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Pie Shell Discovery

Finally. After months of searching (ok, casually looking around when I happen on a new store), I’ve finally found pre-made pie shells. The winning store? Jumbo, which is selling this Tante Fanny brand.

Well I couldn’t let a discovery like this go to waste. I bought two shells and brought them home for an experimental pie.

I know, I know, many of you are saying “Why not just make one from scratch?” “Pie crust is easy.” “You just need a good recipe.” All true, but the honest truth is I’m too lazy to make my own pie crust as often as I’d like to make pies. It’s a finicky little pastry recipe and until recently I’ve had very little luck with internet recipes. A friend on Facebook apparently took offense to my pre-made pie shells and provided me with a scratch recipe, so maybe the next pie will use that. But in the mean time I was very pleased with Tante Fanny’s offering.

My experimental pie was, of course, an American style apple pie. Super easy to make and always tasty. The purchased crust was refrigerated (not frozen) until I was ready to use it and actually tastes quite sweet on its own. After preparing the filling, I opened the package and found the crust rolled up with a piece of waxed paper to keep it from sticking to itself. It was very easy to work with.

Unlike the pastry shells I’m familiar with, this one was rectangular rather than circular and didn’t quite fit my 9-inch pie pan. Fortunately it is also very long, so I patched up the short edges and had plenty over hand to cut off and make a nice edge. I never get a nice edge when I roll my own.

I used the left over pastry (if which there was a lot) to make pie crust chips with a little sugar and cinnamon.

I baked the pie up in the oven and it came out delicious, although maybe a little flat. I could have used more apples I think. The crust was tender, although not flaky, and complemented the pie well. Dan & I had the pie for dessert and agree that while it wasn’t the best pie we’d ever tasted, it certainly tasted right and the crust behaved the way it should. Lekker.

Transilvania Cake

I happened suddenly upon a new snack today while walking through the Wednesday Market in search of a carving pumpkin. I didn’t find a pumpkin but I did pick up one of these weird looking, but tasty cakes. No, they’re not Dutch.

My cake being cooked right before my eyes.

Transilvania Cakes (or maybe Kozonak if Google is correct), is a mildly sweet dough cut into strips, wrapped around wooden dowels and grilled until browned. Then it is brushed with honey and rolled in sugar (or coconut).  Yum!

Unfortunately my hands were full eating this funny looking dessert, so I didn’t get a good picture of it. Instead, here is a video of some cakes being made (not in Maastricht):

Hot Jenever Toddies on a Cold Winter's Day


Cold weather

Recently, I was inspired by the holiday season to make my own gluhwijn here at home. While it was pretty good, Dan really isn’t a wine drinker even when the wine is spiced and sweetened. So we set out in search of an alternative adult beverage to keep us warm on rainy nights. Enter the Hot Jenever Toddy, a drink recipe of my own creation (although its probably not that original).
About Jenever
First created in the Netherlands, Jenever is the maltwine-based predecessor to English gin. Flavored with juniper, the spirit has a sweet, botanical flavor and malty mouth-feel. When I first tried Jenever, I found it to be similar to drinking a nice Scotch; although without the smokey peat. Since its creation in the 16th century, it has been the quintessential Dutch (and Flanders) spirit. Jenever was popular worldwide in the 17th century but eventually lost popularity in favor of English gin, which is drier, cheaper, and easier to flavor. Recently its popularity has been on the rise again. Officially only Jenever made in the Netherland, Belgium, and a couple other places can be called ‘Jenever’. Everyone else just makes gin.
Although there are probably as many nuances to Jenever as there are to similar spirits (for example, scotch), there are two general varieties. Oude Jenever is made more traditionally with a greater percentage of its mash coming from maltwine and the sweeter, stronger botanical flavor that comes with it. Jonge Jenever is made with more recent methods and a lower percentage of maltwine; resulting in a spirit with a less sweet, clearer taste.
bols mirror bar

Bols Mirror Bar in their "Experience Museum"

Jenever has typically been drunk very cold and straight from a special, flared schnapps glass. The glass is filled until the liquid peaks precariously over the edge and then the drinker bends over to slurp the excess so he can lift his drink. I prefer Oude Jenever for sipping.
Jenever can also be used for cocktails. Pretty much any gin cocktail can be improved (Can you tell I don’t like gin?) by using Jenever instead. Bols (a major Amsterdam brand) in particular is really pushing their product for mixed drinks (they recommend using Jonge Jenever) and have also released a series of Jenever-based schnapps in some really crazy flavors (banana? green tea? seriously?).
My Recipe for a Hot Jenever Toddy
hot jenever toddies

Honey (left) & Sugar (right)

  • 1 1/4 oz Jonge Jenever
  • (I used “De Schout van Maastricht” brand because it said Maastricht on it.)

  • 2 oz Hot Water
  • 1 tsp Sugar or Honey
  • 1 Cinnamon Stick to garnish

Build your drink in a heat resistant glass or mug; adding the ingredients in the order above. Stir with a cinnamon stick. Enjoy! Sugar makes for a sweeter, clear toddy. Honey makes the toddy a light golden color and brings out the spice in the Jenever better.

I also submitted this recipe to Instructables (a DIY site) for their Cocktails & Mocktails contests. Please take the time to check out my submission and vote if you like it. Voting runs from  January 4th – 10th. Winners are selected based on the public vote.

Happy Thanksgiving to Celebrants at Home or Abroad

from The Commons via Flickr

Yes this is creepy.

Just a quick note to say Happy Thanksgiving to all those Americans out there celebrating our national holiday today regardless of where you are living. The last time I was outside the country during this holiday was 2001 when I was studying in Ireland. That time, I got together with a bunch of American friends attending the same university and we pull together a potluck turkey dinner.
Earlier this week we found some cranberry sauce and ate it with pork and potatoes. It was almost like a Thanksgiving meal. But I don’t feel like cooking all the fixings, so this year Dan & I are foregoing tradition all together and going out for All-You-Can-Eat Sushi. Perhaps I’ll pick up an apple pie.
So Happy Thanksgiving and Eet Smaaklijk! Here’s wishing family and friends back in the US a happy holiday. We’re with you in spirit.

Asian food, Dutch kitchen, American hands

Before we move to the Netherlands and some time after undergrad, I discovered a deep love for food of an Asian tradition. What started in college as occasional sushi nights became monthly outings for us when we moved to Boston. Living in Allston, we were exposed to a wide variety of cuisines and quickly became fans of Thai and the occasional Chinese fare. I even began to make some of the foods at home and still remember with amusement when I was accused of “bringing the wrong food” to a staff potluck where we were supposed to bring native and ethnic dishes. I made rice balls. I suppose I was expected to bring hamburgers.
When we moved in to our Maastricht flat, one of the first things we found was a nearby Thai takeout restaurant with pretty decent Pad Thai. The just a couple of months ago we found a sushi joint that serves all-you-can-eat sushi. But it wasn’t until the Asian supermarket opened up this month that I was able to seriously entertain thoughts of cooking Asian dishes again.

asian grocery store banner

Amazing Oriental

The new Asian supermarket, Amazing Oriental, is similar to the one we had near us in Boston (Super 88), but without the fish market that always made the store smell a little funky. They do have all my favorite noodles, mochi, and all sorts of strange and interesting snack foods which I hope to continue working my way through. There were also a variety of Indonesian sauces which will be sure to spice up our weekly meals.
Dan and I celebrated the opening of the store by purchasing two different varieties of Mochi and red bean paste-filled glutinous rice balls. Mochi is a sweet made from rice flour made into a paste and usually fill with something. It can be terribly sticky and messy, but it is a very fun food to eat. We tried a blueberry jam filled-mochi which were so tasty they didn’t last us a walk back home. We also got to some ice cream mochi which was one of our favorite snacks in Boston. The variety we bought here has a much thicker mochi shell around the ice cream then the brands we were accustomed to in the US. But I guess that means we will just have to keep hunting for the right one.
Fixings for glutinous rice balls & tea

Fixings for glutinous rice balls & tea

I first had glutinous rice balls made from scratch by a Chinese history teacher in undergrad and at that time had really enjoyed them. So when we found a frozen variety, I decided to introduce Dan to this small, sort of slimy snack. They were very easy to make. Just boil the water, toss in the frozen balls, and simmer until they all float to the top. The results is a soft ball filled with (in this case) red bean paste which is a not too sweet flavor. Dan found them a little bland and added a bit of sugar.
The one thing I didn’t find at the Asian grocery store that I was disappointed about is miso, although that may be because I’m not looking for the right words in Dutch. Dan and I used to eat miso soup at home at least once a month. I would make what I called “super” miso soup with extra vegetables, silken tofu, and the mild yellow miso paste. I did find what I think is the red type, but it’s not our preference so I will have to keep looking. Miso soup is just so comforting on a cold, dark winter night.
This blog article is dedicated to NaNoWriMo 2009. Please sponsor me and my goal of write 50,000 words by making a donation to the Office of Letters & Light.

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