Monday, October 15, 2012

Appeltaart vs. Apple Pie: Part 1 of 2

Despite the versimilitude between "pie", "tart", and "taart", the Dutch appeltaart is not an apple pie--nor is it a tart, if we're going by the traditional meaning of the word (sweet stuff in a single shortbread pastry crust).  Appeltaart is...weird.  Delicious, but strange, in the sense that it occupies a nebulous region between cakes and pies.  The crust is a sturdy, dense cake, not refined enough to be a pastry dough and not spongy enough to be a true cake.  The apples sit in this shell, covered with a golden-brown lattice of the same dough--just enough apples to overqualify for a cake, not quite enough to count as a pie.   If it's spiced well and baked properly, it's lovely, and even the factory-made stuff you get at cafes to go with your coffee are pretty tasty, but for some reason I've never developed a liking for appeltaart.  I love apple-themed vlaai, and apples in my pannenkoeken, but for some reason the schizoid nature of appeltaart never caught my fancy.

The other reason appeltaart never caught my fancy is that the directions make no sense.  The Dutch, for some reason, completely ignore the rules that govern 99% of the creation of baked goods and I've gotta say, after having tried my hand at appeltaart, the process I went through did not, in fact, breed appreciation.

The recipe I used can be found here.  It's not terribly difficult to follow:  you make the dough, rest it overnight. Peel the apples, and mix them in with a powdered custard mix, raisins, cinnamon, and some apricot jam.  Make a paste of amandelspijs (sort of like a crude marzipan), egg yolk, and butter.  Assemble the appeltaart--smear the almond paste on the bottom so that the juices don't leak through--and bake for almost an hour.

But what makes it so frustrating is the fact that the dough isn't a true pastry crust, which means that it's hard to handle, sticky as bugger-all, and it cracks, so if you're doing your rolling on a floured surface to prevent the aforementioned stickage, you end up with a split that's almost impossible to seal again.  You need to let it warm up to room temperature before it even begins to approach malleability, but of course, the caveat is that the warmer it is, the stickier it gets.  Eventually I gave up rolling it out altogether and just started pressing pieces into the pan.  I was really surprised that I could do the lattice work as well as I did.

I suppose we--expats from elsewhere living in the Netherlands--should be grateful that the IND merely requires that you learn Dutch to stay.  I'm pretty sure that, had the residency requirement included making this diabolical Dutch dessert, there'd be a lot fewer foreigners here.  


  1. I went completely the other way and put my autumn apples into an apple spice cake. It's ot a cup of butter, two cups sugar, two cups flour, four can always tell an American recipe, can't you? I topped with powdered sugar, ignoring the recommended cream cheese frosting (more appropriate for carrot cake).

    Unfortunately, it failed to gel in the center so I cut squares from around the perimeter. But that said, those parts were good, a nice balance of spice, a good sponge cake, and went well warm with a little ice cream. Kind of like proper apple pie :)

  2. You've got completely the wrong recipe. It shouldn't gel, custard powder is not an ingredient, and the pastry only needs to rest in the fridge for an hour. It's also not sticky.

  3. I'm sure it's one of those things where everybody has their own recipe. I, not being Dutch, had to rely on the AH recipe. Maybe you know of a better one?