The province of Friesland is proud of its province and its beautiful waterways, and it shows. As a matter of fact, the whole country is taking a larger interest in its own beauty, and several fantastic magazines dedicated to either outdoor living, backyard farming or covering certain regional areas have appeared on the store shelves.
During my visit this last January I came across one of those magazines, a beautiful publication called Noorderland. It covers the most northern region of the country, the provinces of Friesland, Drenthe and Groningen to be exact. Their winter photography of traditional Dutch landscapes was breathtaking, but what really got my attention was a gorgeous picture of a poffert. (Yeah I know, big surprise huh....what can I say!? I love Dutch food!!). The magazine itself was no longer on the shelf, but the editorial team was so kind as to send me a backcopy for which I am very grateful. Thank you, Noorderland!
The Frisian cookbook "De Welkokende Vriesche Keukenmeid" from 1772 mentions the poffert and declares that the poffert is "zeer geschikt om op reis mede te nemen" (very suitable for traveling). And we're not surprised: besides being sturdy, it also holds well and becomes even better tasting after a day or two. Not to mention, whomever you will be visiting will be pleased to receive a slice or two!
While researching this recipe, I came across many different variations, as one can expect for a recipe that's been around for several centuries. The earlier mentioned cookbook adds six eggs to a pound of white flour, half a pound of melted butter, a spoonful of rosewater, a spoonful of yeast and some water. A later recipe adds raisins and apples. Other cookbooks suggest lining the cake pan with strips of bacon, then pouring in the batter so it becomes a more savory dish.
What most recipes agree on, though, is that the cake was meant to substitute a meal. No sugar is added to the initial batter, but the slices of bread cake are served with syrup, and if desired, some butter.
1/4 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup golden raisins
3 each dried apricots
3 each dried figs
1 tablespoon preserved ginger
2 cups self-rising flour
3 egg yolks
3 egg whites
1 cup of milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons ground almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons panko or breadcrumbs
For serving: pancake syrup, cinnamon sugar, powdered sugar
Soak the raisins in half a cup of water. Chop the apricots, figs and ginger and add them to the raisins, set aside to soak.
Add the flour to a mixing bowl and add three egg yolks, the milk, the butter and the salt. Mix well. Whip the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff, and fold them in with the batter. Lastly, drain and squeeze the dried fruits, then fold them into the batter, together with the brandy.
Insert the pan into another pan with hot boiling water, but keep the water level at about an inch, an inch and a half, below the rim of the poffert pan. Put a trivet on the bottom of the pan so that the surface of the poffert pan does not immediately touch the bottom of the water pan. Put something heavy on top so that the poffert pan doesn't float or tilt. Add hot water as needed.
Keep at a rolling boil for an hour. Remove from the pan, carefully (watch out for steam!!) remove the lid and insert a food thermometer or skewer to see if the cake is done. If the skewer comes out clean, the cake is done. If not return it to the water pan and continue to boil for another twenty minutes.
When the cake is done, replace the lid and put the pan in a 375F oven, middle rack for another ten to fifteen minutes. This will brown the panko and the outside of the poffert.
Tip the pan on a cookie rack, cool until warm, then slice and serve with syrup, butter or cinnamon sugar. If you feel adventurous, tie on some skates and get to practising, the next Elfstedentocht might be just around the corner!!