Happy Easter!

It is amazing to me how fast time goes. It seems only yesterday that I was getting ready for our family Easter brunch, and here we are again. A year further, perhaps a bit wiser, but definitely a year older! 

The Dutch Table's Paashaasjes
The Netherlands celebrates Easter in a similar way as it does Christmas, spread over two days. In the case of Easter, First Easter Day is always on Sunday, Second Easter Day is on the Monday following and is often a holiday.

The gathering of family and friends around the breakfast, lunch, or dinner table is key on First Easter Day. Stores are closed, children are dressed in their "Paasbest" (Easter Best) with new clothes and shoes. Eggs are colored, hidden and if lucky, all found. The breakfast or brunch table will be laden with different types of bread (multigrain, tiger rolls, Easter breads). To the right, you see our own traditional Paashaasjes, Easter bunny rolls, but you can always come up with your own design! 

The breakfast or brunch table will also have various bread toppings, deviled eggs, a couple of warm or cold egg dishes, and large amounts of coffee. Lamb is a traditional dish served for Easter.

And if you're skipping brunch or have friends and family over for coffee or tea later, you can also serve something sweet: a Paastaart, or Easter cake, a variation on our traditional slagroomtaart, whipped cream cake. Decorated with fluffy whipped cream, a light biscuit batter and an adult amount of advocaat, this Easter cake will put a smile on your face. 

Have a wonderful Easter weekend! 

Nicole

I've listed the recipes below as well:

Bread/Brunch:
Paastaart, Easter Cake



Coffee Time:

And there are many, many more recipes - it doesn't have to be egg or Easter-related to be good! 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 Let's get through the next few days unscathed, so we can get ready for oliebollen time!




Korstjes


It snowed yesterday and today. There is something so gezellig about a good snow fall when you're safe at home, something that makes me want to curl up on the couch, grab a book and let the day be the day. Quite a while ago, a reader asked me about a recipe for korstjes. It was mentioned in a book she was reading to her grandchildren, and wondered if I had heard of that particular treat. At the time, I had not but filed it away on the to-do list, and ordered the same book, just in case. 

Fast forward to this year. I was poking around the Albert Heijn grocery store in the north of Holland, when my eye fell on a curious package in the bakery section. "Korstjes" it said, and at first I didn't make the connection. "Korstjes?", I thought, "who wants to buy korstjes?" thinking of the crusts you cut off sandwiches, but when I held the package in my hand I realized I was looking at something much more appetizing, and remembered the request of my reader. Of course they landed in my basket, and am I glad they did! They visually appear to be korstjes, crusts, as they look like they were cut off from something bigger, hence the name, but the flavor and texture is much more akin to taai-taai: a chewy, flavorful spiced type of honey cake. Perfect for this time of the year! 

When I came home, I immediately dug out the book to see where these korstjes are mentioned. The book is called "A Day on Skates" by Hilda van Stockum. I've posted the details on the Dutch Reading page under Children's Books. but here's the part where the korstjes come in. Read for yourself!

"As time went on more and more people came out on the ice, and here and there tents were being erected. Some of these tents had benches in front of them on which tired skaters could rest. There was also the smell of delicious hot cocoa and wafers, with one man calling from a tent door:

"Hot milk and cold cake:
 Sit down to partake."

"Yes, yes, let's," cried Afke. She was hungry, and besides her legs were getting shaky. Some of the boys and girls now complained that their skates were coming loose, so Teacher picked out a nice clean-looking tent and ordered them all to stop. This they did gladly, with a great scraping of skates, and falling onto the wooden benches, they looked at the food on the table with hungry eyes. A fat lady served them, smiling good-naturedly as she lifted the lid from a kettle of steaming cocoa. Everyone got a big cupful and a korstje, which is a little spicy Dutch cake, especially beloved by skaters. They munched, and warmed their hands on the hot cups, while Teacher lit his pipe and puffed away. "

Call it a sign, but with today's snow, the book and the korstjes, I decided it was high time to dig out a recipe, make myself a cup of hot chocolate and curl up on that couch! The dough needs to rest a day, so plan ahead.

Korstjes
1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon water (80 ml), divided
1 cup honey (300 grms)
2 1/2 cup rye flour (350 grms)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (3 grms)
2  heaping tablespoons ground anise (15 grms)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1 scant tablespoon baking powder (12 grms)
1 small egg, beaten

Put three tablespoons of water aside, and heat up the rest with the honey in a small pan. In the meantime, put the dough hooks on the mixer, or prepare to use your muscles. Best to use a plastic scraper to mix the dough together. 

Mix the warm honey with the flour and the salt, until it comes together into a smooth dough. The dough is going to be pretty tough, so don't let the mixer run too long and strain the motor. Let it cool until it's comfortable to handle, then roll it into a sausage shape, wrap with clingfilm and let it rest for a day at room temperature.

The next day, break the dough into small pieces, put it back in the bowl of the mixer and use the dough hooks to mix in the anise, the rest of the water and the baking powder, until everything has come together. If necessary to make it into a pliable dough, you may need to add a tablespoon of water, but you're looking for something that has the consistency of putty, so don't overwater. This is a tough dough.

Dust the counter with a little bit of flour and roll the dough out into a square, approximately 10 x 10 inches (25 x 25 cm), and about 3/8th inch high (10mm). Cut the dough into three equal strips, and then make marks on the strips every inch or so, but don't cut all the way through the dough. 

Brush the dough with the beaten egg and bake on a silicone mat on, or a parchment covered, baking sheet in a 400F/200C oven in about 15 minutes, or until they're nicely browned. 

After they've cooled, you can break each of the pieces off into individual servings. 

Makes approximately 28 - 30 korstjes. Recipe adapted from Cees Holtkamp's book "Koekje".




Amazon Prime Shopping Suggestions: 

Disclaimer: if you buy through any of the links in the Amazon Prime Shopping Suggestions section, the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program will pay us a small commission on qualifying purchases. It does not increase your cost or price, and it will help us keep the website running. Your support is very much appreciated! 

Don't have Amazon Prime but want to give it a try? This link offers a 30 day trial. 


Pindarotsjes

It's the simple things that make life extra special. I was reminded of that again today when I kicked back with a cup of rooibos tea and a stack of Christmas cards, after working on today's recipe, pindarotsjes, chocolate covered peanut clusters. For a great snack, gift or little treat, all it takes is a handful of roasted peanuts, and a bit of chocolate. And patience, mind you, but it's worth the effort, and they make for a great gift. 

I tried to find out when peanuts first came to the Netherlands, but I was unable to find any specific information. The earliest reference I was able to find was in a book from 1866, where the author, Albert Helman, called them "olienootjes", oil nuts, which is a term I heard from the older generation when I was growing up. 

Nowadays we call them "pindas", and boy do we love them! A sandwich with peanut butter (with hagelslag!) is a kid's staple, the equivalent of the American peanut butter and jelly, and we love our French fries with a generous serving of hot peanut sauce. But even earlier than that, peanuts showed up on our collective tables in the form of confectionary. Pralines, toffee and candy bars, all made with peanuts, were very popular, as you can see here in an advertisement from Jamin from 1921, proudly announcing "Peanut Week", and offering a variety of peanut confections for purchase. 

The chocolate confection I made today is called "pindarotsjes". Its name literally translates to "little peanut rocks" and I can't say the imagery is amiss. A small handful of roasted peanuts is folded into tempered chocolate and set aside to harden. You can imagine that this must have been a special treat (and the most expensive one in Jamin's Pinda-Week!). 

Tempering chocolate is not difficult, but it takes a bit of patience, and a steady eye on the temperature. You will need a digital thermometer or candy thermometer to keep track of the temperatures, a bowl for melting and mixing, and a small ice cream scoop (#40) or a couple of spoons to form the treats. I've added some suggestions at the bottom of this post, in case you're looking to expand your kitchen supplies! 

If you heat chocolate too high, it will not set and you will end up with a sticky, gooey chocolate mess. If that happens, I would suggest to blend the whole thing into a paste, and use it on toast. But if you can muster the courage, I would highly recommend trying to master the technique, as it produces beautiful, shiny, snappy chocolate. 

And if you don't like peanuts or dark chocolate, not to worry. This can also be made with almonds, hazelnuts, or even a mix of nuts and dried fruits, as well as with milk or white chocolate - just make sure they're good quality chocolate, with cacao butter. 

Pindarotsjes

10 oz (300 grms) roasted, unsalted peanuts (or any other nut or nut combo you like)

15 oz (450 grms) dark chocolate, chopped and divided

Carefully melt 10 oz (300 grms) of the dark chocolate. You can do this either over a bowl of warm water (make sure no steam or water comes near the chocolate because it will seize up), or at short 30 second intervals in the microwave, stirring regularly. Keep your eye on the temperature of the chocolate but don't let it go above 120F/49C for dark, 115F/46C for milk and 110F/43C for white chocolate. 

Let the chocolate cool down to 82F/28C for dark, 80F/27C for milk, and 78F/26C for white, while stirring gently but frequently - stirring is an important step for the crystals to do their thing. While it cools, cover a baking sheet, or large cutting board with a piece of parchment paper and get your ice cream scoop ready. You can also use a couple of spoons.

When the chocolate has cooled down enough, add the remaining chocolate into the bowl and stir it in. We are going to bring the temperature up to 90F/32C (dark), 86F/30C for milk, 82F/28C for white, the same way you melted the chocolate before. Remember that this time we are only going to bring it up a little bit so use your digital thermometer to keep track! 

When you've reached the intended heat, fold the nuts into the chocolate making sure they're well covered, and scoop out servings onto the parchment paper. You have to work quickly, because the chocolate will set rapidly. 

Once you've scooped all the peanut clusters onto the paper, set it aside to harden. Just at room temperature, or in a cool area of the house, it won't take long to set. The hard part is going to be trying to hide them from the rest of the family ;-)

Makes approximately 24 pieces. 




Amazon Prime Shopping Suggestions: 

Disclaimer: if you buy through any of the links in the Amazon Prime Shopping Suggestions section, the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program will pay us a small commission on qualifying purchases. It does not increase your cost or price, and it will help us keep the website running. Your support is very much appreciated! 

Don't have Amazon Prime but want to give it a try? This link offers a 30 day trial. 


Kruidnoten Arretje's Cake

The combination of kruidnoten and chocolate is a winning one - and one that has not gone unnoticed by the Sinterklaas-focused food industry. You can buy chocolate (milk, white and dark) covered kruidnoten, chocolate letters and bars with chunks of kruidnoten, chocolate cheesecake with kruidnoten, kruidnoten tiramisu, and even whole kruidnoten chocolate pies. I am waiting for the kruidnoten chocolate body wash - you know it won't be long now!

But, all craziness on a stick, the sweetness and creamy mouthfeel of a good chocolate does combine really well with the flavorful spices and crunchiness of the kruidnoot, which is why today's recipe is such a no-brainer. For one, it is easy to make, and secondly, there is no need to use the oven so you will not be getting in anybody's way. Yay on both counts!

Kruidnoten are a crunchy little cookie associated with the Sinterklaas period. Arretje's cake is a no-bake chocolate cake that was popularized in the Dutch kitchen because of its easy preparation. Follow the links for more information!

Kruidnoten Arretje's Cake

2 sticks butter (225 grms)
1 cup sugar (200 grms)
7 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (40 grms)
1/4 cup heavy cream (60 ml)
2 oz good quality dark chocolate(preferably 80% or higher), chopped into small chunks (56 grms)
About 2 cups kruidnoten (about 50 - recipe in the link)*

Melt the butter, sugar, cocoa, heavy cream and dark chocolate slowly in a sauce pan, until just melted, on low to medium heat. 

Make sure all the sugar has dissolved. If you rub a little bit of the mixture between your thumb and index finger and it feels gritty, the sugar has not yet dissolved.

Take the sauce pan from the stove and let it cool a bit. In the meantime, add the kruidnoten to a bag, or fold them into a clean towel, and roll your rolling pin over the cookies several times. You are looking to break the cookies into pieces. Not too big, not too small. I left them mainly whole for this cake and found it hard to get clean slices when cutting, so will definitely break them up next time. 

When the chocolate in the pan has cooled down, fold the cookies into the chocolate paste until they're all well covered. Line a cake pan with parchment paper or plastic film, spoon the mixture into the pan and flatten it with a spatula, making sure there are no air bubbles.

Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, or overnight. Lift the cake out of the pan, and cut into thin slices. This cake is very rich, and pairs best with a cold glass of milk, or some unsweetened tea or coffee.



*If you don't have kruidnoten, or don't have time to bake them, think about using speculaas (windmill) cookies or even stroopwafels, gingersnaps or those Lotus Biscoff cookies. As long as it's a hard cookie, it'll work great!