I’m thinking that when new Canadians were forming our country, the Dutch were perfecting their apple pie. Yes, it’s that good. On a recent trip to Amsterdam Jon and I fell in love with Dutch Apple Pie, or Appeltaart, as the locals call it, or cake as I call it.
Jon and I were sitting in Zoet & Hartig Bakery on Haarlemmerduk in the Jordaan neighbourhood when we saw the beautiful Dutch Apple Pie, it was highly recommended so we went for it.
Dutch Apple Pie is nothing like the American apple pie that is made with thin layers of flaky pastry encasing juicy, sweet apples. The Dutch Apple Pie looks more like a cake, tastes like a soft shortbread with apply richness and hints of angel dust. Since I’m not a cake eater, I ignored the beautiful appeltaarts in every bakery window and restaurant menu, but here I was on my last day and I had to try it before I left.
Just one bite and it sent my eyes rolling up and over my head! There’s no sugary sweetness in this pie, cake or tart (whatever!), but a velvety rich, buttery, citrusy sweetness that mingles with the juicy, flawlessly cooked, ripe apples laced with the perfect amount of cinnamon. Our waiter Ronny Kaufman tells us the apples are a mix of Golden Rennet, Cox and Braeburn. But the pastry, or dough comes from Maastricht, a little town in the south of Holland that has perfected the apple pie dough. “Everyone in Amsterdam buys this”, says Ronny. But when I asked for a recipe, he wasn’t eager to share.
I spent the rest of the day in search of a good Dutch cookbook, but it didn’t happen. So when I got home I did what I loath doing – searching the world wide web! Now I should tell you that unless you’re looking at a trusted source (Jamie Oliver, Martha Stewart and the likes), most recipes on the web don’t work, but when it comes to baking, double this rule. Baking is more science than experimentation, so you need a good source for the best end result. Unfortunately, no trusted source has ventured into Dutch Apple Pie baking – pity.
So I took a few lesser known google sources, looked for commonalities and decided on the one that showed the most promise, with a few alterations of course. I bought all the ingredients and spent the better part of an afternoon working away. When the pie had cooled on the counter, I put it into the refrigerator overnight.
The next day I released the pie from the springform pan, put it on a cake plate and went to cut it. The pastry was a hard as a rock, probably because of the near pound of butter that was in it. It was far to dense to be the light caky apple pie I tasted in Amsterdam. Perhaps I should import some dough from Maastricht? In any event, the apples weren’t as sparkling on the palate and there was way too much thick gooey paste on the bottom.
But the good news is that the elements of crust texture, apple texture and flavour were enough that I could give it another few attempts before I nail it. And if you’re wondering why go through all this trouble? Well, let me just say that you need to put this on your list of culinary quests before you die. It truly is pure art for the palate.
If any of you are Dutch (or not) and you think you can lend a hand perfecting my Dutch Apple Pie, please reach out. We’ll do this together! In the meantime, I’ll share the recipe when I’ve perfected it.
My memories of Amsterdam cuisine are nothing I’d expected before I went. If you’re planning a trip, do yourself a favour and don’t google Dutch cuisine before you go. I also learned that the Dutch still send tulips to Ottawa each year. I think instead of tulips, they should the same number of Dutch Apple Pies our way, we would be eternally grateful!