The Dutch have an advantage over those of us who are under tall – or to put it bluntly – short. The average height for Dutch men is six foot one inch. For women 5 foot eight. This means they have a distinct advantage at concerts, in group photos, putting their carry on bag in the overhead luggage bin on airlines, looking for loved ones in a crowd, on professional sports teams, they are more desirable to the opposite sex, and research shows they have a definite advantage in getting jobs and, let’s face it, they are more memorable in social situations simply because of their height. So why are the Dutch so generally tall? I am going out on a limb here but the reason is, quite simply, Appeltaart met Slagroom (Apple Tart with whipped cream).
A recipe for appeltaart existed in 1514 so the Dutch have had centuries to perfect this fragrant mix of apples, raisins and cinnamon wrapped in a sweet crispy cookie-like crust. There are yearly discussions on where the best Appeltaart can be found. The competition is stiff and no trip to Amsterdam is complete without finding a place that serves Appeltaart.
We braved unseasonably cold and snowy weather to find this delicious pride of the Netherlands. We are not deterred. We are Canadians after all. We know snow. We know cold. We settled into a steamy window seat at the lunch cafe “Winkel” and ordered steaming cups of coffee and appeltaart. I order mine with slagroom (whipped cream).
There are variations but the rules are quite similar. There is no thickener in the apples; the apples must be a good cooking apples that do not mush down but rather holds it shape when baked; and the crust is like cookie dough and can be either rolled or pushed into the pan; and the pan is a spring form pan.
What follows is a fairly traditional Appeltaart recipe. For the purists, be aware I have added vanilla to the apples because I think apples and vanilla are made for each other. I have also added rum to the raisins.
This makes a giant of an Appeltaart; great for birthdays which is why I am making this one. It is my husband’s birthday and he needs the height.
Appeltaart (Apple Pie)
Serves ten (at least)
1 cup white or yellow raisins
4 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups cubed cold butter
3/4 brown sugar
1 lemon, zested
2 teaspoons vanilla
Juice of zested lemon
1/3 cup brown sugar
6 teaspoons cinnamon
1. Preheat oven to 350. Warm raisins and rum in a small saucepan. Turn off heat and steep for 1/2 hour. Grease or line with parchment paper a 10 inch spring form pan.
2. Mix flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Beat eggs and add to flour mixture.
3. Cube the butter and add to flour mixture, with first 3/4 of sugar and lemon zest. Knead the dough either by hand or using a stand mixer. This dough is more like kneading clay than dough and is a bit on the dry side. Don’t worry. Set aside for 15 minutes or until you are ready to use or finished peeling the apples.
4. Core and peel the apples; dice and mix with raisins, lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon.
5. Using 3/4 of the dough roll it out and cover the bottom and sides of the pan. Trim excess. Add the apple mixture and press with both hands.
6. Use the remaining dough to make the lattice. Roll the dough into ropes and slightly flatten. Lay the flattened ropes crosswise across the filling. Press ropes to sides to fix.
7. Bake for one hour. Allow to cool in pan. Carefully remove spring form.
8. Serve with mountains of whipped cream. Enjoy and grow tall.
Next week – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!