Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Happy King's Day everyone!



What better cake to celebrate with - a traditional Dutch slagroomtaart!! 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Janhagel

These first days of Spring - as the first flowers awaken and the most courageous of the birds dare to sing their song - make a Dutch housewife antsy. After a long, cold and dark winter it is time for the Grote Schoonmaak, otherwise known as Spring cleaning. It's time to open the windows, to bring out the furniture and to let the fresh air blow the cobwebs away! Nowadays, we don't have half of the work our grandmothers or great-grandmothers had to do. In those days, all the furniture would be put outside, the heavy mattresses on the beds would be lifted and aired out and every single corner of the house, every room from top to bottom, would be washed down from ceiling to floor with buckets of sudsy water.


Curtains and bed linens were washed and dried out on the "bleek", a grassy area behind the house that was mowed short for that purpose. Sunshine and fresh air would help to remove the yellow hue and washing liquid odors from the fabric and give it a fresh smell. This was also the time that heavy rugs and mats would get a good beating to get rid of all the dust. Who remembers those rug beaters?

Spring cleaning was also the moment that the ceilings would be whitewashed, all the wood furniture would be rubbed with oil or wax and the rooms would be redecorated with new wallpaper. As you can imagine, it would sometimes take several days to get it all done. Many of the neighborhood women or relatives would come over and help with the heavier loads, especially the mattresses. It was therefore custom that the woman whose mattresses were put out that day would offer this particular cookie (beddenkoek, another name for janhagel) with the afternoon coffee.


Advertisement in paper from 1925.
Not many women had the time to bake during this period of intense cleaning, so bakers in the area would bake and sell Schoonmaak Janhagel during a couple of weeks at the end of winter. After all, Spring cleaning had to be done before Easter, because that was the time of renewal, of new life. It was also the time of year that plenty of family members would be coming over for Easter lunch and you would not want to be caught dead with year-old wallpaper, nicotine and smoke yellowed ceilings and dirty rugs! Oh the shame!!!


But not everybody enjoyed Spring cleaning, as this site confirms. Instead of working up a sweat cleaning and scrubbing, some people would move house during the weeks before Easter and so avoided having to do any cleaning or wallpapering in their current house. Housing regulations stated that all newly rented homes should come with freshly painted and wallpapered walls and a month of free rent, courtesy of the housing agency. It still meant taking out all the furniture and rugs, but instead of moving it back in the same house, they would move it into a freshly painted and wallpapered house, often two doors down from the old one! Smart, or cheeky? You decide!

Either way, all this (reading about) cleaning might have made you tired, so it's time to put your feet up and have a cup of coffee. This cinnamon flavored cookie is quick to make and will make your house smell wonderful, so treat yourself to a janhagel, whether you've cleaned the house or not!*

Janhagel 
2 sticks butter (230 gr)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
Topping:
1 egg
1/3 cup shaved almonds
1/4 cup coarse sugar


Heat oven to 350F. Using the paddle on a mixer, combine the butter with the sugar  until it looks like coarse sand, then add in the egg. Combine the salt, flour, cinnamon and baking powder and add it to the mixer and let it turn, on medium, until the dough comes together - all the dry ingredients should be incorporated and you should have a cohesive whole.

Remove the dough, pat it down into a circle and wrap it in plastic - then refrigerate for about 30 minutes. This should allow the butter to set up (better baking results). When it has rested, roll the dough out (not too thin!) into a square (or trim the edges) onto parchment paper or a silicone mat. Beat the egg and brush the top of the dough, then sprinkle almonds and sugar on top. Don't forget to sprinkle all the way to the edge! Don't cut the cookies yet, you will do that when they come out of the oven.

Bake the slab of cookie dough golden in about 15 minutes. Remove it from the oven and cut with a knife or pizza cutter while they are still warm. The average size is about half a playing card - but you can divide the dough into equally sized rectangles and make them as big as you wish! The cookies will harden as they cool.

By this time, whomever is in the house will come and see what you are up to - these cookies smell amazing! Explain to them that these are "schoonmaak" cookies and that you can only get one if your room is clean. Just kidding....but hey - it might just work!

Makes about 25 cookies. 




*There is always tomorrow, but if you really would like some motivation to get started, I can highly recommend this website. BabySteps!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Citroenlimonadesiroop

I've been wanting to make ranja, lemonade syrup, for a while now and when I spotted these Meyer lemons I knew I had the perfect fruit for it. Meyer lemons (Citrus × meyeri) are hard to find and only have a short season but when they make their appearance on the shelves in grocery stores and produce sections, they disappear quickly. These lemons are thought to be a cross between a regular lemon and a mandarin orange, and were discovered in China by Dutch botanical explorer Frank Meyer (née Frans Meijer). The flesh of this fruit is less acidic and a tad more sweet, lending it perfect for our purpose today.

Lemons aside for a moment, this Frans Meijer was an interesting man! Born in Amsterdam in 1875 as Frans Nicholaas Meijer, he showed an early interest in plants and worked in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam. Meijer emigrated to the United States in 1901 and started working for the United States Department of Agriculture. He naturalized in 1905 and changed his name to Frank Meyer. Frank lead several plant exploring expeditions into Central Asia until his death in 1918: and on one of those expeditions he discovered the lemon that is now named after him. That's his picture next to the glass of lemonade. Quite the handsome fellow!

Now, ranja is one of those childhood memories that are hard to forget. The sweet orange or lemon flavored lemonade was a special treat during birthday parties and summer festivities when we were kids, long before commercial carbonated beverages made their way into the household. A splash of sweet syrup was mixed with cold tap water in a glass and stirred, and you were good to go! Nowadays, only the youngest of children will sometimes get ranja: most kids will prefer carbonated lemonades or colas over the sweet, non-sparkling beverage.

The actual name for the syrup is limonadesiroop, but Ranja was a brand name that became the common name for all lemonade syrups, regardless of their flavor. Popular tastes were lemonade, orange, reine claude (a bright green syrup!) and strawberry.

Limonadesiroop, or ranja, is very easy to make.  You can substitute the amount of of lemon juice for orange or strawberry juice, or make your own version with fresh herbs (mint, lavender, basil) to make a refreshing drink this summer. I often use carbonated soda water to mix with ranja for that extra refreshing zing.

"Zij dronk ranja met een rietje, mijn Sophietje" sang Johnny Lion happily, in the 1960's. Now you can, too!

Citroenlimonadesiroop
2 cups lemon juice (from about 8 to ten Meyer lemons)
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon citric acid

Strain the lemon juice through a coffee filter or cheese cloth to get a clear juice, if needed. Bring the lemon juice and sugar to a boil in a non-reactive pan on the stove. Turn down the heat to low and skim the foam off the surface several times. Let simmer for a good five minutes, then stir in the citric acid. When the granules have dissolved, cool down the syrup to room temperature and store in clean, sanitized bottles.

The syrup should be refrigerated and used relatively quickly - within a month or two. The citric acid will prevent rapid spoilage, but any signs of mold, foam or discoloration on the syrup after storage indicates that the syrup is not fit for consumption and needs to be discarded. If you don't drink ranja that often, it's better to cut the recipe in half and make small batches.


Proost, Frans!
 .



Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

The last day of 2015 - thank you for a wonderful year! 

The Dutch Table is planning some new and exciting changes for 2016 and we can't wait to share it with you. In the meantime, have a wonderful, safe and gezellig New Year's Eve, make fun plans for 2016 and above all, stay happy and healthy. 


We'll see you on the other side!!!




Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tijmsiroop

The taste of tijmsiroop always brings back a particular memory from my Dutch childhood. I must have been around eight or nine years old. It's cold outside, and it's late in the evening. It's a school day but I'm pretending to not feel very good. My throat hurts a little. "Mom," I call out, "my throat hurts. I don't think I can go to school tomorrow." I even try to make my voice sound a bit raspy, a bit scratchy. For good measure, I throw in a cough or two: uche-uche.... "See? I think I'm too sick for school." 

My mom, of course, is not deceived by my pathetic theatrics. I can't see her but I'm sure she's rolling her eyes at me. Another bout of fake coughing..uche-uche-uche... this time a bit louder so I can be sure she hears me. "Mama! I'm still coughing. Maybe I could have a little bit of hoestsiroop? I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow!" I can hear her chuckle before she comes upstairs with the bottle of cough syrup. She obviously doesn't believe me, and she knows that I know. That's alright though, because I am about to get my prize: a spoonful of thyme cough syrup!

Tijmsiroop, or thyme syrup, is a cough medicine that is safe for kids to take and it's the flavor of many Dutch adults' childhood, much like cherry-flavored cough syrup is here in the United States. Thyme syrup is available over the counter at the local pharmacy, apotheek, and it tastes great! It is sweet, sticky and has that typical herbal thyme flavor to it - not too much, but just enough. It used to be sold in small brown bottles and make us feel oh-so grown up when we were sick enough to get a spoonful!!! Of course, you would never get more than the recommended dosage, because even though it was safe for kids, it was still supposed to be medicine and make you feel better. Especially if it was obvious that you just coughed and sputtered so that you could have a taste! Ahem....

And it's been around for a long while - an advertisement from the Graafschap Bode, from March 2nd 1932, shows that J.W. Kroon recommends tijmsiroop, among other interesting sounding concoctions, against "hoest en verkoudheid", coughs and colds.

Best of all, it's easy to make. If you've never had it before, it may become a safe addition to your natural medicine cabinet - if you have, it will be a pleasant memory from days past. You can take a spoonful directly from the bottle, or stir it into a glass of hot tea, or milk - it's sure to soothe any sore throat, upcoming cold or nasty cough (even fake ones!). Beterschap!

Tijmsiroop
1.5 oz of fresh thyme, rinsed (preferably organic)
3 cups water
2 cups sugar

Bring the water to a simmer and add the sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Lower the heat on the stove, and add the thyme (stems and all) to the pot. Cover and simmer on low for twenty minutes: don't boil, but just barely simmer.

Remove the thyme from the liquid. Test the remaining liquid to see how syrupy it is. If it's too watery, just let the liquid simmer uncovered and reduce it to about 2 cups. Cool and store in a jar, in the fridge. Don't hold it for longer than a month or two.

If you wish, you can use honey instead of sugar, or add fresh ginger, a pinch of cinnamon, or a splash of lemon or lime juice to make this thyme syrup your own.