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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.