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.


Lange Vingers

Lange vingers, literally translated as "long fingers", are part of that collection of old-fashioned cookies that are slowly but surely disappearing from the cookie tin. The cookies we know from our oma's koekjestrommel, those oldtime reliable treats like kermiskoekjes, lange vingers and maria biscuits, are making way for other novel delights. These new-comers are just as good, but sometimes only a simple, sugary, crispy cookie will do.

The love affair with this sweet treat starts as a teething child, when you get a lange vinger to chew on. The hard, sugary crust is pleasing, and the cookie softens as you munch on it. Once your teeth are set, you relish in the crunchy, dry texture, and challenge your siblings to a whistling competition whilst your mouth is full of crunched up lange vingers. Or see how many you can fit in your mouth, as these two are trying. Not a pretty sight, but always good for many giggles!

Lange vingers are also perfect to serve with any kind of vla or custard to provide texture, or like last week's dessert, Haagse Bluf. It adds flavor and support for kwarktaarten or other pourable fillings. And as an adult, having the time for an afternoon cup of tea, a couple of lange vingers and a good book to read is sheer luxury.

Best of all, these lange vingers are easy to make, quick to whip up and you probably have most ingredients in house already. The batter is piped onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and will be baked until lightly browned.

Lange Vingers
3 eggs, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 scant tablespoons sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour, sifted
Additional sugar for topping

Beat the egg yolks, the vanilla and the tablespoons of sugar until creamy and fluffy. In another bowl, beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and the 1/4 cup of sugar until stiff white peaks form.

Fold the sifted flour into the egg whites, then fold the egg yolk cream carefully into it, making sure not to loose too much air.

Preheat the oven at 325F. Fill a piping bag with a smooth tip (about 1/2 inch) and pipe 4.5 inch stripes on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Sprinkle plenty of sugar on top of each cookie. Bake for 10-15 minutes, and make sure they don't brown too much. The lange vingers will harden. If they stay soft, place them back in the oven after you have baked all the batter and turned the oven off, and let them dry.

Haagse Bluf

Full of hot air and a whole lot about nothing......that's how the general attitude coming out of The Hague is often perceived by the rest of the country. But 's Gravenhage, or Den Haag for short, does happen to be the seat of the Dutch government, the parliament, the Council of State AND the Supreme Court. It's where the King lives with his family, where most embassies are located and a place the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court call home. On top of that, they lay claim to one of the best hard candies, the famous Haagse Hopje, which flavor is used for such delights as hopjesvla. Which was, on top of everything, invented by a baron, and not just some Joe Schmo down the block. Not that there's anything wrong with that know...if you're claiming to be all that, baron definitely beats no-baron.

On the other hand there are plenty of other things that come out of The Hague that make you cringe out of a secondary sense of shame. As with all things, the pendulum has to swing the other way and oh boy, does it swing!

But one dessert can lay claim on the premise that it is indeed full of air, and proudly so, and that is Haagse Bluf. Whipped egg whites with sugar and berry juice turns into a very light, airy, frothy, sweet and delightful sweet treat, regardless of its slightly derogatory name. Haagse Bluf, The Hague Bluff, is in reference to the fact that the dish is mostly air, whipped into looking a lot more than it truly is.....

The red berry juice is traditionally a mixture of red currants and other red berries, but you are welcome to give it your own personal twist. I substituted the berry juice for a freshly made rhubarb-strawberry jam, as those are the two foods that are in season.

Haagse Bluf
2 egg whites*
6 heaping tablespoons of powdered sugar
3 tablespoons berry juice

Whip the egg whites, sugar and berry juice into stiff peaks. Serve with lady fingers, additional fresh fruit or a compote.

* Consuming raw egg whites can be hazardous to your health. Using pasteurized egg whites is recommended. 


Hushed voices downstairs in the kitchen....the smell of toast. A mug clatters in the sink, laughter. 

Small hands grip the handles on the serving tray, trying to balance the load, while climbing the stairs. Flowers, a card, toast, coffee, a boiled egg and juice. 

Breakfast in bed, once a year. 

Happy Moederdag to all women!


If you're at all keeping up with the news back home, you know that several years ago we had an important change of the guard. Queen Beatrix abdicated, after 33 years of being at the helm, the throne to her son William Alexander. For the first time in 123 years, we'll go back to having a king.

My mind being the way it is, I was more consumed with finding out what they were going to eat during those exciting days than with the whole crowning affair per se, with all due respect. Would they serve Koninginnesoep for one last time? A slice of koningsbrood to go with a Dutch cup of coffee? Oh, if only I knew!!! Worst of all, with all this talk about koning this and koning that, I could not stop thinking about zomerkoninkjes.

Zomerkoninkjes, summer kings, is a Dutch nickname for strawberries. They grow abundantly in The Netherlands, both in fields and in greenhouses. Furthermore, it's a great way to make some spending money in the summer: when I was a young girl, many of my classmates would pick field strawberries for the local farmer and get paid per crate. I tried to do the same one year, but ended up eating more strawberries than landed in my crate. At the end of the day, I had only made a few guilders. And I had a big stomach ache!

But strawberries are a traditional early summer treat. As soon as the red berries are available in the store or at the market, the Dutch will serve these first berries on slices of white, buttered bread with a sprinkling of regular sugar, much to the delight of the children. Because, as strawberries are fairly juicy, the moment you pour sugar on it, it dissolves. The trick was to convince your parents that you had not yet sprinkled any sugar on the fruit and that it was imperative that you'd sprinkle some more, and then see how many times you could get away with it.

What a grand way to celebrate the change of seasons: whether it be on Soestdijk or at your kitchen table. Long live the summer king!