2 October 2017

Appeltaart (Dutch apple pie)

One wintry morning many years ago while wandering around the Jordan area of Amsterdam I saw a line curling out the door of a little cafe called Winkel 43. For some strange reason I decided to join it - normally I avoid queues at all cost - but I think it was the ever present light sprinkling of rain that tipped me over the edge. Once I reached the front of the queue I saw piles of tall, hot apple pies and whipped cream. Ordering a piece, I sat at the bar and took a bite - the crust was crunchy, sweet and perfectly salty, the apples were delicious, firm, and best of all, still warm.  This will forever be the best queue I've ever joined in my life.

I was just back in Amsterdam a week ago with Geoff and my mother - taking her back to her mother's hometown for the first time in about 40 years. One of the first things we did was have a slice of appeltaart at Winkel 43, and she wanted to go back every morning we were there.

Sadly I don't have Winkel 43's secret recipe, but this recipe makes a delicious Dutch apple pie for while you aren't in Amsterdam.

For the crust
  • 200g almond flour (I blended whole blanched almonds until they reached a flour like consistency but you can also buy this at the supermarket)
  • 400g self raising flour (I used plain flour and added 4 tsp baking powder)
  • 220g brown sugar
  • 350g butter (cold cut into cubes)
  • A good pinch of salt (one of the things I like most about the apple pie at Winkel 43 is that it has a lovely slightly salty crust to balance the sweetness of the filling)
  • 2 eggs

For the filling
  • 8 apples (I used 5 gala apples and 3 Jonagold apples - they just happened to be the loveliest apples I could find here in Switzerland)
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 tsp speculaas spice (I bought mine in the supermarket in the Netherlands, but it's just a mixture of cinnamon, coriander seeds, nutmeg, cardamon and so on. Here is a nice recipe to make your own spice - otherwise just use mostly cinnamon and a little bit of nutmeg, clove and cardamon)
  • The rind and juice of a lemon - if you have a particularly large lemon just add 3/4 of the juice
  • 2 tsp of cornstarch
  • A handful of raisins if you like (normally I hate raisins with a passion, however in this pie they actually weirdly work) 

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius unless you have an overly enthusiastic oven like mine - I set it to 170.

To make the crust
Mix the sugar and butter until combined - I used my Kitchen Aid, but a food processor would also be fine, then add in the two lightly beaten eggs. After this mix in the almond flour, self raising flour and salt until thoroughly mixed. Don't be afraid - this isn't like normal pastry dough - it's supposed to be much less stiff. Set aside in the bowl until later with a little cling wrap or tea towel to cover.

To make the filling
Peel and cut the apples into pieces (I cut the apple in quarters and then halved each quarter). Add the lemon peel and juice, the sugar, spices and corn flour and mix well. Set aside.

Putting it all together
For this recipe you'll want to use a spring form pan. Dutch appeltaarts are supposed to be quite high and very heavy, and you'll need the spring form so you can actually get it out in one piece. Lightly butter the sides and bottom and then line with baking paper over this - I find the butter helps the paper to stick and not move about when you are putting the dough into it. Then lightly butter over the paper as well.

Take your dough (Leaving a quarter for the top) and push it into the pan until the sides and bottom are covered - this is more like molding biscuit dough than rolling out traditional pastry. Then give your apples a good toss to make sure the sugar and spices and well distributed and tip them into the pan.

Take the final quarter of dough and place this over the top - I just took bits at a time, tried to flatten them a bit and then placed them over the apples, joining them to the sides. Ideally your apples will pile a little higher than the top of the tin as they'll shrink will baking. Make sure to cut two vents in the top to allow the steam to escape. If you want you can also wash an egg over the top and sprinkle with sugar.

It ends up looking a bit rustic, but this is part of the joy of this taart - it's delicious and spicy, and not supposed to be too perfect.

Place in the oven for an hour and then check - I ended up leaving it in an additional 15 minutes, but just check how golden your crust is and use a knife through the vents to see how cooked the apples are. Remember I baked mine at 170 degrees Celsius, not 180 degrees (although I always put my oven 10 degrees cooler than any recipe says).

To serve
Set the pie aside to cool for a good hour or so before cutting. Serve it with double cream (or even macadamia nut ice cream) and be blissfully happy.

And if you are ever in Amsterdam, do yourself an enormous favour and stop in for a slice of apple pie at Winkel 43.


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