As soon as the cherries hit the store, I start craving Christoffel pie. It's a traditional Limburg pie, or vlaai, that is standard on the list of top vlaaien and a favorite of many. The standard vlaai is baked with a yeast dough, filled with canned cherries, topped with chocolate whipped cream, regular sweet whipped cream, a sprinkling of dark chocolate curls and a dusting of cocoa. Thanks to observant reader Emily, we know that there is also a Christoffeltaart which consists of a meringue bottom instead of dough, and may contain custard or vanilla cream or some other combination. Regardless of the variety that you prefer, chocolate, whipped cream and cherries are always involved.

But who is this Christoffel and why was a pie named after him? I'd love to know the answer but search after search comes up blank. Someone suggested that it's a vlaai typical from Roermond, a city in the southeastern part of the Netherlands, whose patron saint is St. Christopher. A local bakery states the same information, but that's all I can find, so I'm not sure if we're milking the same information or whether that is true. Further research into St. Christopher himself reveals very little detail as well and the only connection between him and the cherries is that he is the patron saint of fruit merchants. Okay. Not much to go on as far as a valid explanation for why this pie is named after this pious pilgrim, but I'll take it!

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
2 cups canned cherries
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon panko or breadcrumbs
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 small dark chocolate bar

Measure out the flour. Proof the yeast in the warm milk, then add it to the flour, together with the sugar. Knead four or five times until it comes together, and knead in the butter and the egg yolk until the dough is satiny but firm. Cover and set aside for the first rise.

Drain the liquid off the canned cherries, stir in the cornstarch and bring up to heat, all the while stirring. The cornstarch will thicken the liquid. Fold in the sugar and the cherries, and set aside.

Roll the dough out to a circle slightly larger than your pie plate, lay it over your dough roller and line the vlaai form if you have one, or a regular pie plate (approx. 9 to 10 inches across). Use a fork to dock the dough, then cover and let rise until puffy, about thirty minutes.

Heat your oven to 375F. Sprinkle a tablespoon of panko or breadcrumbs on the pie dough, and pour in the cherries. Bake for 25 minutes. If the top of the dough browns too fast, tent it with some aluminum foil.

Whip the heavy cream with the powdered sugar. Remove one third when done, then fold in the cocoa powder (easier if you sift it above the bowl) in the remaining two thirds of whipped cream.

When the pie has cooled, spread the chocolate whipped cream on top. Shave curls off the dark chocolate bar and sprinkle over the whipped cream. Pipe white whipping cream rosettes along the edge, and refrigerate the vlaai until it's time to eat.



  1. Nice to see a recipe from my hometown! But I always thought this was called Christoffelvlaai, and the one with meringue is Christoffeltaart. But no matter what you call them, they both taste good!

    1. Emily, great feedback! I've adjusted the wording, thank you!

  2. Thanks for the change ;-)
    But I think Christoffeltaart is different in more ways than just the dough being replaced bij meringue, it's layers of meringue with chocolate cream in between. No cherries or custard in the taart.
    You can find it on wiki:
    In Roermond I think Christoffelvlaai is always with a layer of custard between dough and cherries, but that might be regional, you're recipe sounds perfect otherwise.

  3. Christoffel (St. Christopher) is a legendary ferryman, a giant who took voyagers on his shoulders to carry them across the river. His most famous legend, which is mainly known from the West and may draw from Ancient Greek mythology, tells that he carried a child, who was unknown to him, across a river before the child revealed himself as Christ. Therefore, he is the patron saint of travelers, and small images of him are often worn around the neck, on a bracelet, carried in a pocket, or placed in vehicles by Christians.
    Roermond lies upon the river Maas (and the Roer) and on passing the bridge you can see a guilded statue of the saint on top of St. Christophers Cathedral.

  4. Hi, I know cherries are traditional, but was asked about raspberry version. Would it be same amount of filling?


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