Sunday, January 29, 2012

Eierkoeken

It's not even Easter yet, and I'm already eyeing the eggs. Not so much for boiled eggs, egg ragout or other egg dishes, but because lately I've been craving eierkoeken, or Dutch egg cakes.

Egg cakes are large, yellow, sweet, soft, round and slightly domed cakes. You can eat them plain, or spread with butter and sugar on the flat side, like they do in the province of Brabant. Or stick two together, sandwich style, with whipped cream and serve them with fresh strawberries. You can eat them for breakfast, for lunch, as a snack or as a late-night-i-don't-want-to-eat-anything-heavy-snack. Which, in that case, you should have two. Seriously.

Bakeries in Holland pride themselves on having the best eierkoeken (like so many other things): some are larger, some are smaller, some fluffier, some chewier......But very few venture away from the basic yellow, hint-of-vanilla, type of cake. Rumors exist of chocolate egg cakes and even raisin eierkoeken, but they wouldn't be so much eierkoeken anymore as just large eh...muffin tops, I guess.  Some things are just not to be messed with!

The trick with these eierkoeken is to carefully mix the dry ingredients in without losing too much of the air incorporated, and then letting the batter sit for twenty minutes. It will be stiff and stringy when you scoop it onto a baking sheet and will eventually spread out, so do leave plenty of space in between.

Eierkoeken
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 envelope of vanilla sugar (or 2 teaspoons of vanilla essence)
1 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of self-rising flour

Mix the eggs with the salt, the sugar and the vanilla until foamy and thick, a good five minutes on medium speed. Rub a little bit of batter between thumb and finger to see if all the sugar has dissolved: if it feels slightly grainy, mix the batter for another minute or two.

In a bowl, sift the flour (if you don't have self-rising flour, add two teaspoons of baking powder to 1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour and mix well), then carefully fold it into the egg mix. Cover the bowl and let the batter rest for twenty minutes. In the meantime, heat the oven to 375F. Cover a baking sheet with some parchment paper or a silicone mat.

Carefully spoon six large portions of the batter onto the parchment paper or the mat on your baking sheet. Slide the baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven and bake the cakes for ten to twelve minutes or until lightly golden.

The longer they bake, the harder they'll be, so as soon as the koek is light yellow and bounces back if you carefully press down on the top, the cake's ready. Turn off the oven and let the cakes sit for another five minutes, then remove them from the oven and let them cool on a rack. The ones in the picture could have probably been removed a couple of minutes before I did: once they start browning, it goes fast!

It takes a little bit of practice to recognize the exact right moment, but there is no loss: even a little crunchy, the eierkoeken taste great and will, if stored in a plastic bag after they've cooled, soften up the next day. If you baked them so hard they've lost all moisture, store a slice of bread with the eierkoeken. They will have absorbed the moisture from the bread and softened.

Whether you enjoy your eierkoeken soft or crunchy, with some coffee, a cup of tea or even a cup of hot chocolate or anijsmelk, it's all good. Spread it with butter, eat it plain, or dig out the jar of Nutella from its hiding place and give the eierkoek a good swirl.....it's a great transportation vehicle for all kinds of spreadable goodies!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anijsmelk

Recipe and photos previously printed in Dutch, the magazine.

Holland is true dairy country. We spread our bread with butter, then top it with cheese. We drink gallons of milk, and traditionally we finish our meals with a dairy product: vla, yogurt, kwark and lots and lots of puddings. Vla, a pourable thick custard,  alone has more than twenty flavors and combinations and is often found in at least two varieties in a Dutch household fridge.

Besides desserts, milk also finds itself back in our beverages. Koffie verkeerd, (wrong coffee, so called because of the large amount of milk it contains), chocolate milk, buttermilk, drink yoghurt and endless milk drinks with fruit flavors are available to young and old. And then ofcourse there are the more traditional beverages such as slemp and anijsmelk, both warm drinks with spices and sugar. 

Anijsmelk is an old-fashioned Dutch “night-cap”. The warmth of the milk and the soothing qualities of aniseed on both the stomach and the spirit will make you want to curl up and snooze. Perfect for those early, cold winter nights when you can’t sleep!

Anijsmelk
1 cup of milk
1 full teaspoon of aniseed
2 teaspoons of sugar or honey

Warm the milk with the seeds, either loose or in a tea egg. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for a good five minutes. Pour the milk through a strainer to remove the seeds, add sugar or honey to taste. Drink warm. Welterusten!

Monday, January 16, 2012

No post this week!

No post this week! I've just returned from two weeks in Holland and am trying to organize all the information, recipes and impressions I gathered over the last fourteen days: spekkoek, hopjesvla, gemberbolus, hazelnootgebak, kapsalon, bamischijf, friet-ei, bloedworst, balkenbrij......too many to name. I was able to find a real poffert-pan, and a baking pan for reerug, plus several new-to-me cookbooks with some great old-fashioned, traditional recipes, so I can't wait to get back in the kitchen this weekend and report back to you. If any of these recipes have preference, or if you have a different request, do let me know, I'm all ears and only too glad to do the research :-)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Bierpap

Pap, or porridge is a warm milky food that is flavored with sugar or stroop, and served for breakfast to the children of Holland. Lammetjespap, ontbijtpap etc was an easy and affordable way to feed large families and often served as comfort food when children were sick. Lammetjespap, or lamb's porridge, is either milk thickened with flour and sweetened with sugar, or beschuit, crumbled up in warm milk and sugar. Depending on where you grew up in Holland, it can be either one or the other.

Another type of pap is bierpap, or beer porridge. Bierpap, however, was not served for breakfast but rather dinner, or as a shortly-before-going-to-bed snack. The base is still the same: hot milk thickened with flour and sweetened with sugar, but now with the addition of a generous splash of dark brown, sweet beer. Table beer, or tafelbier like the darker beers, used to be a standard beverage during lunch and dinner, especially in the southern provinces and Belgium, where the drinking water was of low quality. Tafelbier, or "yellow belly beer" as a dear friend calls it, has a very low alcohol content, just around 1 to 2%.

When asked about childhood favorite foods, a family friend shared this recipe and reminisced about how her parents would regularly serve this dish for dinner, as it was filling, comforting and ensured that the kids would be asleep by bedtime.  If you can't find a dark beer, like the Heineken Special Dark, replace it with a low alcohol content beer and substitute the regular sugar for a brown sugar.

During these winter days, when it's rainy, cold and dark outside, bierpap might be just the ticket for a filling dinner and then a long, sweet slumber.

Bierpap
2 cups and 2 tablespoons of whole milk, divided
2 tablespoons of flour
1/2 cup of dark beer
1 tablespoon of sugar

Bring two cups of milk to a simmer. Dissolve the flour in the two tablespoons of milk and stir it in the warm milk. Bring the milk to a boil and stir until the mixture thickens, whisking it well so it creates an airy foam on top. Lower the heat, stir in the sugar and the beer and bring the porridge back up to temperature. Serve warm in bowls or mugs.

Sweet dreams!!