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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 :-)