Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oh, so those are poffertjes

If learning the rules of the bike lane is beginner-level expat, and being able to discern which part of the country someone is from by their accent is advanced-level expat, then poffertjes probably fall somewhere in the middle.   Not eating them--anybody who doesn't have a gluten allergy, a milk allergy, an egg allergy, and is capable of willfully ignoring everything you ever learned about butter can eat them.  But making them yourself--that takes a little skill.  Knowing where to find everything you need to make them is something a newbie could do, but the effort expended might not be worthwhile.  But if you've been around the block a few times it shouldn't bee too difficult.  Ignoring everything you ever learned about butter--you're on your own.  

It's worth noting, though, that unless you're a connoisseur of poffertjes, you probably ought to just stick with getting them from the kramen whenever there's a kermis, or else pony up the cash to sit down at a restaurant that specializes in discs of batter fried in butter.  Poffertjes are tasty, but healthy they ain't:  flour, butter, powdered sugar, stroop if that's your thing--everything anybody ever taught you about healthy eating, gone wrong.  Even if you can make them at home, it's probably better for your coronaries if you don't.  

Most of the time, they're sold as little pancakes--adorable little things that soak up the melted butter that they're served with (melted butter and powdered sugar are the traditional toppings) so that you have no visual reference for how much fat is going down your gullet.  But unlike pancakes, traditionally they are leavened by yeast, although if you get a mix from the supermarket it will have chemical leaveners (baking soda and/or baking powder).  You make up a batter following any one of the recipes available (this one is my personal fave); typically the proportion is approximately 1:2 flour:water, BUT that's by weight, and if you're using yeast there's a bit more flour.  Also, the flour is a mixture of buckwheat and reguar wheat flour; I've heard that you can get buckwheat flour at the Albert Heijn, but the only place I've been able to find it is at The Windmill, which sells specialty products for home bakers, so YMMV. 

Now, the website with the recipe uses a cast iron poffertjes pan, which is something we recently acquired as a birthday present.  Cast iron isn't too difficult to work with, actually, once you get some rules down:  season it well, NEVER wash it with dish detergent (I've heard that properly seasoned cast iron can be washed with detergent, and my own cast iron skillet managed to make it through an accident swipe with a soapy sponge unscathed, but seasoning cast iron is sufficiently pain-in-the-ass-ish that I wouldn't risk it unless I had to), don't let it soak, and perhaps most important of all:  use plenty of fat.  In other words, in between every batch of butter-soaked-buckwheat-pancake-y goodness, you need to re-coat your pan with butter.  Doing so will ensure that the puffed side of the poffer is mottled golden-brown, a la the professionals, and that the crust is the right combination  of crispy and tender.  If your cast iron is seasoned well, forgetting the butter isn't the end of the world--the poffertjes will stick a little more, but the biggest difference will be that the outside becomes downright crunchy, which is not ieal.  

Mastering the art of flipping the damn things, though, takes practice.  I am in awe of the people who do this professionally, flipping row after row of these dang things with just a quick flick of their wrist.  There is--as only the Dutch can do--such a thing as a fork specifically used for flipping poffertjes.  Ours is a wooden one--a simple little Y-shaped piece of wood, ever so slightly curved on one side--so that it won't damage Teflon.  Theoretically, it is possible to flip them so that they make a ball--i.e., that the batter thtat used to be on top bellies into the dimple while the cooked side is firm enough to hold its shape while you're cooking the bottom.  I haven't gotten that good at this, yet, but when my husband and Kidlet are both whining for the next batch, aesthetics can be put on hold.  . 

There is a difference between homemade and elsehow-procured poffertjes.  The homemade ones have slightly more bite to them, and (at least when I made them) aren't as salty.  Plus you can fry them to that perfect, rich golden-brown color--you don't have to settle for "done" because you've got sixty more orders.  Worth the hassle?  Absolutely--if someone else is making them.  

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