Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Dutch apple pie

After four years of living in Holland, after four years of speaking just basic Dutch, the decision was made. S and I started taking Dutch language lessons. Better late than never.

It's not hard to get by in Holland with only English, at least in cities with an international character like Amsterdam, Rotterdam and The Hague, where we live. Most people speak English and unless your work demands it, you don't have to learn Dutch. Besides, it's a difficult language.

But now is the time for us to learn it. Perhaps because we're tired of not understanding what's been said on the news about Greece (especially during these past months), perhaps because we want to be able to socialize more with Dutch people rather than only with other expats from Europe or elsewhere, or maybe because we realized that with everything that's been happening in Greece, we are better off living in Holland.

Thoughts of moving back to Greece no longer cross our minds, at least not until further notice. That is until we are able to find a decent job there without having to kiss someone's ass, until we are not obligated to bribe a doctor to take care of us when are in need of his services, until the thought of starting a family in Greece doesn't scare us to death, until people start reading history and stop voting the way they have been voting for the past couple of decades, until we can live with dignity and feel that we have a future in our own country, until, anyway, all the things that made us leave our home in the first place four years ago, actually change.
But I digress.

I may have only just started learning the Dutch language properly, but I have already managed to delve into Dutch cuisine. Granted, it's not the most celebrated cuisine in the world nor is it exceptionally imaginative or unique, but it has some very good characteristics, especially in the baking/pastry department.

Case in point, the Dutch apple pie (Hollandse Appeltaart), Holland's magnificent national pastry. It dates as far back as the Middle Ages and it is said that during that time, because ovens with temperature control didn't exist, baking time was measured by the number of prayers a person had to say until the pie was ready.

The Hollandse appeltaart is displayed in the windows of every café, bar and bakery in Holland. It is famous the world over and the Dutch are very proud of their sweet, apple creation. Quite rightly so, I'd say. Even though I'm not a fan of fruit pies and tarts, I must confess that this apple pie is amazing.

It differs from apple pies from other countries in many respects, mainly in that the filling contains raisins, cinnamon and lemon juice and that the crust is not your basic tart crust, but one reminiscent of Pasta Frola (or Pasta Flora as we call it in Greece), which is something between pâte brisée and cake.

You line the bottom and the sides of a spring-form pan with the dough, which is a cinch to make, and then you fill it with small pieces of apple that have been mixed with raisins, sugar, cinnamon and lemon juice. Thin, round strips of dough are latticed on top, decorating the pie, but leaving the apples still visible underneath. The pie goes in the oven and when it comes out, it is brushed with an apricot glaze, which gives it a beautiful shine.

It is eaten preferably warm, straight out of the oven, and is always served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream. The Dutch apple pie is not very sweet, since it doesn't contain much sugar and the apples used in the filling are of a tart variety, and it has a very unique flavor.

As expected, the apple flavor is prominent yet it is accompanied by small taste explosions of juicy, sweet raisins. The cinnamon complements the fruit perfectly and the crust is crumbly and at the same time soft and light. If you want to get a real taste of Holland, then all you have to do is make this Dutch apple pie.

Dutch Apple Pie - Hollandse Appeltaart
Adapted from Dutch Cooking

Traditionally, this apple pie is made with a Dutch variety of apples called Goudrenet, which is a tart (but not too much) apple. If you can't find those, use Granny Smith apples or any other kind of tart apple. Be careful though, you don't want to use apples that are too tart, otherwise you'll end up with a sour-tasting apple pie.

Yield: 1 apple pie / 8-10 pieces


for the filling
1 kg tart apples, like Goudrenet (which I used) or Granny Smith
Juice of 1 medium-sized lemon, freshly squeezed
70 g caster sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
50 g raisins (I used sultanas)

for the dough
175 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan
175 g all-purpose flour
175 g self-raising flour
175 g caster sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp lemon zest, freshly grated
1 Tbsp water
Pinch of salt

1 Tbsp dried breadcrumbs

for the glaze
70 g apricot jam
30 ml (2 Tbsp) white rum (or water)

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream for serving
Ground cinnamon for sprinkling over the top

Special equipment: 22 cm spring-form pan (7 cm deep), fine sieve, stand or hand-held mixer, pastry brush

Put the raisins in a small bowl along with a cup of hot water and let them soak for 15 minutes.

Prepare the filling
In the meantime, in a large bowl, add the lemon juice. Start peeling, coring and cutting the apples into small pieces, placing them in the bowl as you go. Stir them around in the lemon juice every once in a while, so that they don't discolor.
Drain the raisins, squeeze them with your hands and add them to the bowl along with the sugar and cinnamon. Mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula. Set bowl aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of your spring-form pan generously.

Preheat your oven to 180-185 degrees Celsius.

Prepare the dough
In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl), beat the butter on medium speed with the paddle attachment (or with your hand-held mixer), until softened and creamy, for 1-2 minutes. Sift all-purpose and self-raising flour directly into the bowl and add the sugar, salt, lemon zest, water and the egg. Mix all the ingredients with your hands and knead until you have a smooth, shiny, soft yet pliable dough that's not sticking to your hands. It will come together very quickly and easily. If it's too dry, add a teaspoon of water and if it's sticky, add a little bit of all-purpose flour.

Cut off a third of the dough and leave it aside.
Take the rest of the dough, shape it into a ball and place it in the middle of the spring-form pan. Using the back of your hand, press the dough over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. The dough should come up to 2/3 of the height of the pan. Try to spread the dough as evenly as possible.
Sprinkle the base of the pastry case with the dried breadcrumbs, which are used to soak up the juices from the apples, so that the base doesn't become soggy.
Mix the filling once more with a spoon or spatula and empty it into the pan. It should fill the whole pastry case.

Take the piece of dough you left aside and divide it into smaller pieces. Roll each piece into long, thin round strips and use them to decorate the tart, lattice style. See photos below.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust takes on a golden-brown color.

Prepare apricot glaze
Ten minutes before the pie is ready, prepare the glaze by putting the apricot jam and the rum (or water) in a small saucepan. Heat the jam over medium heat, until it comes to the boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

When the apple pie is ready, take it out of the oven and immediately glaze it, using a pastry brush. Allow the pie to slightly cool inside the pan and then remove the sides of the pan. Allow to cool completely and if you want, move the pie onto a platter or cake stand.

The pie is eaten either warm or at room temperature. Serve with a dollop or two of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and sprinkled with a little ground cinnamon.

It is best eaten the day you make it, as well as the following day.
It can be kept at room temperature, covered, for 2 days (3 tops) but as the days pass, the crust will become softer and more cake-like.


  1. What a delicious looking pie! I love the lattices and how the apples peek out between them, like kids peeking between a fence, tempting us with their sweetness.
    I'm thinking of moving to another country w/ my husband (Sweden is our top choice of the month) and I've been thinking about the language -- one of my majors in school was Spanish, but any of those languages around the area in Europe that we're interested in is so different...even though I know we'd be able to get on just fine with only English, would I want to learn the language? Would that mean a deeper commitment to the country and further separation from my homeland of America? Would I be terrible at speaking a non-romance language? I guess I'll just have to wait and see...

  2. Don't want to offend anyone but the best applepie is the Dutch one.When I was there with my girl friends some years ago..I had one in a small place called Cuyk(near German border) in the place called "De Beurs' and had the best warm apple pie with cream ever!! Unfortunately the chef did not want to give me recipe.You can only imagine how good it was that I still remember it.
    Of course will try your recipe..who knows;)

  3. Good luck learning Dutch! During graduate school in Amsterdam I wondered if I should - for a variety of reasons I decided it was unnecessary for me. My sister - who's been in Den Haag 7 years - has mastered it quite well.

    As you've said, Dutch cuisine isn't exactly imaginative, but they are absolute masters with dairy and their appeltaarts. We used to often to go Cafe Winkel on the Westerstraat/Prinsengracht for their appeltaart - I swear it's the best in the world!

    Yours looks really delicious. Perfectly deep, with a crumbly crust. Beautiful job.

    1. +1 with emphasis. I've been all over the world and in many U.S. states and Winkel is hands down the best in the world.

  4. I would commit myself to a piece in a heartbeat.

  5. That's so great you want to learn Dutch. Learning the language of the place you're living in makes it so much better to understand the culture. In Berlin I could get by only in English but it's so great to speak German. I think Dutch would be a good language for me to learn because it's not that different from German but wow, the people always seem to speak sooo fast. I've often seen these wonderful apple cakes so thanks ever so for sharing this recipe. I want to make it very soon, perhaps on Thursday. Just a question, do you think russets would be OK for this cake? I don't granny smiths and have never seen Goudrenets here.

  6. Dat stukje appeltaart ziet er alleszins overheerlijk uit!

    (think you understand what I just said?)

  7. I love the way you write as much as I love your recipes. Thank you for this terrific blog.

  8. Hey Lekker! My Dutch partner, Wouter, makes this Dutch Appeltaart often for us or friends. (See my blog entry "Stap voor Stap Koken - Wouter's Appeltaart" Sept. 14th, 2010) Your photos are beautiful as always, your writing engaging and what a great recipe. It is time to introduce it to a wider American audience. Thanks for sharing and good luck on your Dutch lessons.

  9. This would make the most fantastic breakfast! Maybe I am only thinking that because it is 6:30am here in Arizona and I want a piece now! I am anxious to try this - perhaps for our Thanksgiving celebration next week! Thanks, Magda, and <> with the Dutch lessons!

  10. I can't believe what's going on in Greece. I try to read as much news about it as I can but it sounds like an utter nightmare. I have a friend who recently came to the US for fear of the same thing in Spain. I'm sorry you can't return home right now but am glad to hear you're learning Dutch. (sounds difficult). In the meantime, enjoy your beautiful Dutch apple pie.

  11. Για σου Μαγδα!!! your tart/pie looks out of this world!! Reminds me of the Pasta Frolla/Flora as you say. You are really good in the kitchen!! How wonderful!!

  12. erg mooi appeltaart! I love its crust,not-too-sweet filling and apricot glaze. Best of luck to you and S with your Dutch lessons.

  13. Lauren — yes, I suppose it will be difficult to learn such a different language but if you plan on living in that country for many years then I guess you'll have to; even if that language doesn't sound romantic! ;)

    Dzoli — yes, I agree. The best apple pies are the Dutch ones! If you do try this one let me know how you liked it.

    Yasmeen — oh yes, the Dutch are wizards with their pastries and dairy products.

    Tracy — if only I could send you a piece :)

    Emily Vanessa — life will be so much easier when I learn to speak the language. It's easy to learn Dutch if you speak German, the difficult part is the accent. It's sooo strange!
    Hmm, I haven't tasted russets so I can't tell you. Can't you find Granny Smiths in Germany? Perhaps Jonagold or even Golden Delicious? No matter which variety you use, make sure it's not too tart though. If you do make the pie, I would love to know how you liked it.

    Tine — I understood that! :)

    susan — thanks for dropping by.

    Teresa — I will check it out. Thanks!

    Cocoa and Lavender — oh my god, you're up at 6:30?? That's brutal! Thanks David!

    El — yes, things are pretty bad in Greece right now. It is a nightmare of huge proportions. Spain is headed for trouble as well, Italy already is in trouble... Europe is in complete turmoil!

    Stelio — thanks! Να' σαι καλά!

    nancy — thank you!

  14. I love an apple tart with a filling such as the one you described and the crust like a pâte sablee or pasta frolla. Easier to make than American apple pie, I think. I had met my son's buddy who is from Amsterdam and became interested in making a certain Dutch donuts, with apple in it. I still need to try making it. You know the one they eat at Xmas eve.

  15. A really beautiful pie! I think it's great that you're learning a new language-it's something that I don't have any patience for sadly :P

  16. i haven't had a dutch apple pie in years! yours looks so perfect ... and wow you are learning dutch! good for you. I havent tried the pasta flora either... hopefully soon. keep up the great baking sista friend!!

  17. Good luck with the Dutch classes! I think it is great you could get by only by English if you need - in Germany, in a small town, that was just impossible - but speaking the local language is the first step to real integration. Definitely the right decision! I feel so much for what you say about Greece. I am tempted to go back to Italy even if it is difficult - it is my country and I wish I could help rebuilding it - but I know that's just silly now.

    Yummy pie and great pictures as usual.

  18. What you wrote about your homeland was touching to read. People here in Italy often feel the same way. It is frustrating and painful when you love a place so much but you know it offers no future and you feel forced to create a life elsewhere. On another note, I loved the story of praying to calculate baking times.

  19. I am literally clawing at my screen. I ate so much of this in Amsterdam that I nearly burst. One of my favourite things in the world. Such a beautiful version.

  20. oh my! The pie looks tall and pride! I cant wait to try this.

  21. tasteofbeirut — that's appelbollen , Dutch apple doughnuts and they are delicious. I'm planning to make them come Christmastime.

    Lorraine — I am a patient person :)

    Anna — thanks!

    lacaffettierarosa — thanks. I'm sure you know how it feels.

    Nuts about food — isn't that funny? Praying and waiting for the pie to bake!

    tori — thank you.

    Ahn — do try it. It's delicious!

  22. Okay, I'd like the octopus dish and then a slice of this pie for dessert.

  23. i'm really surprised you can get away with living in a country for four years without knowing the local language - we often think that a language survives because it is the most important language spoken/read/writen in a country, but ibviously, in the dutch case, this is wrong - something else keeps a language going and it isnt becos its an official one in the country

    this is the apple cake made by my dutch friend - it's definitely one of the best apple cakes around

  24. Denise — ok!

    Mediterranean kiwi — Maria, we speak some Dutch but not at the level we want. And don't be at all surprised. I know 2-3 people who live in The Hague for over 10 years now and don't speak a word of Dutch. That's totally unacceptable for me but they seem to get by so, what can you say?
    Of course Dutch is the official language in Holland!! But it's just like in Greece, where everyone speaks English. At least in big cities.

  25. Totally see your point about Greece... Feel the same about Italy, although I'm hopefully that our new prime minister will help us out.... By the way, your new guy seem quite capable too...

    Anyway that cake looks amazing!

  26. Hello Magda! I'm tempted to steal my baby's apples to make this today. I hope I have enough time, though, as tonight wer have been invited to dinner by some friends.
    I was really sorry to read your thoughts about your home country, Greece. I, too, am Greek, and am currently living in Greece. I do see your point, but I need to say this: there is more to Greeks than just corruption. There is more to any people than just corruption, and I'm sure corruption is not a Greek invention. If we don't see the good in the Greek element, I don't know how we can expect anyone else to.
    Thank you for reading these thoughts.

  27. Hi Magda,
    I have just found your blog and love your recipes. I made the Octopus pasta recipe 2 days ago and know I shall make many of your other recipes too.
    Just to let you know I am Dutch living in... you guessed it...in Greece! I moved to the island of Rodos a few weeks ago after sailing around the Greek isles, Turkey, Cyprus and the Red Sea (Egypt and Jordan) for the last 6 years. We love Greece, the culture, the people and the food!
    I have been blogging about out trip the last 6 years so know how much time it involves. Well done!

  28. low carb recipe — thanks.

    PolaM — yeah, we'll see about the new guy. Things aren't always what they seem.

    Anonymous — in this blog I celebrate Greek food and culture. I constantly praise my country, our customs, traditions and way of life, but at the same time, I don't feel the need to bury my head in the sand and try to protect Greece's "precious" image. In my opinion, we need to stop paying attention to what others think of us. We need to start making changes and caring about what we think of our own country. The truth hurts, I know.
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I hope you get the chance to make the apple pie. It's delicious!

    EllyK — hi! That's such an interesting story you have. Good luck with your adventures and have a good time in the beautiful island of Rodοs!

  29. OK,I still disagree, but this blog is about food. Case in point,I did after all steal my baby's apples and make the apple pie. It was truly gorgeous! The dough was lovely, although I did decrease the sugar a bit. And the apple juices caramelized with the sugar in the oven (I used soft light brown sugar). All in all, a keeper! Thank you for the post!

  30. Wow Magda! I'm so tempted to try this. I have never been a fan of American pies- but I think I would love the cake like consistency of this one.
    I hear your complaints about Greece, and what a blessing that you are able to live somewhere else. Isn't having choice nice? Congrats on learning another language, i'm sure it will be enriching.

  31. Anonymous — yes! This is a food blog and I'd much rather talk about food than about anything else with you :) I'm so glad you made the apple pie and I'm even more glad that you enjoyed it! The soft light brown sugar is such a great idea, I love its light molasses flavor.

    Nicole — I am very lucky that I have a choice, indeed.
    This is nothing like American apple pie. You have to make this!

  32. Wow it looks super glazed and tasty. I will have to give this recipe a try for Christmas since my family is coming down. Great share! Check out my organic blog -- www.revieworganics.com

  33. Hi Magda,
    First of all, good luck learning nederlands. I will make it gemakkelijk for you in this bericht:
    Your recipe for dutch appeltaart is very very good, but not helemaal perfekt. My grootmoeder, who is a masterchef when it comes to appelaart, adds another ingredient: before putting the apples in, she adds a thin laagje amandelspijs on the bodem of the taart. Not too much, otherwise it will be too zoet. Try it and je bent voor altijd verkocht. Groeten! Simon

  34. Hoi Simon! Thank you so much for the tip (and for the Dutch words, which by the way I understood!!). I will definitely try it your grandmother's way the next time I make it!

  35. Hello from Worcestershire in the UK a county with a fine apple and pear growing tradition. Thank you so much for your recipe for the apple tart. I tried it and it was fabulous. You can see a pic on IG bonjourfrancey. My son is at uni in Utrecht, has a number of Greek student friends and I enjoy a slice of apple tart when I'm there. Like your blog and will add you to my list of favourites. You can find me here http://lesframboisesetlesmures.blogspot.co.uk

  36. I just made it and it looks and smells delishes...When we tasted it we where in Heaven...I am from Australia and will be following your recipes for shore