Sunday, December 30, 2012

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!!

Wishing you a very happy 2013! May you have much love, good friends and great food!

 
Thank you for making this a great year!
 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brinta


The month of December is one of our sweetest and richest months, food-wise. We kick off the festivities with Sinterklaas and all his goodies, then move onto Christmas where we eat and indulge in more sweets, baked goods and candies, and we wrap up the year with Oudjaarsavond, New Year's Eve, where oliebollen and appelbeignets will be a mandatory part of the celebrations. Inbetween eating, cooking, baking and shopping, I sometimes crave just a simple bowl of good old-fashioned porridge. If it's later in the evening, I might indulge in some bierpap, but for a solid start of the day I often get a bowl of homemade Brinta.

Growing up in the Netherlands, a child's palate is subjected to a vast array of pap, or porridges. It usually starts out with Bambix, a creamy, sweet porridge of mixed grains that is mixed with milk and given to toddlers and preschoolers. It is comforting, velvety and has a tender and sweet taste.

When you're a little older and have been graced with teeth, regardless of whether you're sporting a "fietsenrek" or a full set of pearly whites, you traditionally "graduate" to a grown-up version of Bambix, a so-called porridge called Brinta.

Made only with whole wheat flour, Brinta could either make or break your day. If you were at the breakfast table the moment the hot milk was mixed in with the powdery flakes, life was good. If you were but five minutes late, to where the porridge had cooled considerably and the fibers had had an opportunity to soak up all the liquid, your lovely, warm, early morning breakfast was now fit for slicing. It had turned into a cold, lumpy, mushy bowl of wet concrete. Ewww!

Permission granted Brinta
Brinta, short for Breakfast Instant Tarwe (wheat), was created in the province of Groningen in 1944. The partially English name was given to the product as a tender (or commercially sound) gesture to the English and American armed forces who were stationed in our country during that time, and who were much more familiar with robuster breakfast grains. In 1963, the year of the coldest Elfstedentocht yet, the winner of this long distance skating event happened to mention that all he had had for breakfast was "een bordje Brinta" (a serving of Brinta porridge). The connection between sports and Brinta was made, and it continues to this day.

Since then, Brinta has expanded their product line with breakfast beverages, a variety of porridges or mush and even loaves of bread, all made with the goodness of whole wheat flour. It is available in Canada but not in the United States, unless you purchase it from a Dutch food importer. A similar product is possible to make at home.

Brinta(-ish)
3 tablespoons whole wheat unbleached flour
3 tablespoons milk
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons whole wheat bran (optional, not in original product)
Pinch of salt

Mix the flour with the tablespoons of milk and make it into a paste. Bring the two cups of milk to a simmer, and stir in the flour paste. Stir to dissolve, and add in the (optional) whole wheat bran and the salt. Bring everything to a boil and continue to stir while the porridge thickens. Depending on how thick or thin you like your pap, adjust the amount of bran accordingly!

Serve with brown or white sugar, and eat hot!


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

 
Wishing you peace, love and good food.
 
The Dutch Table

Monday, December 24, 2012

Kersttulband

It's Christmas time, and this special time of year is celebrated in the Netherlands with good food, family visits and well....more good food. Old favorites are dusted off, new exciting dishes are being prepared and people look forward to spending some quality time together, and enjoying some good homecooking. During this time, an old-fashioned, traditional cake in the shape of a turban, or tulband is often baked. Usually, the tulband is a simple pound cake, but for Christmas it becomes a special treat.

Rich with butter, sugar and dried fruits, generous slices of this kersttulband are often served when enjoying the visit of a friend or family member. It is good by itself and will hold, because of its richness, for several days. Dress it up with a beautiful red bow and give it as a gift, or keep it for yourself and enjoy it during these holiday times! Red and green candied cherries give it a festive, Christmas-sy feel.

Tulband
1 1/2 stick butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 envelopes vanilla sugar*
4 eggs
2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup dark raisins
1/4 cup candied citron peel

Cream the butter and the sugars until they're fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, and allow each one to incorporate before adding the next one. Sift the flour and carefully fold it into the buttery mix, but hold back one large tablespoon. Toss the dried fruits with that flour, then carefully fold everything into the batter.

Butter and flour a baking pan, either a turban one, or a Bundt pan. Spread the batter into the pan, and bake the cake for an hour in a 350F oven. When a toothpick comes out clean, the cake is done.

Drizzle the cake, when it has cooled down, with your favorite glazed frosting, or make one by mixing a cup of powdered sugar with a tablespoon of milk, and decorate with red and green candied cherries.


* If you don't have vanilla sugar, or can't find any, add a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the batter.



 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Mosterdsoep


This recipe first appeared in Dutch, Issue 8 November/December 2012                              
It is so cold outside! It's snowing and these dark days before Christmas sure makes me just want to curl up on the couch, grab a good book and hide from the elements. But no such luck! I need to head out in this weather to get some last-minute groceries, the Sunday  newspaper and maybe a stocking stuffer or two. Sinterklaas has come and gone, now it's time for the Kerstman!
With all the eating, baking, sampling and tasting that is going on these days in this household, there is very little need for a full meal. But a quick pick-me-up cup of soup during this time really hits the spot.
Today, I made a quick mosterdsoep, a mustard soup. A variety of regions in The Netherlands produce coarse grain mustards, like Doesburg, Groningen and the Zaanstreek area, all with a slight variation on flavor, coarseness and ingredients. It is a traditional item served with many of our foods: it's hard to imagine bitterballen or kroketten without mustard, or a gehaktbal on bread, without a generous lick of the creamy, dark yellow condiment.
Mosterdsoep is a velvety, creamy soup that tastes like, well, mustard. Select a coarse grain mustard if you can find it, preferably a Doesburgse or Zaanse Mosterd. If not, try something like Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground mustard for a valid substitute. It is best with some crispy bacon garnish, and a slice of rustic bread.
Mosterdsoep
1 small leek
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
4 tablespoons of coarse grain mustard


Wash and thinly slice the leek, white part only. Melt the butter in a pan and slowly sweat the vegetable. When it starts to release its lovely fragrance, stir in the flour to make a roux. Carefully continue to stir the butter and flour until it's come together, much like a paste, until it’s slightly golden. Now add the broth little by little, all the while stirring, making sure the roux incorporates all the liquid. Make sure there are no lumps. Bring to a boil, and boil for a good five minutes, until the soup thickens slightly. Turn down the heat to simmer, stir in the mustard and stir slowly until it dissolves. Taste. Adjust the flavor with some more mustard or a bit of salt if needed. 

Mosterdsoep can be served as is, or with some crispy bacon as a garnish.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Duivekater

The Christmas season is one of many gezellige evenings together. We take the time to visit with friends and family over coffee and a slice of banketletter or a piece of speculaas. Or we spend some needed alone time, going through the many recipe magazines available, to plan our Christmas menu while nibbling on some leftover kruidnoten from Sinterklaas.

This season has some of the richest baked goods: they're heavy on sugar, dried fruits and nuts. Many of these traditional recipes stem from the times that families would bring out their best items out of food storage to share with each other. The best sausages, hams and dried meats would appear on the table, together with specialty items such as oranges and other exotic luxuries. This was a serious time to celebrate!

It is also a time of rich, luxurious breads. Kerststol, a rich buttery bread studded with dried fruits and almond paste, is found in stores and bakeries during this time of year. Many a breakfast or morning coffee will include a slice of buttered stol, just to set the mood. Christmas is celebrated during two days, the 25th and 26th of December, and is a great way to showcase your cooking and baking skills by inviting friends and family to come and celebrate with you!

A regional, rich bread that used to appear during these festive days but is now available year-round, is the duivekater. Predominantly present in the province of North-Holland, in the Amsterdam area and the Zaanstreek, the duivekater is a rich, sweet white bread, flavored with lemon zest and is lovely by itself or toasted and served with a lick of butter. The real interesting part about the bread is the shape: it is thought that the duivekater was a sacrificial offering, from Germanic origen, a bread that replaced an actual, physical sacrifice to the gods. If the gods were pleased, the devil would stay away. As the bread is shaped like a bone, a shinbone perhaps, it is assumed that the bread replaced an animal offering (kater = tomcat) . The richly decorated body of the bread represents the shaft, and both ends are shaped like medials, or the lumpy bits at the end of a bone.

But let's not dwell on that too much! The bread is represented throughout history on several paintings by Jan Steen and Pieter Aerts, and although it has lost some of its popularity, it can still be found in the Zaanstreek, albeit less decorated. It's a heavy, sweet, dense white bread, with a wonderful hint of lemon.

Duivekater
3 cups cake flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 tablespoon and 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup sugar
3 tablespoons powdered milk
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons butter, softened
Zest of one lemon
1 egg

Mix the two flours. Warm the milk, add the yeast and a pinch of sugar, set aside to proof. In the meantime, mix in the rest of the sugar, the powdered milk and the salt with the flours. When the yeast is bubbly, mix it in with the flours. Depending on whether you're a light or heavy scooper, you may need to add a little bit of milk to make it a pliable, workable dough. Add the butter and lemon zest, and knead the dough until it's pillowy and soft, but not sticky. Oil a bowl, add the dough and cover for its first rise.

Knead the dough a second time and shape it into a log. Cover and let it rest for five minutes. Now cut about 2 inches on each side and curl the dough inwards (like on the picture) or outward, whichever you prefer, you are trying to achieve something that vaguely looks like a bone.

Cover the bread and let it rise a second time, for about thirty minutes. Make decorative slashings in the rest of the bread and brush the whole bread with egg.

Heat the oven to 400F. Bake the loaf for 25 minutes or until done inside (190F and rising!). If the bread browns too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil until you reach the desired internal temperature.

Cool the bread, slice, slather with butter, sit back and relax. Best enjoyed with a cup of coffee and a couple of good friends.




 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Banketletter

Three more days until Sinterklaas is here!! This is one of my favorite times of the year. The excitement of gifts, the abundance of food and the possibility of catching a glimpse of the good old Saint before he goes back to Spain is just about as much excitement as I can handle.

During this festive time of the year, we bake ourselves into a tizzy. Well.....those of us that live outside of reach of fabulous Dutch bakers and pastry shops who specialize in those sorts of seasonal things do. No Echte Bakkers here, sadly enough. Not even a mediocre baker who decides to go Dutch and bake us some good gevulde speculaas, kruidnoten, taai-taai or who makes borstplaat so that the ex-pats can enjoy a slice of something good with their coffee.

But there's no reason to pout. If Sinterklaas doesn't show up here, we'll have to go out! To the grocery store we go, and before we know, something lovely we'll have for our snout.....If you're familiar with the Dutch tradition of making rhyming verses to accompany the sometimes very elaborately wrapped gifts (called surprise), you'll forgive the snout part....very little rhymes with "out"!

All sillyness aside though, these are busy times. And these are times that call for something good to eat, something Sinterklaas-y. And what better than a good old fashioned banketletter? A crisp and buttery puff pastry roll, filled with sweet almond paste and sliced into thin rounds, to go with a strong and hot cup of coffee. Banketletters first appear right around Sinterklaas, shaped as an S or an M (presumably S for Sint, and M just because it bends easier ), but you can also shape it in an I or an O. Those are probably the most forgiving shapes, as trying to bend a stuffed tube out of puff pastry and almond paste is not as easy as it sounds..... Leave it plain for Sinterklaas or decorate with candied cherries and a frosting drizzle for Christmas. Either way, it's going to be good......

Banketletter
6 sheets of puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
2 cups of ground almonds
1 cup of cooked white beans, rinsed*
1 cup of powdered sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of almond flavoring
3 red candied cherries
6 green candied cherries
½ cup of powdered sugar
1 tablespoon of milk

Thaw the sheets of puff pastry  and lay them out on the counter: three in a row on the bottom, slightly overlapping their short edges, three on the top doing the same, but also overlapping by an inch the ones the three on the bottom.  Carefully use a rolling pin to seal the edges.

Pulse the almonds with the cooked white beans, the powdered sugar, the egg and the almond flavoring. If the mixture is too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour. Roll the almond paste into a log slightly shorter than the length of your puff pastry sheets and lay it on top. Now wrap the puff pastry around it, making sure there are no open lines or edges. Shape the letter to your liking (M, I, S and O’s are the easiest), and place it on a silicone mat on a baking sheet.

Preheat the oven to 350F, brush the letter with egg wash and bake for about 35-40 minutes or until golden.

When the banketletter has cooled, cut the red candied cherries in half, and the green candied cherries in fourths. Mix the powdered sugar with the milk to make a glaze, and brush the letter carefully, place the cherries as seen in the picture.



* The addition of beans to the almond paste provides a more pliable texture to work with, but is not mandatory. In Holland, a more affordable version of almond paste is created with white beans and is called "banketbakkerspijs" instead of "amandelspijs". You are welcome to substitute the beans with another cup of ground almonds.