In a mixing bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Pour in the milk and yeast and mix together. Knead in the ginger syrup, the eggs one by one and 3/4s of melted butter until the dough forms a soft and flexible dough. Cover and rise until double its size.

On a lightly floured counter, roll out the dough in a square and cover with the sugar and the cinnamon. Now roll the dough into a loaf shape (first fold the sides towards each other, covering the sugar and cinnamon, then roll forward into a loaf). Butter the inside of a bread loaf pan heavily. Put a tablespoon of sugar in the pan and tilt it forward towards each side so that the sugar coats the whole inside. Place the loaf inside, seam down. Cover and rise for about 15 minutes, or until loaf peaks out from inside the pan.

In the meantime, heat your oven to 375F degrees. Brush the top of the loaf with the rest of the butter and spread the remainder of the sugar over the top. Bake for 30 minutes or until loaf is done. If the top browns too quickly, tent the loaf with aluminum foil.

Cool the loaf for about twenty minutes, then carefully loosen the bread from the pan: some of the sugar may have caused the bread to stick to the pan. Remove the loaf and continue to cool on a rack.

Awesome with a curl of real butter!

* If you don't have ginger syrup, don't worry. I boil a small piece of candied ginger and a tablespoon of sugar in a cup of water for a minute or two and let it steep overnight. Should be just fine!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Rijstevlaai (Rice Pie)

The history of "vlaai", or flat pies, is a long one. Initially discovered by the Germanic tribes, the story goes that they spread out dough on a hot stone and drizzled fruit juice or honey over it to make it more palatable. The dough, mind you, not the stone. Over the years, the dough was spread thinner and the amount of toppings became larger, and hey presto! they ended up with fruit pies. Whether it's true or not.......it doesn't really matter, does it? All that counts is that we have fabulous recipes for all kinds of pies!

The region I was born and raised in is called Limburg. Gastronomically one of the more interesting ones, Limburg is also famous for its "vlaaien" or pies. They're comparable to American pies although the dough is usually a yeast-based one instead of the pastry dough used here, and the pies tend to be more shallow. One of my most favorite pies is the "rice pie": a lovely creamy pie filled with a mixture similar to rice pudding. Oh the bliss!!


For the filling
2 cups and 4 tablespoons of milk
1/2 cup of pearl rice
1 egg, divided
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
2 tablespoons of sugar

For the dough
1 1/2 cup of flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
3 tablespoons of butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 egg
pinch of salt
3-4 tablespoons of milk

Wash the rice in cold water and rinse (you may have to do this up to three times until the water remains clear). Bring the milk and salt to a boil, add the rice and remain at a rolling boil until the rice is tender. Set aside and cool. Mix the egg yolk with the sugar and the vanilla, and beat the egg white into stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolk with the rice and when it is well blended, fold in the stiff egg white.

Butter a pie dish or metal pan. Mix the flour with the baking powder and the salt. Cut the butter into the flour, add the egg and the vanilla essence and knead into a soft and flexible dough. Add a tablespoon of milk at a time if needed. Roll the dough out into a circle slightly larger that the pie plate.

Heat your oven up to 390F. Line the pie pan with the dough, fold over and crimp into a nice edge. Spread the rice mix into the pie and bake to golden brown in approximately 40 minutes. Cool the pie in the pan for about 30 minutes, then remove and continue to cool on a rack.

Great served with whipped cream!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Oliebollen (Dutch Fried Dough Balls)

There must be something in the human psyche that makes us want to celebrate the ending of another year by eating copious amounts of rich foods and by stuffing ourselves with large quantities of sugar and butter, all doused in a consistent flow of adult and non-adult beverages. It's as if we were saying: "Well, I made it another year, you can't take THAT away from me!" while shaking a fat finger in the face of the inevitable.

New Year's Eve in Holland is a great example. What better way to ring in the new year than by eating deep-fried doughballs and coated apple slices? Oliebollen (literally "balls of oil") and appelbeignets are a standard fare during the holiday season. The raisins and apples in the dough can hardly be considered a nutritional advantage but it's one of those once-a-year treats that one looks forward to!

I love oliebollen but can only stomach about two. The usual amounts given in recipes are for 30 or more. Here's one that makes about six. Use soybean or sunflower oil in your fryer to fry these, not shortening. Oliebollen are good cold too, with a hot cup of coffee and some extra powdered sugar.

1 cup of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of milk,warm
2 teaspoons of active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of butter, softened
1 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
pinch of lemon zest
pinch of salt
1 egg
2 tablespoons of raisins

1 heaping tablespoon of powdered sugar

Soak the raisins in some rum or warm water several hours before, preferably the night prior to the frying.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk. Mix the flour, sugar and the lemon zest, and stir the milk and yeast mix carefully. Add the egg and the salt and stir the batter for several minutes until everything is nicely blended. Stir in the drained raisins. Cover and let rise until it doubled its volume, stir down and let rise again.

In the meantime, heat the oil in the fryer up to 375F. Place a plate with several paper towels to soak up the excess fat of the fried goods. Stir the batter down. Now use a large spoon or an ice cream scoop to scoop out a portion, drop it into the hot oil and fry for about four minutes on each side or until brown. Slightly wetting the scoop or spoon before each scoop will make it easier to drop the batter into the oil. It's important to gauge the temperature of your oil: too hot an oil will scorch the outside but leave the inside of the balls uncooked. A low temperature will not fry the balls fast enough and they will become "sinkers": oil-saturated and inedible.

Drain the balls on paper towels, then transfer onto a new plate and sprinkle with powdered sugar.