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Episode 16 of Maastricht Minutiae

Sinterklaas taste test

Dan preparing for the Sinterklaas taste test.

Episode 16 of Maastricht Minutiae is ready for your listening pleasure. Its been a couple of real nose to the grindstone kind of weeks. So instead of having a tale of travel to share, we decided to celebrate Sinter Klaas’ arrival in Maastricht with a taste test of traditional holiday sweets. That does mean we recorded the episode on the same computer, so the sound quality is a bit off. Click here to listen to Episode 16 or download it using your favorite podcatcher.
 
 
 
In Episode 16 we talk about:

  • Dutch Language Class at Maastricht University
  • NaNoWriMo & other projects
  • My continued adventures with Dutch Healthcare
  • The dryer gets fixed! (Finally)
  • The Sinterklaas Sweets Taste Test
    1. Kruidnoten: Tiny crunchy spice cookies traditionally handed out by Sinter Klaas.
      Speculaas Cookies: Spiced cookies with almond slices typically shaped as windmills but also made into holiday shapes this time of year. (Dan’s Favorite)
      Marzipan Sinter Klaas: A fondant like candy.
      Amandelstaaf: Creamy almond paste baked in a staff with a flaky, butter crust around it like a roll. Sometimes shaped into letters.
      Speculaasslofje: An inch-thick speculaas-flavored bread filled with almond paste. (Amanda’s Favorite)

     
    Do you have questions or comments for the podcast? Please feel free to e-mail them to me at maastrichtminutiae@gmail.com or fill out the contact me form.
     
    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.

    Sinterklaas sweets

    Amandelstaaf, Speculaasslofje, Marzipan, Speculaas cookies, Kruidnoten

    Pannenkoeken or Pancakes?

    poffertjes image by 'a little tune' via Flickr

    Poffertjes image (cc) 'a little tune' via Flickr.

    “The Dutch invented the pancake you know.” my Dutch acquaintance told me while Dan and I road in the back of his car. I had to admit that I didn’t know nor had I ever considered the origins of one of our favorite breakfast foods. Pancakes conjure up a lazy Fall morning in my parent’s Vermont home with fresh fruit and light arguments about the virtues of real vs. fake maple syrup. We even use to tap maple trees and make our own syrup; a very rural New England activity. I was surprised to find that pancakes are more of a snack or dinner food here in the Netherlands and that they don’t eat them with maple syrup (shock!) but with sugar, fruit, meat, and a myriad of other things.
     
    Pancakes: Dutch-Style
    store bought pancake

    Store-bought pancake with side of beer.

    The Netherlands most readily boasts two types of pancakes: the thin, wide pannenkoeken and the small, fluffy poffertjes. Pannenkoeken are a bit thicker than crepes, but have a similar appearance and texture. Everything I read says that they are baked, but I haven’t actually made them myself yet. Frequently a pannenkoek (you only need one) will have apple slices or bacon embedded in it; but pretty much any fruit or even cheese can be used. I had one with feta cheese & spinach at one of the ubiquitous pannenkoekenhuis (pancake house) the dot the Netherlands.
     
    Poffertjes are probably eaten more frequently as dessert since they appear to be exclusively served with sweet things: powdered sugar, spices, chocolate sauce, etc. These little pancakes are made with a special pan on the stove top. Each has to be muddled and flipped to create the empty space inside that marks a poffertje. The ones I’ve had were sweet and a bit chewy, but certainly filling. I wouldn’t mind picking up a pan so we can make our own.
     
    Besides selling pans and grills for making pancakes, you can also buy pre-cooked pancakes and poffertjes. I’ve had the premade pannenkoeken and they are ok, but like most foods they are better fresh. The so-called “American” pancakes give me the giggles. They are easily a half inch thick, way thicker than any pancake I’ve ever made. Actually American-style products here crack me up in general.
     

    Apple Pancakes

    apple pancake

    Not quite like Mom use to make.

    Pancakes to me also mean my mother’s apple pancakes, thick and fluffy with lots of butter and made in an electronic skillet. We use to eat them for dinner when I was a child. Recently I was trying to find a similar recipe online since I lost my copy of the original. What I found instead was something the Web hailed as the Dutch (or sometimes German) Puffed Apple Pancake. I haven’t seen pancakes like this one in the Netherlands yet, so maybe the German moniker is more accurate. Using the recipe above, the resulting pancake was similar to my childhood food, but not quite right. I usually leave the apple skins on when I make these pancakes, but only if the apples are pretty fresh.
     
    Did the Dutch really “invent” the pancake?
    I really don’t know if you can say any one group of people invented the pancake. Flat griddle cakes in some form are eaten the world over and were eaten well before distinct groups ever met each other. How hard could it be to come up with a flat and sweet bread with three or four ingredients? Pancakes became an important part pre-Lent food in Europe during the Medieval period, so it make sense that a traditionally Christian country like the Netherlands would have a strong pancake tradition.
     
    What’s your favorite way to eat pancakes? Share with us in the Comments.

    Casual Saturday in Maastricht

    Chocolate Company cafe

    Chocolate Company cafe

    After a few weeks of staying in, sickness, frustrating laundry experiences, and just plain business, Dan & I decided to get out on Saturday to run a few errands in town and go see an archaeological exhibit.
     
    Actually the archaeology exhibit was my main reason for getting out. I had read about a free exhibit in the Hoofdwacht on the Vrijthof about the archaeological work done when they put in the underground parking. Being a lover of dirt and finding things in it, I didn’t want to pass it up. Unfortunately it didn’t open until noon, so we had some time to kill.
     
    I’m very American in the sense that I am most comfortable shopping in a grocery store for all of my food stuffs, but there are occasionally things I can’t find at Aldi and Albert Heijn. The big ones are baking powder and baking soda. Baking powder can be found in a regular grocery store, but so far I’ve only seen it there in little packets. I’ve been told that baking soda (bicarbonaat) can be obtained at a pharmacy but I’m not really comfortable with that. So instead I found both at an Asian grocery store on Markt square. They are products of the UK, but cheap and in decent sized containers. Arm & Hammer, my go-to baking soda in the US, costs over 7,50 euros here. Craziness. I’m not that brand loyal.
     
    The other thing we like to get at a specialty store is loose leaf chai tea. Chai is almost always better loose leaf, so we occasionally stroll across the bridge and pick up a bag at Simon Levelt. They have a wide variety of teas, all loose leaf, as well as many sweets, gifts, and coffee beans to boot.

    Dan enjoying an oliebol

    Dan enjoying an oliebol


    Saturday also introduced us to another Dutch snack: oliebollen. Oliebollen are like a puffed donut the size of a man’s hand and deep fried in oil. Sometimes they are filled with fruit or creme. The one we had was from a cart on Markt square and was filled with banana (a banananballen) and dusted with powdered sugar. (I think the Dutch put powdered sugar on nearly everything.) I doubt it’ll take the place of chocolate filled waffles as my favorite Maastricht snack, but it was certainly tasty.
    Chocolate fondue

    Chocolate fondue


    After a quick stop over at T-Mobile for the nth time to get my voicemail fixed we discovered that the Chocolate Company was open. We’ve been trying to get in there for months now, but they’ve always been closed. Today we went in and had coffee with a chocolate fondue for two for lunch. The dark chocolate fondue came with cake, cookies, strawberries, and bananas for dipping and was a fun and tasty lunch; even if it was terribly unhealthy.
     
    Of course this all brings us up to noon and my much hyped archaeology exhibit. How disappointing. I had hoped from a through discussion of the history of layers they’d found under the Vrijthof along with some interesting artifacts and maybe a description of the project as a whole. Instead we got a single room with a few small objects, one picture of the dig project, and several photographs of artifacts with little or no description. A real pity after anticipating an exciting exhibit for so long.
     
    We whiled away the rest of our afternoon working on a variety of projects as we are wont to do on a Saturday. Dan worked on his comic, I editing his comic and worked on an article about Maastricht. We even managed to avoid the short hailstorm in the afternoon. A nice, casual day in Maastricht.

    Places Around Maastricht: Pinky

    Chocolate filled waffle. mmm

    Chocolate filled waffle. mmm

    Type of Place: Snack Window & Candy Store
    Location: Grote Straat, kitty-corner from the VVV.

    One of the pleasureable, comfort foods frequently consumed in the Netherlands, especially here in Limburg, is the waffle. These are always the big, Belgian style waffles and usually eaten as a snack or dessert rather than breakfast.   Like Dan says, no day with a chocolate filled waffle can be a bad day.

    Pinky serves the best waffles in all of Maastricht. Bar None.  The waffles themselves are quite sweet and can be purchased with powdered sugar on top.  The next step up, and the one I love, is the chocolate-filled waffle with three sticks of chocolate shoved into the still warm waffles fresh insides (pictured). We don’t usually get powdered sugar on top but you can.  The ultimate waffle from Pinky is chocolate-filled with powdered sugar and a swirl of soft-serve vanilla ice cream on top.  Delicious.

    Pinky almost always has a line for both waffles and their soft-serve ice cream, which is ok but not terribly inspired.  They also have a candy store with a variety of candies, from chocolate to marshmellow critters on a stick.  It is typically open only until 17:00 (5 PM), expect on Thursdays when they stay late with the rest of the stores.  They are also closed on Sunday.

    Pinky Store Front. Just in case you missed it some how.

    Pinky Store Front. Just in case you missed it some how.

    Stroopwafels: Breakfast is now an Awesome Cookie

    Ah, Stroopwafels. The Dutch snack that until now I’ve always had to beg Dan to buy because he thought the store bought ones were stale and bland. Well look at him tucking into that huge, warm, fresh stroopwafel now. Yum.

    A stroopwafel is two thin waffle-like cookies with a thin layer of syrup or honey between them. According to wikipedia they oriented in Gouda during the 18th century. They come in all sizes, but are usually round. In the stores you can get them in packages under all sorts of brand names. I recommend getting the honey ones for a sweeter experience.

    If you have the chance to eat a fresh stoopwafel, go for it. Like most things, fresh and warm is a recipe for a really wonderful treat. I’ve never seen a booth in Maastricht, but have seen them in Delft and Arnhem in the North.

    And here’s a video I found at random in the internet wilds (FYI: he swears once). It wouldn’t work with the monster stroopwafels we ate in Delft, but this could definitely improve the quality of your store bought experience.

    Enjoy!

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