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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Zakdoekjes

It's not that I don't have enough recipes to write about Dutch baked goods (I have at least another two years worth's of weekly posts!), it's that sometimes I can't pick. So many recipes are wonderful and exciting, but the limitation of time, product availability and sometimes a last minute change of plans dictates what gets published.

This weekend I had planned on making a slagroomtaart, a light cake with whipped cream and fruit. It's a delightful cake, traditionally served at birthday parties or other festive occassions. But I received a booklet in the mail this week, Drentse Pot, about typical foods from the province of Drente, and while browsing through it, I came across a recipe for zakdoeken. Zakdoeken (handkerchiefs) or buusdoukies in the Drents dialect are, in this case, not of the cloth kind, mind you, but a lovely, crunchy yet light waffle. The slagroomtaart went out the window ofcourse, because how can you resist a cookie with such an interesting name? I have never spent much time in Drente, so I was eager to try it out. And I am sure glad I did!

This cookie is sweet, crunchy, crisp and light, and shows beautifully. You will need a waffle cone maker style of waffle iron, like you use for stroopwafels. Watch out when folding the warm waffle, it will be hot!

Zakdoekjes
1 stick of butter
1 1/2 cup of sugar
2/3 cup of water
2 cups of flour
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of vanilla essence

Melt the butter and set aside. Warm the water and add the sugar, stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cool the water and add the egg, beat it well, then stir in the flour and the salt. Mix everything to a nice, smooth batter (no lumpies!). Now pour and stir in the melted butter until it is fully incorporated into the batter. Finally add the vanilla and stir.

Turn on the waffle iron, and bake one waffle at a time with approximately 1/4 cup of batter. This depends on how liquid your   batter is, how large the baking surface is etc. so just measure out an amount and see what the result is. If there is too much batter and it runs off the sides, take less. If your zakdoekjes are more like miniature cookies, pour a little bit more.

Pour the measured amount of batter on the hot waffle iron, close and bake. When the waffle is done, open the lid and quickly fold the cookie in half, and then again in half, as if you were folding a handkerchief. Place it on a cooling rack, where it will crisp up into a nice, sweet, crunchy cookie.

Makes approximately twenty cookies.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Roze koeken

Recently, I had the opportunity to spend some time with friends from Holland. It doesn't happen very often since most of us live in other states or countries, and it's not too frequent that we all are in the same place, at the same time. After the typical kissie-kissie greeting (three kisses on the cheek, left-right-left), we sat down, poured coffee, brought out the cookies and shared the latest news. And it's never too long before we start talking about food. "Hey, I found this great Gouda cheese online, I'll send you the link", "We have someone selling stroopwafels at the farmer's market. It's not exactly the same but it's good enough". "I'm really going to miss the Dutch store in town when we move, they even sell hagelslag.". Anyway, you get the drift.

The Dutch tend to be adventurous travelers, and you'll find us pretty much scattered across the globe and far away from home. We love to be out and about, but sometimes we do miss our food! So we sat, sipped coffee, and reminisced about culinaria neerlandica. After I brought out a big platter with suikerwafels and gevulde koeken, we started talking about cakes and cookies. I mentioned the ones that I had baked and listed, out loud, the many that I had yet to try. Everybody joined in calling out the ones they liked, we all went "ooh" and "aah", because they're all so good. But when I mentioned "roze koeken", pink cakes, I noticed that the exclamations were a little longer and the eyes sparkled a little more.

I'm, quite honestly, not sure why. Of all the cakes and cookies we have, the roze koek is possibly the least enticing one, skill-wise or ingredient-wise. No elaborate kneading, twisting and rolling needed as with the bolussen. No intricate web of nutmeg, white pepper, cinnamon, cloves and ginger to make a flavorful speculaas. The roze koek has content-wise very little to offer in complexity: butter, eggs, flour and sugar. I mean, don't get me wrong, you can't hardly mess up butter and sugar, but it's nothing unique or special. They do have something going for them, though, something very un-Dutch: a bright pink, almost neon, frosting! Hot Barbie pink, neon Peptobismol tones....just check the pictures and you know what I mean. 

My own theory is that, from all the Dutch cookies, this is the most extravagant one, and with our Calvinistic upbringing, the excitement of biting into a roze koek is like rebelling, it's almost akin to sin. There, that rhymes. The cake itself is buttery, sweet and tender: the pink icing mixed with berry juice adds a slight tang and creaminess to the whole. Definitely worth a try!

Roze koeken
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of lemon zest
4 eggs
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour

For the icing
6 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
2 tablespoons of red raspberry juice
Red food coloring optional
Milk, optional

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add one egg at a time and beat until it's been fully absorbed by the mixture before adding the next one. Finally, fold the lemon zest and the flour through the mix until you have a pourable thick batter or scoopable dough.

Spray or grease a muffin pan (I used large muffin pans, which made 8 cakes total) and fill each cup half-full. With a wet spoon flatten the top. Bake the muffins in a 390F oven until they are golden, about twenty minutes.

Take them out of the pan, cool on a wire rack. If the muffin domed during baking time, cut this off to have a flat surface.

Mix the powdered sugar with the berry juice and stir well. You may want to add a drop of red food coloring if you are looking for that hot pink. Stir it well, add some milk if it gets too thick, and then ice the cakes with the hot pink sugary coating. Let the icing dry, then serve with coffee or tea. Feel terribly sinful for a couple of bites and then have another cake!


Thank you Lien for the great recipe, and thank you Ferdinand for the beautiful mugs!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gevulde Koeken

Gevulde koeken are the Dutch equivalent of the American chocolate chip cookie: if there's only one cookie to be sold, this will be the one. A favorite of many, it is often associated with ice skating, gezellige afternoons drinking tea with friends and, in my particular case, with traveling by train. Practically each train station in the Netherlands has a small kiosk where you can buy cookies, magazines, coffee, and hot snacks. If the station is really small, most often you can still get a cup of coffee and a cookie. And if wherever you are getting on the train is so small you can't even find that, there will be a chance to buy a refreshment on the train. And I bet you that even that refreshment cart has gevulde koeken......

The Dutch usually don't travel by train for just a hop, skip and a jump. Within the cities, you usually travel by tram, bus, metro or bike. To reach other places, for example if you want to go from Amsterdam to Maastricht, you would travel by train unless you had a car. This last activity usually goes paired with, sometimes undeserved, grumbling towards the Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railroads). Not all trains run on time, all the time. Especially this winter, with the huge amounts of snow and the incredibly low temperatures, train travelers were often confronted with delayed trains, missing connections or no trains at all. But look at the gorgeous view when the sun comes out!

But back to the cookie. Gevulde koek, or filled cookie, is a crumbly, buttery, tender dough with an almond filling. The almond decorating the cookie is a dead giveaway. First you taste the cookie, then a sweet, slightly moist almond filling hits you and it's just heaven. Together with a hot cup of coffee (try Douwe Egberts sometime, a Dutch coffee brand and a national favorite), it is a combination that soothes travel irritations, whether you're going anywhere or not.

Gevulde koek
For the dough:
2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1 scant teaspoon of baking powder
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon of cold water
1 3/4 stick of butter

For the filling:
1 cup of almond paste*
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 egg white
2 tablespoons of water
1 teaspoon of almond essence

For brushing:
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon of milk
8 sliced or whole almonds

Mix the dry ingredients and cut the butter into the dough, until it has the consistency of wet sand. Add a tablespoon of icecold water and knead the dough into a cohesive whole, making sure all the butter is well mixed in. Pat into an oval, cover with plastic film and refrigerate while you make the paste.

Now crumble up the almond paste and beat it with the rest of the ingredients foamy and thick. If you think it's too runny, add a tablespoon of flour, but not more.

Set your oven to 350F and turn it on. Take the dough out of the fridge, cut it in half and roll one half out, to about 1/8 of an inch and cut out eight rounds. I use the canning ring for a wide mouth jar, it's approximately eight inches across. Roll the other half out and cut another eight rounds (or more ofcourse!). Place one huge heaping teaspoon of almond paste mix in the middle of one cookie, place a second round on top and carefully seal the edges. You can do this with a fork or gently tapping it with your finger.

When all are done, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet or on a silicone mat. Beat the egg yolk with the milk and brush the top of the cookies, then place an almond on top. Bake for about thirty minutes or until golden.

Let them cool a little bit and enjoy this typical Dutch treat!



*If you don't have access to canned almond paste, you can easily make your own by processing two cups of slivered raw almonds, adding 1/4 cup of sugar and three tablespoons of water to make it into a thick paste.