Fast Food, Dutch Style!

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Exploring Europe poses a delightful dilemma… to cook, or to sightsee?  Today, we’re turning off the stove and looking instead at a few fun foods available in Dutch markets.  My favorite find, and a favorite of my pint-sized travel companions, are stroopwafels, shown above.  Stroopwafel translates as “syrup waffle,” and is really a cookie.  A dense caramel filling is sandwiched between two round cookies which taste like waffled ice cream cones.  Here’s the fun part:  stroopwafels are designed to settle right on top of your mug of morning coffee or tea, so that the steam from your hot beverage can soften the caramel center.  Brilliant.  As much as I enjoy a morning scone or biscotti, I have to confess, my morning coffee has a new best friend.

Another fun find for busy mornings are pre-made pannenkoeken, Holland’s answer to the French crepe and the American flapjack.  Yes, yes, I know, making a pancake is not exactly rocket science.  The thing is, these premade cakes are really good!  I warmed them in a microwave oven (gasp!) for a few seconds, gave them some love with a tablespoon or two of nutella, dressed them up with banana slices, and Voila!  I enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the same amount of time it would take to prepare a bowl of corn flakes.

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When traveling abroad, remember that exploring foreign food markets can be a whole lot of fun!  Perusing grocery stores is a practical, economical way to explore other food cultures.  Enjoy!

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Windmill Cookies in Aarlanderveen, Holland

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Aarlanderveen, Holland is a breathtakingly beautiful village of approximately 500 residents and their four windmills.  These windmills are integral to the culture of the area, serving the dual purpose of milling grain into flour while pumping water out of the polders, or land areas which are below sea level.

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To celebrate the beauty of Aarlanderveen we are making Speculaas, or Dutch windmill cookies.  These cookies are traditionally made using wooden cookie molds, but a windmill-shaped cookie cutter will suffice.

The secret to authentic windmill cookie flavor lies in the Speculaaskruiden, or Dutch “mixed spice.”  You can order jars of Speculaaskruiden online, but it’s more fun to mix your own.  A recipe for this delightfully aromatic spice blend follows the cookie recipe, below.

picture1182Speculaas Cookie Ingredients (makes about 36 windmill cookies)

1 cup real butter

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1 egg

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons Speculaaskruiden spice mix (see recipe, below)

1/2 cup sliced almonds

Directions

Step 1) Cream together butter and brown sugar.  Add egg and mix well.

Step 2) Add flour, baking powder, salt, and Speculaaskruiden.  Mix by hand; dough will be stiff.

Step 3) Add half of the sliced almonds, reserving the other half as a garnish.

Step 4) Chill dough for at least one hour before rolling 1/4 inch thick on a floured surface.  Cut dough into windmill shapes, and carefully transfer to cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Step 5) Garnish the unbaked cookies with sliced almonds, as shown above.

Step 6) Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 12 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  Enjoy!

picture1180 Speculaaskruiden Spice Mix (makes enough for three batches of cookies)

Stir together (if using powdered spices) or grind together in a coffee grinder (if using whole spices):

4 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon mace

1/2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1/2 teaspoon star anise

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

Store spice mix in a tightly sealed container and store away from heat and light.  Open container and smell whenever you need a smile.  🙂