These "tucked in apples" as this recipe is aptly called, make use of two staples in the Dutch household: apples and vanilla vla. It's a perfect dessert to get in the oven as you dish up the evening meal: by the time you are done and the plates are cleared, your apples will be baked and ready to be served. They are wonderful eaten warm, but will do just well at room temperature.
Apples are not foreign to the Dutch kitchen. We love our apple pie, apple turnovers, apple beignets and appelbollen! It should therefore not be surprising that, last year, 336 million kilos of apples were harvested in the Netherlands. Of all those apples, a whopping 129 million kilos were of the Elstar variety alone. It is easily the most popular apple among the Dutch.
The Elstar apple was developed in the city of Elst, in the province of Gelderland, by a man called Arie Schaap. The Elstar combines the name of the city and the two first letters of Arie's name, in his honor. Since the apple's introduction in the seventies, it has quickly become a Dutch favorite and continues to be so to this day. The Elstar is a red and green apple, with creamy white flesh and a sweet and slightly tart taste, and is a cross between the Golden Delicious and the Ingrid Marie apple.
Other traditional Dutch varieties, which are becoming more and more difficult to find, are Notarisappel, Groninger Kroon, Sterappel, Dubbele Zoete Aagt, Eijsdener Klumpke and the more accessible Belle de Boskoop apple.
Elstar apples are hard to come by here in the United States, so I've used little Gala apples instead. The Elstar has a sweeter taste but the Gala will do for tucking in, so to say. If you have space in your garden, you may consider planting an Elstar tree or any of these other old fashioned Dutch varieties! It takes a bit of looking but they can be found at nurseries.
Appeltjes onder de deken
1/2 cup mixed dried fruits*
1/2 cup of apple juice
2 tablespoons of brandy (optional)
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
4 small size Gala apples
2 packages vanilla pudding (cook and serve, 4.6oz/130gr each)
6 cups milk
Mix the dried fruits with the apple juice, brandy, brown sugar and the cinnamon stick and let it soak overnight.
The next day, heat the oven to 375F while you prepare the hot custard. Wash the apples and cut in half, top to bottom. Remove the core (I use a teaspoon sized measuring spoon for a nice, even round). Pour half of the custard on the bottom of a large baking tray - the tray has to hold 8 apple halves- and keep the rest of the custard warm and covered!**
Place the apples, cut side up, on top of the custard. Stir the dried fruit and put a heaping tablespoon in each apple hollow. Continue until the fruits have been distributed evenly.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Serve the apples hot at the table, and pour the rest of the hot custard over the apples right before you serve, tucking them in under a nice, warm blanket.....
* Use what you have: mix up dark raisins, golden raisins, currants, cranberries, chopped up walnuts, almonds or pecan.
** It's a little bit more work, but I prefer making the second batch of vanilla pudding when the apples are baking - right before they come out of the oven. That way, I have piping hot custard to pour over the apples!