Fall is a significant time for the Dutch, especially if you’re at the age where you are still going to school. Holland’s summer vacation is fairly short ( if you get to have any summer at all) and before you know it, you’re back in the schoolbanken, agonizing over homework, teachers and hoping your bike hasn’t been stolen while you were in class.
Herfstvakanties are usually spent outside the home, weather permitting, on a day trip to a theme park such as the Efteling, a weeklong visit with grandma and grandpa, or a trip to the North Sea islands. But regardless of where you go, or with whom, you know that at least once during that week you are going to get treated to that typical Dutch kids favorite: pannekoeken!
Thin, flavorful and as-big-as-your-plate pancakes are a special treat, especially for kids, and are often the food of choice for children’s birthday parties or special occasions. Whole restaurants, called pannekoekenhuisjes (pancake houses), are dedicated to just that: offering a large variety of pancakes and toppings to please everybody’s tastebuds. The décor of these restaurants is usually rural Dutch: lots of white and red checkered tablecloths, big wooden tables and chairs and with an overall farm-feel to it.
The most traditional choice is pannekoek met appelstroop, pancake with apple syrup, a tangy dark sugary spread made out of apple juice. The dark stroop is spread over the whole surface of the pannekoek, after which it is rolled up and either eaten as a wrap, or cut into bite size pieces and consumed with knife and fork. Other popular toppings are peanut butter, chocolate sprinkles, jam, powdered sugar or just plain. As the batter does not contain any sugar, the pancake can be eaten either as a savory option or as a sweet one.
Keeping Dutch tradition, most people will usually eat a savory pancake first, followed by one with a sweet topping. Often, slices of apple or bacon will be fried and then incorporated into a pancake, or chopped preserved ginger or fresh fruit is stirred right into the batter.
3 cups of self-rising flour
2 teaspoons of salt
6 cups of milk, divided
1 stick of butter, divided
Stir the flour and salt together, and then add three cups of milk and the eggs. Beat until the batter is smooth and thin with the remaining milk. Melt six tablespoons of butter and stir this into the pancake batter. You are looking for a pourable batter.
3 cups of apple juice or apple cider
1 cup of sugar
2 tablespoons of dark molasses
Stir the sugar into the apple juice and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for the next twenty minutes. When the liquid has been reduced to about half, start monitoring the temperature with a candy thermometer. As soon as the syrup has reached 235F, take the pan off the stove. Let it cool, stir in the molasses and serve with the pancakes. This appelstroop, when still warm, is not as thick as the commercial product but will thicken when refrigerated. The flavor is very close to the original. Makes one cup.