Joodse Boterkoek

Boterkoek, butter cake, is a traditional Dutch delicacy. The Belgians do not have anything similar to it, nor do the Germans. The French have a Breton butter cake, but that's a completely different animal. Nope, the boterkoek is most definitely Dutch, with its crunchy sides and soft, tender heart.

It's definitely not for the faint of heart, or the dainty eaters, nor for the more refined consumer. Boterkoek, since its early appearance in the thirtiesappears to be a confection for the common people. It was not sold in the higher-end patisseries or bakeries in town, nor could it be found in the tea rooms of the upper classes. Even the traditional boterkoek baking pans, the shallow tart pans with the built-in slider, were not stocked in the higher-end specialty stores, according to Johannes van Dam, the famous Dutch food writer, but could easily be found in more eh...general stores like Blokker and Hema.

But in the homes of the hard workers, the farmers, the fishermen, the harbor workers and other physically challenging jobs, a small square of boterkoek was well received, together with a cup of strong coffee to cut through some of the greasy goodness. Made with (good) butter, i.e. not margarine, sugar and flour, the butter cake is probably one of the easiest cakes to make, and probably one of the first ones that kids learn to make at home.

Somehow there is a Jewish connection with boterkoek, as it was traditionally served on Shabbat in Dutch Jewish homes. Claudia Roden includes a recipe for Joodse Boterkoek in her book "The Book of Jewish Food", where she mentions that  the boterkoek is part of "a few dishes, seen as Jewish but presenting a distinctive Dutch character."  The Dutch Joodse boterkoek, Jewish butter cake, is per definition made with candied ginger.

Joodse Boterkoek
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cup of all purpose flour
1 egg
1/2 cup of candied ginger

1 egg for brushing

Mix the butter with the sugar until it comes together, then add the flour. Chop the ginger into small strips and add 3/4 of the amount to the dough. When the flour has been absorbed, add in the egg, mix it a few more times until it appears to be a cohesive dough.

Butter a square or round baking pan (9 inches) and place a bottom of parchment paper in there. Pat the dough into the pan, refrigerate it for 10 minutes, then brush it with the beaten egg and sprinkle the remaining 1/4 of ginger on top. Bake in an 350F oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until the sides start browning.

Remove from the oven, and let cool down completely before removing the cake from the pan. Cut into small squares. Serve at room temperature with some good coffee.



Wentelteefjes

It's a holiday today, so hopefully you got to sleep in a bit, lounge around the house for a while and get some much needed things done. Good for you! It's not until you get ready to fix breakfast that you realize somebody left the bag with bread out on the counter all night, and now all the slices have gone stale. Ugh...but not to worry! Remember those delectable slices of fried bread your oma or mama used to make? Today is a perfect day to indulge!

These slices of stale bread, dipped in egg and milk and then fried golden in butter, are a staple of practically any country that has sliced bread on the menu. Whether you call it French toast, pain perdu, torrijas or wentelteefjes, it all comes down to the same thing: proud housemothers (or fathers) using up the food they have and making a worthy dish out of it!

The word "wentelteefje" always generates a big smile from the adults and a snicker from the kids. The word itself could be considered an insult ("teef" is Dutch for female dog and therefore also used to describe less than pleasant women), and to "wentelen" means to turn over. So "wentelteefje" literally means "turnover little b*tch", pardon my English.

But how did this name come about? Did people run around the kitchens yelling insults at the maids to flip the bread? No, of course not. The generally assumed thought is that the name came from "wentel het even", turn it over for a minute (loosely translated) which might not be correct, after all, according to this article by Ewoud Sanders in the NRC newspaper. Regional variations of the name wentelteefje include draaireuen (rotating studs) and gebakken hondsvotjes (baked dogs butts), of which the latter one sends me into fits of giggles and is making me seriously contemplate telling my non-Dutch family that this is the correct name. I know, I know! It's not right. I promise I won't.

The best thing about wentelteefjes is the combination of ease of preparation and the big smiles you get when you set the platter on the table, stacked high with golden slices of yummie goodness.

Wentelteefjes
8 slices of stale bread
3 eggs
1 cup of milk
Butter
Sugar
Cinnamon

Whip the eggs with the milk well. Heat a skillet on the stove with a tablespoon of butter, dip the bread slices briefly into the eggy milk on both sides, and fry them in the pan. Turn them over to fry on the other side, and keep them warm on a platter until you're done.

Sprinkle with powdered or regular sugar and plenty of cinnamon!


Botersprits

The first time you eat a botersprits, you wonder where this cookie has been all your life. The soft crumb, the sweet taste, the undeniable flavor of quality butter, sweet sugar, and freshly zested lemon peel or vanilla make for an amazing combination. Sometimes spritsen come with an edge of dark chocolate, sometimes they present themselves in all their simple glory. But they're hard to forget.

Good spritsen, that is, are hard to forget. Unfortunately bad ones are too. They continue to linger on the brain as well as on your taste buds. Those are the ones made with margarine, or sweeteners, or cheap chocolate. These imitators leave an odd taste in the mouth, a funky layer on your teeth, and don't do the sprits any justice. Oddly enough, these sprits simulators are mostly baked commercially and are sold in large amounts from supermarkets, grocery stores and *gasp* even professional bakeries! 

That's why it's so surprising that so few people bake their own sprits (originally a German cookie that is piped or pressed, gespritzt) at home. The ingredients are few, but should be of top quality. The dough is easily put together and the cookies bake in less than twenty minutes. Enough time to brew a fresh batch of coffee or boil water for tea, take the mugs out of the cupboard and invite the neighbor lady over. In the old days, you could just knock on the wall and she'd know the coffee is ready, but with all these modern insulation techniques that is a thing of the past. 

For Utrechtse sprits, you pipe the dough moving left to right on parchment paper, and cut after they're baked as in the photo. For regular sprits, you can pipe individual cookies, either ovals or round shaped. Just make sure they're approximately the same height and volume, so they can bake at the same time.  It's easiest to pipe the cookie dough through a star-shaped tip, but ultimately, it doesn't matter much what shape or size you give it. 

Utrechtse Sprits
2 sticks quality butter (225 grams), room temperature
3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose or cake flour
2 teaspoons lemon zest (optional)

Cream the butter and the sugar into a pale, fluffy mass. Add the salt, stir once or twice, then add the whole egg and stir it with the paddle or by hand until the egg has been fully incorporated. Now mix in the vanilla extract. Sift the flour and divide it in two halves: add one half at a time to the butter and stir until it's absorbed. At this point you can stir in the lemon zest if you'd like. 

Transfer the soft dough to a piping bag outfitted with a large star tip. 

Heat the oven to 350F. Place the parchment paper on a baking sheet and place it in the hot oven. They should turn color in about fifteen minutes, and are ready as soon as the edges start to color golden. If you baked long strips, you can cut these in individual portions (approx 3 or 4 inches) immediately when the cookies come out of the oven. Let them cool while you brew some fresh coffee or tea, and look forward to enjoying the fruits of your labor!


Tip 1: To pipe them in long strips, draw two pencil lines on parchment paper, parallel to each other with a distance of 2 1/2 (6 cm) apart. Pipe the cookie dough in between these two lines, as seen in the picture. It will help to maintain similar size. 

Tip 2: bake one cookie first to check the spread - it should barely spread out and not lose its definitions. If it does, fold in one or two heaping tablespoons of flour.



Draadjesvlees

If you're anything like me, you're glad the holidays are over. Don't get me wrong, it's great to celebrate with good food and family and friends. It's fun to decorate the house, open presents, hide other ones, do some cooking, some baking.....and lots and lots of eating. It's such a wonderful, special time, and I love it! But I'm also glad when I can put the tree away, pick up the last of the holiday decorations and get back to down-to-earth-and-honest-cooking. You know, good old fashioned Dutch food. This week's recipe is perfect for the crock pot, or slow cooker. What better to get dinner started while you're cleaning house, catching up on mail or plain simply take a snooze!

 Draadjesvlees, or literally "meat cooked to threads" is one of Holland's favorite meats. It's generally a cheaper cut of beef, braised for several hours, to the point where it is tender, flavorful and easily shreds to savory strands. It's similar to hachée, but without that many onions, and it's a great dish for these colder temperatures. As it sudders (braises) on the stove, the kitchen will fill up with a lovely, wonderful, sweet smell, and makes the evening so much more gezellig...

As you may have noticed, certain vegetables are usually combined with a particular cut or type of meat, and rode kool met appeltjes, red cabbage with apples, seems to be the favorite partner for today's recipe, with green beans being a close second. But one thing you will most definitely need is some type of starch to sop up all the lovely gravy that comes with this dish: usually only boiled potatoes or mashed potatoes will do! 

Draadjesvlees is Dutch comfort food at its best. There is even a Draadjesvlees society


Draadjesvlees
2 lbs of chuck roast, thick sliced
1 tablespoon of butter
1 large onion, peeled and sliced thin
1 tablespoon of flour
4 cups of homemade beef stock*
3 bay leaves
3 cloves, whole
4 juniper berries (optional)
8 pepper corns
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or red wine
Salt
Pepper

Melt the butter in a Dutch oven, dust the beef with flour and quickly brown it in the pan. Add the onions and stir in with the beef until the onions are translucent. Add four coups of beef stock), stir and add to the pan. The meat has to be almost submerged. Add the bay leaves, cloves (I stick them in a piece of onion so I can find them again), juniper berries if you want and the peppercorns, then stir in the vinegar or the wine. Bring to a slow boil, then turn down the heat, cover and simmer for a good two hours. 

Try a little piece of meat to see if it's tender to your liking. Remove the meat onto a plate, fish out the peppercorns, bay leaves, cloves and juniper berries and adjust the sauce with salt and pepper or a little vinegar if you like it more tangy and reduce slightly. Add the meat back in, stir to cover, and serve with mashed potatoes and rode kool, red cabbage. 

*or four cups of water and 1 beef bouillon cube



Kniepertjes

Nothing like the last day of the year to kick back for a moment, grab a cup of coffee and reflect on the past 365 days. The hassle of Sinterklaas and Christmas is over, only New Year's Eve is left before the old year turns to new, and we get a chance to do it all over again.

The northern provinces of Groningen and Drenthe have a unique way of celebrating this change. On the last day of the year, the Drenthenaars consume flat, crispy, sweet waffles or cookies called kniepertjes, so called because you have to "knijp" (pinch) the waffle iron shut in order to bake them. On the first day of the new year, they enjoy the same type of waffle, but now rolled up tight (rolletjes). The old year, as in the flat cookie, is now laid before them, having revealed all it had in store. The new year, just like the tightly rolled one, is yet to unfold itself and holds all kinds of mysteries and excitement. So to add some sweetness to the unexpected, they fill these rolls up with sweet whipped cream. What a great way to start a new year!

These waffles are easy to make. Use your ice cream cone maker, or stroopwafel machine or pizzelle to make these. Roll them fast, as they set and crisp up as soon as they cool. This recipe makes approximately 40 waffles.

Kniepertjes
1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour (260 gr)
1 1/4 cup of sugar (250 gr)
1 egg
1 cup of milk (240 ml)
1 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 stick butter, melted and cool (115 gr)
Pinch of salt

Mix the flour and sugar together, then mix in the egg, the milk, the vanilla and the cinnamon. When all has come together and there are no lumps, stir in the melted butter and the salt. The batter should be thick but pourable. If it's too thick, add a tablespoon of milk at a time. Let the batter sit for a good fifteen minutes before using it.

Heat up the waffle maker and pour a tablespoon of batter on the hot plate. Close the lid and follow instructions (usually a light will come on or off to let you know the waffle is ready). As these waffles hold more sugar than the regular recipe, keep track of how long it takes for the waffles to be ready. Bake one, let it cool and taste it. Do you want more cinnamon? Then this is a great time to add it! Bake half of the waffles flat.

For the rolled up ones: use the handle of a wooden spoon to roll the cookies on. As soon as you pull the cookie off the hot plate, lay it on the counter, place the handle on one end and roll it up. Press down the handle on the seam for a second or two until the cookie sets, then pull it off the handle. Let it cool further on a plate.

These rolled up ones are great filled with sweet whipped cream, but are just as good without. Happy New Year everyone!!



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