Friday, November 24, 2017

No time to pout


You may have noticed that I don't place advertisements on this page. There are some affiliate links in the gardening section, but otherwise I make sure these pages are being kept clean of ads. However...our family is expanding and we've gained a naughty little nephew, Niet Mokken!, that I would like to introduce you to!

Niet Mokken! designs mugs that are perfect for expressing your inner Dutch person, with a sense of humor and a tongue-in-cheek approach. If you've ever felt like saying something, or making your position clear but without wanting to offend, a cheeky Niet Mokken! mug might be just the thing for you! My favorite one is this one, but I also love the Worst one from the picture. And the Boerenkool one had me rethinking my dinner plans for tonight. It's hard to pick just one!

If you are in the US and order soon, you may still have the mugs in time for Christmas. Which one do you like best? There are six more on the website - clicking the image will take you there. Go take a peek and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 3, 2017

Dutch stamps of traditional Dutch treats

If you receive mail from the Netherlands, you may soon see some tasty postage stamps on the envelope. The Dutch mail service, PostNL, has recently released a new sheet of stamps called "Nederlandse Lekkernijen", or Dutch treats. The stamps have pictures of Bossche bollen, kersenvlaai, stroopwafels, and Zeeuwse bolus, as well as other regional specialties.

What a great way to promote regional products!

What is your favorite lekkernij?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Kruisbessenschuimvlaai

"Ouch!" I sucked the drop of blood off my finger. Sharp thorns dug into my flesh every time I reached for the fruit I wanted to pick. A less determined person would have given up already, but a distant childhood memory of a sweet and tangy vlaai fueled my stubbornness. I had only enjoyed kruisbessenschuimvlaai once but it left such an impression that I was willing to sustain a couple of painful punctures to taste it again!

Kruisbessenschuimvlaai (what a great word for hangman!) is a traditional Limburg pie, with a mixture of slightly sour kruisbessen, or gooseberries, and a topping of meringue. A popular name for kruisbessen can also be stekelbes (prickle berry), knoeper or kroesel, which explains the Limburg name for this pie: "krosjele vlaai". It is possible that the English name for this berry, gooseberry, may  have been a derivative of the Dutch word kruisbes. Who knows!?


Kruisbessen do grow in the wild in the Netherlands, but are also grown commercially, albeit in small quantities. The fact that they are not easy to pick may have something to do with it, but it's also a rather old-fashioned, almost forgotten fruit. Nevertheless, it is fairly easy to plant a small bush or two in your own garden, and they provide generous gatherings, enough for a couple of pies per plant!

Now, typically the meringue will be soft and baked with the pie, but I prefer a crunchy meringue topping, so I baked the top separately. I've posted instructions for both variations. I hope you enjoy this lovely vlaai - it was worthy every pinch, scratch and drop of blood!

Kruisbessensschuimvlaai
For the vlaai dough:
1 1/2 cup AP flour (175 gram)
1 tsp active dry yeast
1/3 cup milk, warm (110F/43C)
3 tablespoons butter, soft
1 tablespoon sugar
2 egg yolks, or 1 egg
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the filling
2 lbs of gooseberries, washed
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon of corn starch

For the meringue
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar

Knead a dough from the flour, yeast, milk, butter, sugar, egg and salt. Place it in an oiled bowl, cover it and let it rise at room temperature. In the meantime, mix the cinnamon with the breadcrumbs and set it aside.

Remove the stems and the blossom ends of the gooseberries. Place the berries in a saucepan, with just enough water to cover the bottom layer, and slowly bring to a simmer. Carefully stir in the sugar, making sure not to break too many berries. You may want to taste and see if it's not too tangy - if it is, add a bit more sugar. After all, it should be fun to eat this pie, not a punishment!

When the berries are warm and juicy, add a little bit of cold water to the cornstarch and make a slurry. Stir that into the berries and bring the pan back up to a boil, give it a couple of stirs until the whiteness of the cornstarch has disappeared, then turn it off. The cornstarch will thicken the juice and make it easier to use as a pie filling.

Heat your oven up to 400F. Knead the air out of the pie dough, roll it into a circle and line a greased pie pan with it. For this recipe I used a 11 inch wide, one inch high, scalloped pie dish. If your dish is slightly smaller and higher, the recipe will accommodate easily. Dock the dough (use a fork to punch little holes in it) and cover it again for its second rise.

When the dough is puffy and risen, spread the panko mix over the bottom of the dough, and then fill it with the berries. Place it in the oven and bake.

Beat the egg whites and the sugar into a shiny stiff meringue. If you want to have a soft meringue, pull the vlaai out of the oven after 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 300F, spread the meringue over the filling and put it back in the oven for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the meringue as it colors fast! Pull the vlaai and let it cool.

If you prefer a crunchy meringue like I do, you will need to take one additional step. Let the pie bake for 20 to 25 minutes at 400F, then pull it out of the oven. Lower the temperature of the oven to 175F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper where you've drawn a circle that matches the circumference of the pie pan. Spread the meringue within the circle on the paper, making sure to make it slightly lower in the center. Bake the meringue at 175F for at least an hour, checking toward the end to make sure it has fully dried. If not, leave it in the oven for another 15 minutes, then turn the oven off and let the meringue dry.

When the meringue has cooled and dried, place the disk on top of the pie, cut into slices and serve! Depending on how you generous you cut your slices, this pie will give you 8 to 10 slices.



Sunday, December 18, 2016

Amandelkransjes

 The dark days before Christmas, my grandmother called this time of the year. The days are short, and the nights are long. But even though we're lacking daylight outside, doesn't mean we can't make it gezellig inside - a cup of hot tea, a couple of cookies....it's easy to do! It's also probably a good day to finish writing those last Christmas cards, if you haven't done so yet. Last year, the Dutch sent 115 million cards for the holiday season. Several of those may have come your way if you still have family and friends in the Netherlands!

Christmas is also linked to great food. Kerstkransjes, or cookie Christmas wreaths, are a typical sight in Dutch Christmas trees. Sprinkled with sugar, decorated with slivered almonds, round, scalloped, chocolate,...they come in a variety of shapes and flavors, but always with a little hole in the middle so you can tie it to a branch of the tree.

For today, I baked some almond kransjes - some of them may go in my tree, but I've primarily made them to give to a neighbor....but I may have sample one or two with my afternoon tea while I write my Christmas cards! The dough is easy and quick to put together, and the cookies bake in fifteen to twenty minutes. These happen to be scalloped, but you can cut out stars, trees, or snowmen - and it's an easy and fun project to do with kids.

Sprinkle with colored sugar, add some chocolate or cinnamon to the recipe, or you might even dip the cookies in chocolate. They also make a great gift during these holiday times. The recipe makes approximately twenty cookies.

Amandelkransjes
1 cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, cold and diced
1 sachet vanilla sugar (or 2 teaspoons vanilla essence)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 to 3 tablespoons cold milk
1 egg, beaten

For decoration: slivered almonds and granulated sugar

Mix the flour with the salt, the sugar and the baking powder. Carefully knead in the cold butter, then add in the vanilla, lemon zest. If the mixture is too dry, add in a tablespoon of cold milk at a time. Knead everything into a pliable dough, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for an hour, to let the flavors blend.

Roll the dough out on a lightly dusted counter. Preheat the oven to 350F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Use a drinking glass, or a cookie cutter of any shape, to cut out the cookies. Use the end of an apple corer or a large straw to poke a hole in the middle of the dough. When all cookies are cut and cored, place them on the parchment paper, brush them with egg and sprinkle sliced almonds and sugar on top. Bake on the middle rack until golden, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Cool on a rack. Now you can either pack them in a cute cookie tin, or cut ribbons and thread through the hole, then put a knot in it and decorate your tree!