Appelbollen

Those of you that read my other blogs know that, these last several years, I've been picking fruit in local orchards around the valley for most of my cooking and canning. For one, the price you pay for fruits when you pick them is at least fifty to 70% cheaper than in the store. The fruit is also fresh off the tree so it still has all its vitamins and minerals and, on top of that, you support your local farmers. A win-win for all, and it's a fun day out for the family. 
 
Early summer is cherry time, mid summer is peach and plum time, and now that the weather is cooling down a bit, the last of the apples and pears are coming off the tree. Oh joy!! Apples play an important role in the Dutch kitchen: apple sauce is a standard condiment for many potato-based dishes (ever tried French fries with mayo and apple sauce? Don't knock it before you try it, it's the way Dutch children eat their fries) and a key ingredient in potato salad, Hete Bliksem (mashed apples and potatoes) and of course in desserts: Dutch apple pie, apple beignets and the old-fashioned Dutch apple dumpling, the appelbol. Sweet, firm apples in a puff pastry cover and filled with soaked raisins and walnuts.....What a delight! You want a firm apple for this dessert: I used a Golden Delicious, but a Jonagold, Gala or a Braeburn will do just as well. And if you don't have apples? Use a pear!

Probably not a coincidence that these dishes do best in a wintery, cold setting. The appelbol is more often than not a sugary treat with morning coffee, a sweet ending to a long, windy walk along the beach or together with a cup of hot chocolate after ice skating on the canals. Appelbollen are usually served warm and without any additional adornments such as whipped cream, but the last several years people have been adding warm custard or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. It's all good!

Appelbollen
4 medium sized apples
4 tablespoons golden raisins and currants, mixed
1 tablespoon walnut pieces, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoon sugar, divided 
4 tablespoons apple juice or rum
4 puff pastry squares (approx. 5 x 5 in.)
2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon water

Preheat the oven to 400F. Wash the apples, and peel and core them. Mix the raisins, walnuts, cinnamon and 1 tablespoon of sugar, and add the apple juice or rum. Set aside and soak for a couple of minutes, then fill each apple with the mixture. If you have boerenjongens, this is a good time to use them! 


Set each apple, top side down, on a square piece of puff pastry and wrap the apple, by pulling up each corner and tucking it slightly into the cored hole. Make sure all sides are covered and clinging to the apple. 

If you have some extra dough left and a couple of cinnamon sticks, you can make stems and leaves and wrap the apple with an additional decorative something or other, but it's not necessary. If you do use cinnamon sticks, make sure to wrap the top with a little aluminum foil, as they tend to burn easily.

Make an egg wash with the yolks and the water, and brush on the dough. Sprinkle all four apples with the remaining sugar. Place each apple in a ramekin or small aluminum pie dish, smooth side up. Bake golden brown in 20-25 minutes.




Oranjekoek

Originally a Frisian wedding delicacy, this treat studded with candied orange peel and spices is a delight to the tastebuds. Nobody quite knows where and how it originated, and why it's called Oranjekoek if the frosting is pink, but who knows.. (oranje means "orange" as in the color, not the fruit.)

The House of Orange-Nassau, the aristocratic dynasty from which our royal family stems, lent the colorful addition to our country's current three colored flag: red, white and blue, with a separate vane in bright orange to show loyalty to the royal family. During international sporting events, you can recognize the Dutch supporters by their orange outfits, wigs and other sports-related items.

But back to the Oranjekoek. The original version is a single layer cookie/cake, frosted with a pink glaze. The dough contains orange peel and whole or ground aniseed (you can also use gestampte muisjes) and nutmeg and is, combined with the sweetness of the glaze, a great addition to your morning coffee or afternoon tea. More recent versions of the cake contain two layers, separated by a filling of almond paste and a swirl of whipped cream on top. I usually bake the single layer pink cake, but in order to celebrate the occasion of Koningsdag on April 27th, I baked the almond paste filled koek, used an orange glaze and added a dollop of whipped cream and some fresh fruit and candied orange peel, for looks.

The koek is originally served in squares and because of its cookie texture is easily picked up by hand and eaten as a cookie, rather than a cake. It will keep great in lunch boxes or cookie jars (without the whipped cream). Because of the cake's slightly dry nature*, it goes well with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee or tea.

Oranjekoek
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp aniseed (ground or whole)
1/4 cup of candied orange peel and/or zest from one medium orange
5 Tbsp butter, cold and cubed
1 medium egg
Ice cold water

For the filling: (best made the day before)
1 cup almonds
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
Almond extract or essence (optional)

For the glaze:
Powdered sugar
Red food coloring for pink, and red and yellow for orange.

For the topping:
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 heaping soup spoon powdered sugar
Fresh berries
Candied orange peel (optional)

Mix the flour and sugar together, then add the butter in small chunks. Keep mixing while you add the nutmeg, aniseed and orange zest, then add the egg. Add a tablespoon at a time of ice cold water to knead into a slightly sticky dough. Fold in the chopped orange peel (optional). Wrap the dough and let it rest in the fridge for about an hour. In the meantime, grind the almonds and the sugar together and fold in a beaten egg. For extra almond taste, add a drop or two of almond extract.

Heat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8 x 8 square baking pan or baking sheet, or line with parchment paper, and divide the dough in two. Pat one part of the dough into the baking pan (allow for about an inch height). Spread the almond paste over the top and pat the second half of the dough on top.

Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes or until the cake is done: it will be quite lightly colored. Let it rest in the pan for about five minutes, then turn out and cool upside down on a rack.

When the cake is completely cooled, cover the flat top side with a glaze made of powdered sugar, the food coloring and a little water or milk. If you would rather use natural coloring, try blueberry juice for pink, or carrot juice for orange. Let the glaze dry for at least an hour. Cut into 9 squares, pipe some whipped cream on top and decorate with candied orange peel and fresh berries. You can wear an orange hat if you want to :-)

* sometimes I sprinkle orange liquor over the bottom of the cake (not the one that is going to be glazed) to make it a little moister.