My memories of visiting family in the Netherlands are filled with many things. There are bouts of laughter, many hugs, traveling to different cities, and family gatherings at which there was no shortage of food. As a kid, I naturally gravitated to the sweet stuff: speculaas, popularly known as windmill cookies; stroopwafels, which aren’t pronounced with the ‘ü’ sound of the word boot, but rather a long o as you’d hear in toe; hagelslag, a breakfast treat of bread and butter with chocolate sprinkles (don’t knock it unless you’ve tried it!); and, of course, pie.
The first time we had Dutch “pie” we were a bit surprised. It wasn’t exactly the deep-dish, flaky, golden-crusted pastry filled with chunks of fruit as the pies we know and love. My family hails from the southern region of Limburg, where you will more commonly be offered vlaaien, with your (much smaller than American-sized) cup of coffee.
Limburgse vlaai is a tart or pie that, rather than having a light and flaky crust, has a yeast-based dough crust coupled with a layer of creamy custard. Atop the custard, you’ll find beautifully arranged fruits like apricots, plums, cherries, or gooseberries to name a few, which often are tucked in by delicately latticed strips of pastry. Another popular variety is Limburgse Rijstevlaai. With rice in place of the fruit, it makes for a creamy, savory treat.
My sister recently shared with me a favorite recipe of hers for Dutch plum pie, or pruimenvlaai, originally published on the culinary website The Dutch Table, which features scores of Dutch recipes. Nicole Holten, creator of thedutchtable.com, was kind enough to allow Moonshine to share her original recipe for delicious pruimenvlaai.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 stick butter*, room temperature
1/3 cup milk, warm
1 small egg
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 Tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
About 15 ripe plums, washed pitted, and quartered
Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let it proof while you measure out the rest of the ingredients. Add the flour to a mixing bowl, sprinkle the sugar on top, and give it a stir. Now pour the milk with the yeast on top and start mixing. As the dough comes together, add in the egg and a bit later the salt. Add the soft butter and let the whole mixture come together while you knead it into a soft dough. (You may need to add a tablespoon or two of milk in case the dough turns out to be a bit dry.
Form the dough into a ball, put it in a bowl, cover, and let it rise.
In the meantime, make the filling. You could use a package of vanilla pudding to make it easy on yourself but if you have the time, try making fresh pastry cream. A quick internet search will yield plenty of easy recipes.
Grease a large pie pan (11 inches) and roll out the dough into a large circle. Transfer it to the pan and cut off any excess dough you may have. Poke holes in the dough so that it doesn’t seize up while baking. Pour the vanilla pudding or pastry cream on top, then arrange the quartered plums. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Sprinkle another tablespoon of sugar over the plums and bake for another five minutes. When you take the vlaai out of the oven, sprinkle another tablespoon of sugar over the fruit and let it cool.
Enjoy by itself, with a dollop of whipped cream, or even with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.