#183 dutch apple pie

Dutch cuisine isn’t a very celebrated one in the world, nor is it exceptionally imaginative or unique. But I can’t deny that in the pastry department, their well-known apple pie really hit the spot for me.  Traditional Dutch apple pie is a real crowd-pleaser and together with a generous dollop of fresh whipped cream & a warm cup of coffee or cocoa, it makes the perfect snack!  Whether we call it as the Dutch do: Hollandse Appeltaart or Dutch apple pie, this is a magnificent taste of Holland we can all enjoy at home.  “eet smakelijk!“.

In the Netherlands, it seems to greet you on every corner: the sign for the warm traditional Dutch apple pie, or appeltaart.  The Dutch people themselves can’t seem to get enough of it & once you taste it, you can understand why.  Recipes for Dutch apple pie go back to the Middle Ages, and nowadays there might be some confusion with what Americans recognize as Dutch apple pie and what the real deal is.  Traditional Dutch apple pie actually comes in two varieties, a crumb (appelkruimeltaart) and a lattice (appeltaart) style pie.  Both recipes are distinct in that they typically call for cinnamon and lemon juice and differ only in texture, not really in taste.  Another important aspect is that Dutch apple pie is baked in a springform cake pan, rather than a pie pan, making a humble piece of Dutch apple pie a loaded bomb set on a plate.

In the United States, the term Dutch apple pie refers specifically to the apple pie style with a crumb, streusel, topping.  I feel the need to explain this further!  Apple pies were made in Europe long before the colonization of American began and each region had their own way of making the pie, depending on their preferences and the available ingredients.  But when they began coming to America, our dear colonizers discovered that they couldn’t find apples for their beloved pies!  Seeds & seedling apple trees were therefore brought from Europe, but they didn’t flourish because there were no bees to pollinate the flowers…so they brought the bees!  Eventually everything worked out and by the 19th century, the apple pie had become a symbol of American prosperity and national pride, merging all the European regional varieties into one American favorite.

While in Amsterdam, we made a date with our tummies & a warm slice of apple pie at the famous Winkel 43 café.  We made a day of it and walked along Prinsengracht, past the Anne Frank House and Amsterdam Tulip Museum.  A lovely walk, indeed.  The entire Jordaan area was recommended as a less-touristic destination and we enjoyed strolling along the picturesque streets.  As we arrived at Winkel 43, we were terribly disappointed to find it was also every other tourist’s destination for their apple pie fix.  Their indoor space is small & cozy and their outdoor seating was – smack in the middle of Winter – cold & wet, so we sadly decided to stroll along back towards the city center to find what we were already heavily craving: a warm piece of Dutch apple pie.

As we walked along, we saw a lovely corner café that caught our attention.  It was perfect, Café De II Prinsen had a table for two in a cozy indoor atmosphere with a window looking out to the canal with a friendly waiter who brought us a piece each of their warm homemade apple pie.  Everyone does it slightly different, but one thing’s for sure: it never looks like an American apple pie.  It almost looks like a cake – which you couldn’t tell from my puny version!  The crust isn’t rolled and the firmer apples used allow the pie to keep its shape.  If you ever visit Amsterdam, you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with apple pie options, but make sure to leave a whole lot of room for a piece: they are huge!

For the Almond Paste

  • 250 grams of whole almonds
  • 250 grams of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 large egg, beaten

It’s important to plan accordingly, as the almond paste & raisins should be prepared overnight.  You’ll only need 1/3 of the almond paste for this recipe and the remainder can be frozen for another time!  Blanch the almonds by soaking them in boiling water for a few minutes.  Remove from the hot water and cover with ice to cool.  Slip the brown skins off.  Place the blanched almonds on a sheet try and put into a 350°F oven to dry completely and toast slightly until they smell fragrant.  Cool completely and grind in a food processor.  Combine the ground almonds, powdered sugar, and beaten egg.  The mixture should be somewhat sticky.  Store the paste in the fridge up to a week for the flavor to develop!

For the Raisins

  • 120 grams of golden raisins
  • 1 cup of boiling water
  • 2 tablespoons of spiced rum

Plump the raisins in very hot water for about an hour.  Drain the water and add the spiced rum.  Soak overnight for best results.

For the Filling

  • 900 grams if 1/4-inch sliced, peeled, & seeded Gala apples
  • 4 teaspoons of granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced

Combine the apples – avoid overly juicy varieties – sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice.  Set aside while preparing the pastry.

For the Pastry

  • 360 grams of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 225 grams of unsalted butter
  • 180 grams of brown sugar
  • Salt & white pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 tablespoon of cornstarch

It’s important to understand that authentic Dutch version has a flavor profile that is much more complex than the American version, that includes a whole lot of spices into the dough itself!  In the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, baking powder, butter, brown sugar, salt, pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, and cinnamon.  Add 1-2 tablespoons of water and process until dough forms into a ball.  Divide the pastry into 2 unequal portions (the larger portion should be approximately 2/3 of the dough; the smaller 1/3).

Preheat the oven to 375°F.  Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper.  Press the large ball of pastry dough into the bottom and up the sides of the springform pan.  No rolling – it’s part of the charm!  Brush the bottom pastry with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with cornstarch.

Pour 1/2 the apples into the prepared pastry.  Add the rum-soaked raisins (including any remaining rum) and crumble about 1/3 of the homemade almond paste over the apples.  Add the remaining apples.  Decorate the top of the tart with the remaining pastry by rolling into a snake shape and pressing into a lattice pattern.  Brush the lattice with beaten egg white.

Wrap the bottom of the springform with foil to prevent leaking juices from dripping in your oven!  Loosely tent top with foil.  Bake for 45 minutes, uncover and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes.  Cool completely before unmolding.  Bring Amsterdam home!

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