Sunday, October 13, 2013

Citroencake

We Dutch, how we love our coffee! In case you did not grow up with it, Douwe Egberts is our national coffee brand. Since their start in 1753, the company also sold tea, but it wasn't until 1937 that Pickwick was adopted as a brand name for this specific product branch. According to the 2007 numbers from the Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek (CBS), we drink an average of 3.2 cups a day. The second most consumed beverage is tea, at a rate of 100 liters a year per person. Men tend to drink more coffee, women appear to favor tea, especially in the afternoons.

It's not surprising. Tea, the way it is taken in Holland, in a glass mug and plain with perhaps a bit of sugar, has something comforting, kind and gentle about it. It's a cup of tea your mom has ready for you, waiting at the kitchen table, for when you get home from school. It's what young girls drink when they get together on a Saturday afternoon to play. It's tea, a big pot of it, that women will brew when their best friend is coming over for a shoulder to cry on. A big pot of tea, and a slice of cake. Besides coffee, we love cake.

The word "cake" in Dutch is used for pound cakes and loaf cakes only. Any other cake goes by the name of "taart". One of the most favorite cakes is citroencake, a lemon flavored pound cake. The richness of the cake goes well with the slight astringent character of tea, and make for a perfect moment of bliss.....

Citroencake
1 cup butter, softened
1 heaping cup sugar
1 1/2 cup cake flour
5 eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon lemon extract
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Cream the butter and the sugar together. Carefully incorporate one egg at a time. Fold in the flour and mix for another 30 seconds. Mix in the lemon extract, the vanilla extract, the salt and one tablespoon of the lemon juice.

Preheat the oven to 350F. Butter and flour a 9x5 loaf pan. Scoop the batter in the pan, and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, until the cake is golden brown.

Leave it in the pan for ten minutes, then unmold it and let the cake cool on a rack. In the meantime, mix the powdered sugar with the milk and enough lemon juice to make a thick glaze. Pour the glaze over the cool cake, and sprinkle the zest on top.



By the way, the Pickwick tune that is used in their commercials is very catchy....you've been warned! :-)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Appelcarrée

Any old Dutch cookbook worth its weight will have a large variety of apple dishes: after all, it is one of our favorite fruits! The most recipes I've counted were in a Margriet cookbook from 1962, listing a whopping 35 apple recipes, from traditional ones like appeltaart and appelbollen, to more obscure dishes called appelsneeuwberg and appelcoupe. Worth investigating!

The Romans introduced the apples in the Netherlands, or at least made a valuable contribution, and we've tinkered with the fruit since. As we would. Numerous varieties with interesting names such as Notarisappel, Brabantse Bellefleur, Zoete Ermgaard and the beloved Elstar are being produced and maintained, but sometimes old trees like these disappear. If you are considering planting a tree or two, why not look into some of these old Dutch varieties?

In the meantime, company is on its way and I've pulled some puff pastry from the freezer. Today I'm making an appelcarrée, similar to an appelflap, but a little bit fancier presentation-wise.

Appelcarrée
1 package of puff pastry
3 apples, preferably a variety of flavors
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3 tablespoons sugar
Cinnamon (optional)
Raisins (optional)
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Thaw the sheets of puff pastry. In the meantime, peel, core and chop the apples into small pieces. Mix with the lemon juice and the sugar: add cinnamon and raisins if desired.

Divide the puff pastry along the folds so that you end up with six strips: approximately 3 inches wide, 9 inches long. Spread the apple filling from top to bottom on 3 strips of the pastry, leaving about a half inch on each side.

Cut horizontal (to the short edge) lines into the remaining three strips, careful to not cut all the way to the side, leave about half an inch on each side. You're looking for a louvered look: this will allow for the steam to escape while the apples cook and prevent a soggy mess. Lift and cover the apple mixture with the pastry. Use a fork to push down on the edges, on all sides, to seal the dough.

Heat the oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully place your three appelcarrées on the pan. Brush each pastry with egg, then bake in the oven for 20 minutes, until golden brown.

Remove the carrées from the oven. Mix one tablespoon of water to thin the apricot jam, and brush the top of the pastries with the jam. Eat warm (preferably).