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No, I did not misspell appletart. That’s how you spell it here, people! I am slowly, but surely working all sorts of Dutch words into my vocabulary. As annoying as it sounds, I am even pronuncing Dutch cities with a Dutch accent. Arg! Who have I become! “If you’re talking English, pronounce words in English,” I used to lament. Well, I am trying to learn Dutch and this is the way I am going about it. I am breaking on through to the otherside.
If you ever read a book about the Netherlands, like The Undutchables (thanks Marja!), then you’ll find out that the Dutch love their coffee. Not only do they love coffee, but it must be accompanied by a snack. When you order a cup at a cafe, there is always a dainty cookie (koeke) or sweet chocolate resting on the skirt of the dish. How satisfying these little morsels can be, but if you’re a little hungrier, there are all sorts of cakes and slices to order. The most popular and raved about accompaniment to coffee is the appeltaart.
The first time we came to Delft we were instructed to go to Kobus Kuch to sit on the outdoor patio, order a cappuccino and dig into a slice of appeltaart. Kobus Kuch and everyone else in the city for that matter, claims that they make the best! Well, Arne being the pie lover that he is, bee-lined straight for the Kuch.
Appeltaart is not just a pie. Oh no. It is set in a large, straight-sided “taart” dish and has a more-cakey-less-flaky (wow, I am quite the poet) crust. It is sweet and tender and when it sits for a day the crust turns hard. The best appeltaart has a crust that is hard to break into with you fork, with a center of gooey-tender-sweet apples dotted with raisins. (The picture in my head is minus the raisins, but keep the raisins in your mental picture if you like).
I, of course, had to make this taart. How do you make a crust like that? Well, one day, as I was browsing my fave foodie blogs, I landed on The Wednesday Chef’s version of Darina Allen’s Country Rhubarb Cake. “This is it!” I thought. I also searched the web intensively and found that the only difference between a “pie” and a Dutch “taart” crust was sugar, buttermilk and an egg. The egg being the biggest diff.
At our house, I don’t make the pie. That job is reserved for the man of the house. He is the pie master and has no fear of the flaky concoction. He quickly set to work as I peeled the apples. A trusty wine bottle was used as a rolling pin (when will my boxes come!) and voila – a wonderful twist on a regular old Canadian apple pie. This thick crust should not go untried!
Dutch Appeltaart – Crust from Darina Allen, inside by me!
3 cups all-purpose flour, more for work surface
0.25 teaspoon salt
3 tbsp granulated sugar
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.5 cups (or 1 stick) butter, cut into pieces, at cool room temperature
2 eggs (1 for inside the crust, the other to brush onto the crust)
0.5 cup buttermilk
6 apples, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1-2 tsp cinnamon
0.25 tsp nutmeg
0.25 cup brown sugar
as many raisins as you want (optional)
Ok, if you have a partner let decide who is making the crust and who is peeling and choppin’ the apples. If you are solo, do the apples first. Put all the chopped apples in a large bowl. Sprinkle with the cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar. Toss them about until they are evenly coated. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit (180 degrees celsius).
For the dough, mix the dry ingredients together. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter, a fork, or your finger tips until it looks like large cornmeal. Lightly beat the egg and add it along with the buttermilk. Knead briefly and turn out onto a floured surface. It will be quite sticky. Separate into two balls and roll out the bottom and then the top. Line the bottom of a taart plate (or large pie plate) with one.
Before you dump the apples in – here is a tip. Instead of adding the 2 tbsp of flour to the apples listed in the ingredients, use the flour from the counter. You know “the floured surface” flour. Then this stuff doesn’t go to waste. If it’s about 2 tbsp then you are good or add a little if you need to. Now, dump them over the bottom pie sheet. Cover the top of the pie with the other sheet. To give it a great finish, brush the top with a lightly beaten egg.
Bake for about 1 hour and then dig in!
Pssst! I just wrote a new page ( look up) about all the sites I read on a regular basis. A secret from me to you. You’re welcome 🙂
Here it comes. Straight to ya. A traditional Dutch recipe. Yup, you heard me. The recipe was even written in Dutch. Good thing Arne’s Mom was here to oversee the whole thing. She is of course a pureblood (of the Dutch variety) and she gave the thumbs up to the recipe and helped to decipher it. (Pureblood is Arne’s word for being awesomely and totally Dutch – just so you know).
Me, being a mixblood of the Canadian variety, have only rarely seen the illusive white asparagus. It only shows up in grocery stores for a limited time and is usually very highly priced. I know you may gasp at the mention that I have never tried white asparagus, but alas it is true. I have often shrugged off the idea of using it in a recipe. It’s just the same as green, only grown without sunlight. (insert eye-roll) I’m sure it tastes the same. Who wants a colourless vegetable gracing the plate? Excuses abound.
Here, in the Netherlands, the white asparagus can be found anywhere. High-end grocer, budget grocer, markets, street vendors. It was finally time to try it. And when they hand out traditional recipes with the purchase, well, then it’s time to try that out too.
Well, I must say that it hit the mark. White asparagus has a sweeter and more delicate flavour. I would recommend it to those of you who don’t like the green variety because of the bitterness. It went extremely well with the sauce. Each bite had crunch wrapped in silky cream. Where the look on the plate leaves something to be desired (all cream colour people! I guess I should have sprinkled some chives over it…) the taste makes up for it. It does feel like a down-to-earth meal. Something an Oma would cook up. I can check white asparagus off my list. Now starts the search for these ramps everyone is talking about….
White Asparagus with Ham and Cream Sauce (don’t know who it is by, someone recycled the paper…)
I box chicken or vegetable stock
About 16 stalks of white asparagus (4 per person)
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
250 ml heavy cream
100 g ham (deli or preferably the real deal)
4 eggs (1 for each person)
salt and pepper
Bring the stock to a boil and drop in the asparagus until they are tender but not limp! Remove and reserve the stock.
Put the eggs on to boil. I like them fully cooked, but if you like ’em runny do as you please. The eggs could also be poached or fried depending on your preference.
In a skillet, melt the butter and then whisk in the flour. Stir for about 1 minute. You want to make sure the flour gets cooked/absorbed by the butter or the sauce will taste like flour. This is a roux. Then pour some of the reserved stock. Don’t pour it all in or you will have 4 cups of sauce! I would say pour in less than half – remember the cream is still to come. Whisk to make it smooth. Stir and let thicken. Add the container of cream. Whisk and let it thicken more. Add the chopped ham and salt and pepper to taste.
For presentation, lay the asparagus across the plate. Cover in sauce and place the egg on top. You could also cut the egg into the sauce, but I thought this added a special touch. Sprinkle with chives (this will help the colour aspect!). Serve with roasted potatoes because that’s what they do here.
I am back! Sorry to say, but this kitchen is leaving me unmotivated and basically killing my creative cooking spirit. I don’t want to be a downer, but I’m sure my mojo will return with the arrival of my boxes filled with kitchen supplies! I’m sure I will hop around with my spatula in one hand and my chef knife in the other raised high towards the sky while images of sugar plums dance in my head… wait, that went a little far.
So, in the meantime I did become a Proefmeester (read: tasting master). Yah, I am an expert in cheese tasting. Boo-ya! I even got a certificate to prove it. In the heart of Amsterdam there is a small cheese boutique called Reypenaer. In the basement, there is a small tasting room, with tables and chairs set up facing the front of the class. On the table sits 6 cheeses, a guillotine for slicing, a port glass, a wine glass and a carafe of water. Who needs the water? rhetorical question.
With my husband Arne and friends Rob, Ryan and Tobey, we had an excellent time learning the wise ways of cheese ripening in the traditional Dutch method. Get this, they buy the wheels of cheese and then ripen them in rooms by opening and closing doors and windows. You might think the same type of cheese would taste pretty similar if it was ripened for 4 weeks, 6 months or 2 years. As a cheese tasting expert, I now know that this is untrue. The ripening process gives the cheese depth in flavour and aroma. Are you buying this yet?
Things I learned that I feel I should share:
1. Port tastes good with goat cheese.
2.Red wine tastes good with cow’s milk cheese.
3. Gouda refers to the shape of the cheese not the region it was made.
There you go. Some useful tips from an expert.
Just to show that we really went for the European experience, we stopped in a tiny chocolaterie for a handmade bonbon afterwards. Sublime!