We are seen here, here and here....but not here!

The annual Saveur Best Food Blog Awards came and went, and I'm sad to say that we've gone another year without even a single mention! Well, sad....not really. I would love to see more exposure to our national cuisine, with all its history, quirks, oddities and influences. But I am not a super duper food photographer, I'm not an exceptional food writer, and I lack the technical skills to turn the website into an amazingly designed online miracle.

But that's really not what it's all about, is it? If I can write the recipe down, show you how it's made and what it's supposed to look like when it shows up at the table, and give you a bit of history as to why or how we cook certain dishes, we're doing pretty good! I hope it encourages you to try and make some things yourself, perhaps reminisce a bit with some of the stories, and trust that you will share this with your children, your family and a good friend or two.

- In the meantime, I am tickled pink to see that The Dutch Table's recipes and photographs showed up on the I Am Expat website, in Benjamin Gartska's article about Dutch Easter Brunch.

- Also, the news section of the website for Dutchies, a restaurant in Hermanus, South Africa, was so kind as to publish some of our pictures.

- And I loved seeing our Dutch mustard soup on the BuzzFeed's list of 15 Deliciously Spicy Dishes From Around The World!

This is what makes me happy! Real people, real interests: and as time progresses I'll continue to capture our food history online: with recipes, pictures and anecdotes. I've been doing this for four years, and I have at least four more years of material, and that's just off the top of my head.

If you don't see a weekly post, don't worry. I've been updating some of the older posts, getting some new pictures in there and re-testing and adjusting some of the older recipes. It's a labor of love, and a live project. The latest updates were Mokkataart en Honingkoek. If you join us on Facebook, on The Dutch Table's page, you'll be kept informed of all updates.

Thank you all for your kind messages, for your support and for keeping our culinary culture alive!

Nicole


It's that time of the year again!




Every year we try to get the word out about good, traditional, yummie Dutch food. Our cuisine is not too well known, mainly because we're so humble about it, partly because it's just not very Dutch to insanely brag about something so common and ordinary. It's just food, people! seems to be the common attitude.

But we tend to forget that our food is really, really good! We have some of the most plentiful, healthy, nutritious and affordable foods, and even Oxfam's report was bragging about us earlier this year. So why not do the same? Let go of some of that Calvinistic "act normal, that's crazy enough" attitude and shout it, clad in orange, from the rooftops:

"I LOVE Dutch food! Give me bitterballen, give me hope, let me never go without my stroop!"

Or you could just nominate us for this year's Saveur Best Food Blog Award and spare yourself getting strange looks from the neighbors. That's okay, too :-)

Click here: Saveur Best Food Blog Award to nominate The Dutch Table. When asked, the URL is www.thedutchtable.com.

Many thanks!!
Nicole

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.