Saturday, February 9, 2013

Hoornse Broeder

 
It's carnaval this weekend!! Thousands have cancelled the next couple of work days, dusted off their favorite masks, costumes or festive gear and have taken to the streets to party en masse, weather permitting, of course. Granted, the mayority of this carousal takes place "below the rivers", referring to the more southern provinces of the country, particularly Noord-Brabant and Limburg, but even up north we see evidence of carnival outings.

Not in the least outdone by the carnival-related foods of the southeners, with their nonnevotten, haringsalade, and boerenkool met worst, the northerners also have their share of carnival foods. Surprised? So was I! And apparently it's not a new trend or something they picked up in the last couple of years, but carnival has been known to be celebrated in provinces as far north as, well as far north as you can go before getting your feet wet!

Vastenavond, literally fasting evening, is the Tuesday night before the forty day fast that starts on Ash Wednesday. It was the last day that people could indulge in all that tasted good. Villages would bake sugary pastries or sausage rolls to get one more serving of all that they'd be missing out on during the Fast. That was the purpose of some traditional foods back then, nowadays they more often serve to provide a good buffer for all the drinking that may occur.

Brabant has its worstenbroodjes, Limburg has its nonnevotten, that's practically common knowledge. But reading up on festive dishes, it turns out that Hilversum, in the province of Noord-Holland, bakes schuitbollen (or at least used to), Harlingen has Festeljoun brea (vastenavond bread), and in Borculo they eat haspels. 

Today's breadcake comes from Hoorn, in the region of West-Frisia, in the province of North-Holland. It is a heavy bread, with plenty of raisins and currants and a center of melted brown sugar. Sometimes slices of bacon would be added to the syrupy middle. The Broeder was traditionally baked on a petroleum stove, on low heat, in a heavy pan with a tablespoon of oil and flipped halfway through.

Nowadays it can be done either in a cast iron pan on the stove, in a spring form in the oven or just free form on a baking sheet. Traditionally served with carnaval, but also often presented as a gift to a new mother, the Hoornse broeder is now available year-round.

Hoornse Broeder
3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 egg
Pinch of salt
1 cup mixed golden and dark raisins
1/4 cup currants

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 cup brown sugar
Cinnamon (optional)
1 tablespoon butter

Mix the flour, milk, yeast, egg and salt into a kneadable dough. Cover and let it rest and rise until doubled in size. Punch it down, roll it out and knead the raisins and currants into the dough. Cut in half, roll into balls and cover for ten minutes.

Use a rolling pin to flatten each ball of dough into a circle. Add a cup of brown sugar on top of one, leaving about an inch of dough uncovered. Sprinkle with cinnamon, if desired. Dot the sugar with the butter, and place the second circle of dough on top. Press down the sides so that they stick together, you may want to brush the dough with a little bit of water if needed.

Heat a cast iron pan and add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Place the broeder in the pan, cover with the lid and bake on low on the stove (or bake in the oven at 350F). After thirty minutes, check and turnover so that the other side gets baked (don't need to do that in the oven).

Cut and serve while warm so the butter and brown sugar are still gooey and syrupy, or wait till the whole bread has cooled down. The sugar will go back to being slightly crumbly and create a layer of goodness between the two breads. I prefer mine warm and runny, so there is hardly any filling visible in the picture.

 
 
Broeder is usually not served with powdered sugar on top, in case you noticed.......I got distracted and the top colored much darker than I wanted to! Oops!
 

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