The province of Limburg, gastronomically one of the more interesting areas of the country, is known for a large variety of culinary treasures, among which are its famous vlaaien, or pies. Limburg vlaaien are unique in their sort as they use yeast dough instead of a pie crust, and measure on average about 28 centimeters (approximately 11 inches) in diameter. Elaborate lattice works, almond shavings or swirls of whipped cream are used to top off the pies that often hold fruit fillings or custardy creams. One of the most popular choices is a pie with a creamy milk rice filling, the rijstevlaai. Vlaaien are usually served on Sundays after lunch, at birthdays, burials, weddings, coffee tables, retirement parties and when the local fair is in town. Any time there's a gathering of good people, really. And if there is no reason at all to celebrate, mourn, gather or depart, it's just a gezellig thing to do. A cup of coffee, a piece of vlaai and your day's made!
Fortunately, they're easy to make and bake, and tend to be a favorite with many. Enjoy a slice of pie with a cup of coffee or tea, and pick out a variety you like. How about kersenvlaai , (cherry) or kruimelvlaai, a custard crumble? Sometimes a mocha vlaai, or one covered in fresh fruit may hit the spot. The yeast base is always the same, the filling changes.
For the filling
4 cups of whole milk
1/2 cup of short grain rice
1/3 cup of sugar
Pinch of salt
2 eggs, divided
2 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
For the dough
1 3/4 cup of flour
1/2 cup of milk, warm
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tablespoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of butter
1 egg, beaten
Wash the rice in cold water and rinse (you may have to do this up to three times until the water remains clear). Bring the milk and salt to a boil, add the rice and the sugar, and bring back up to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 1 hour. Stir in the vanilla and set aside to cool.
Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Proof the yeast in the warm milk, then add to the flour. Mix in the sugar, the butter and the beaten egg, and knead everything into a soft but solid dough. Cover and set aside to rise.
Mix the egg yolks with the two tablespoons of sugar until creamy, and beat the egg whites into stiff peaks. Mix the egg yolks with the rice and when it is well blended, fold in the stiff egg whites.
Butter an 11 inch pie dish or metal pan . Punch down the dough, roll it out and line the pie pan with the dough. Dock it with a fork, poking holes all over the surface, cover and let rise again.
Heat your oven up to 390F. Spread the rice mix* into the pie and bake to golden brown in approximately 40 minutes. If the top browns too fast, cover with some aluminum foil. Cool the pie in the pan for about 30 minutes, then remove and continue to cool on a rack. The rice filling will set as it cools.
Serve when cold, and it's one of those pies that's even better the next day. Great served plain, or decorated with whipped cream and chocolate shavings!
If, for whatever reason, you happen to have more mix than pie bottom, butter a small oven dish and pour the rest of the mix in there, sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on top and bake it with the pie in the same oven. You'll have a nice, sweet and creamy rice custard treat while you wait for the pie to cool off. No need to let good things go to waste!