Sunday, February 26, 2012

Hopjesvla

Vla is a dairy dessert that is so engrained in the Dutch kitchen, that you will find at least one or two packages of vla in every refrigerator. It's traditionally the most favorite dessert to finish a meal with, often poured into the same dish you were served your main course on (and some will say that the savory gravy leftovers on the plate will add that extra little "something" to the sweet vla), and eaten with a spoon.

Most often, people will have two or more favorite vlas: with a selection of over twenty flavors, it is easy to find several that you like. The most common flavors are ofcourse vanilla and chocolate, but others like caramel, blanke vla (with a flavor that nobody has yet been able to define, it is simply called "white vla" or "blank vla", depending on how you interpret it), lemon, raspberry...you name it. Seasonal vlas include stoofpeertjes vla, or apple/cinnamon for the fall, and lighter ones, mixed with yogurt for the summer or spring.

But vla has always been one of those desserts that I didn't want to try and make at home: after all, how can you approach the flavor that has been carefully (and chemically) defined in dairy factories all over the country? Newer cookbooks don't mention vla anymore, but digging deep into the early and mid last century cookbooks brought up a few recipes. And I am so glad I did: it turned out to be much easier than I expected and definitely an improvement over any store-bought vlas!

Vla is, as far as I can tell, a typical Dutch dessert, and seemingly one of "recent" discovery. The cookbook of the Haagsche Kookschool from 1895 does not mention any vla: the closest recipe is one for vanilla sauce, but another cookbook, the Nieuw Praktisch Kookboek, first published in 1906 gives recipes for chocolate vla, vanilla vla and even almond vla. Hurray, the vla has been invented!!

And luckily for us, the coffee flavored candy Haagse Hopjes had been invented by then as well, so that the combination of flavor and dessert was just a matter of time......

Hopjesvla
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups milk
1/2 cup strong, black coffee
2 teaspoons instant coffee (optional)
3 tablespoons corn starch
2 egg yolks

Heat a saucepan with a heavy bottom and add the sugar. Watch carefully as the dry sugar turns liquid and slowly colors golden. Monitor your heat carefully as sugar will go quickly from golden to burnt!

Mix the coffee with the milk and stir well to dissolve the instant coffee granules. When the sugar has caramelized CAREFULLY pour half of the milk in the pan. The sugar will seize up and harden, but by stirring and bringing the milk up to a slow boil, the caramel will soften and eventually dissolve. Continue to stir.

In a separate bowl, mix the cornstarch with the two egg yolks and slowly add in the remainder of the coffee and milk. Now take a tablespoon of hot milk out of the pan and add it to the mixture, stir well and add another one. Do this three more times so that the egg/cornstarch mixture is up to temperature. Take the pan off the stove, and carefully stir in the egg mixture. Return the pan to the heat, and slowly bring up to boil, all the while stirring.

The vla will thicken in the next two to three minutes, and will be ready to take off the stove when it "gloops" i.e. air bubbles will come to the surface and instead of disappearing will leave small holes in the vla, making a "gloop" sound. That's the best I can describe it!

Pour the vla in a bowl, cover with plastic film to avoid the formation of a milk skin, and refrigerate until cold.

To achieve the pourable consistency, you may need to add a tablespoon or two of cold milk to the vla and stir it well before serving.





23 comments:

  1. yummy...ik ga dit zeker probeeren...iedereen hier vindt koffee lekker & vla...dat mis ik zeker van uit NL.

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    1. Dan zullen ze deze vast ook lekker vinden, hij werd erg goed ontvangen hier door mensen die geen vla kenden maar wel van koffie hielden. Veel plezier ermee!

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  2. hmmm lekker. Wel jammer dat ik niet even uitgenodigd was om te komen proeven :)

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    1. Maken we wel een grote bak voor je verjaardag :-)

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  3. Mmmmmm.....hopjes! Mmmmmm.....vla! Never thought beyond chocolate or vanilla varieties found at the local Dutch import store. Thanks Nicole!

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  4. I was looking for hopjes around the holidays! I found some eventually but a little too late for my purposes.... I think what may have helped bring them to mind was an article I saw in Saveur magazine (Oct. 2011? perhaps), which put their date of origin in the late 1700's!

    My first taste of hopjes was much later; from a bakery near Mammoth Lakes, California on a summer trip in the summer. I've always loved the flavor since then, and can spot the distinctive white, yellow, and black paper wrappers a mile away!

    I love the idea that such a satisfying dessert could have a similar flavor.

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    1. Oops! I meant "camping trip" in the summer....

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    2. Ebe, those hopjes do have an addictive flavor, don't they...there is nothing quite like it and even people that don't care for coffee often still love the flavor of hopjes. I am going to try my hand at some hard candy soon (wijnballen, zuurstokken etc) and will see if I can produce something similar to hopjes. Should be fun!

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    3. Kaneelstokken ook wellicht? Dat was voor mij de reden om toch ieder jaar even snel naar de kermis in 't dorp te gaan... ;-)

      Maar de vla ga ik morgenvroeg proberen te maken. We hebben verdorie zelf melk en nog nooit heb ik geprobeerd vla te maken... Schande eigenlijk...

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    4. Kaneelstokken zijn zo lekker! Kaneelbrokken ook, maar kaneelstokken zijn toch net iets lekkerder :-) Het zal nog wel even duren voordat ik ze maak, er gaat een heel proces aan vooraf, maar ik zal mijn best doen. Wat voor melk hebben jullie?

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    5. Koemelk. (:

      De hopjesvla was overigens niet echt gelukt, met wat gegoogle ergens 'n recept voor vanillevla gevonden (met room), op zich wel lekker alleen was die, waarschijnlijk door m'n ongeduld nog licht "bloemig"... Wellicht nog langer door laten koken of toch op zoek gaan naar maizena in Hongarije...

      Ik las overigens wel op 'n site van 'n Oosterhoutse banketbakker hoe ze de kaneelstokken maken, (behalve dan 't exacte deeg natuurlijk) maar het is veel drogen en stomen...

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  5. When I was in Holland I ate a vanilla vla with a homemade raspberry sauce my aunt had made that we would pour on top. It was so good! I would love to get a vanilla vla recipe if you have it, as my children are not as fond of Hopjes as I am. Thanks!

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    1. Kristen, I will post a vanilla vla recipe soon, as I made both the hopjes and the vanilla vla at the same time. Look for it sometime in the next day or two!

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    2. really looking forward to your vanilla vla recipe, beacuse i'm a die hard fans of vanilla vla.
      I once studied in Deventer for a year, and i always have this vla on my weekly groceries (+chocomel of course) :D

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  6. I just found your website and I've been reading all your back posts. I'm in tears over all the recipes Grandma used to make, I just never knew their Dutch names. Now I know why my pea soup can practically be eaten with a fork. I'm so looking forward to learning more about my heritage and sharing with all my friends.

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    1. Jeri, thank you so much for the note. I am glad you have found the site, and I hope it brings back pleasant memories of your Grandma. Your Dutch heritage is worth sharing!

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  7. I was home sick yesterday and wanted something cool and comforting. This really hit the spot. Thanks for a great recipe-- my Dutch husband is now very impressed that he can has his hopjes vla in the States.

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    1. Nicole, so glad the hopjesvla hit the spot! Hope you feel better!

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  8. Dankjewel voor het recept!!

    The first time I made it, I made the coffee too strong and (slightly) burned the sugar, so I had to toss it. I tried it a second time and it came out beautifully. Succes!! But I broke a wooden spoon on the caramalized sugar trying to stirr it into the milk, so the next time I made it (yes, I love this recipe!) I thought, "why all the caramalising palaver?" and simply heated the sugar with the milk until the sugar dissolved and followed the recipe from there, and it came out lovely! So for those who, like me, tend to burn their sugar and break their spoons when caramalizing sugar: you don't need to caramalize the sugar for a great tasting hopjesvla!

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  9. Mmm ziet er lekker uit, ga ik ook snel proberen : P Thanks for sharing!

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  10. Ilke Cochrane-VermeerJune 19, 2013 at 12:39 PM

    Blanke vla is my absolute favourite! And you're right, it's difficult to define what it tastes of....
    I've only just found your site and will definitely be trying some of the recipes (I'm not sure I agree with your comment about vla being served on the same plate as the main course, though -- but perhaps that's a regional difference? I'm from the The Hague area)

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  11. On my search of a poffertjes recipe, I came across your site. How delightful to see so many Dutch recipes! Thank you. As you mentioned, poffertjes are originally made of buckwheat and your recipe is with wheat flour. My hubby and daughter are gluten-intolerant, can I just use the buckwheat instead of wheat flour? Love to know!

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