It doesn’t get more American than this Dutch dessert
Can a traditional Dutch apple pie be considered “as American as apple pie”? How about when it’s made with love by a proud new U.S. citizen?
This year, El Lago resident Shulie Barbe, originally from the Netherlands, gained her U.S. citizenship after 16 years of living in Houston. Her family and friends celebrated with a citizenship party, which featured not one, but three of Barbe’s much-loved apple pies.
Barbe is the chairwoman of El Lago City’s Event Committee and an accomplished fiddle player in an Irish music group. In local and music circles, she’s known for her fragrant, sweet and spicy pies. Baked in traditional Dutch style, the apple pie recipe has even won Barbe first place in a pie-baking competition held at an Irish music retreat attended by 200 musicians.
When Barbe was 7 years old and crazy about baking, her mother taught her to cook, she said. They used a book of recipes made famous by a popular Dutch magazine akin to Southern Living.
Barbe would cook something different each day after school.
“My grandmother actually went to a school that taught homemaking, and she was good at cooking, needlepoint and quilt-making as was my mother,” Barbe said. “I didn’t inherit the sewing, but at least I got the baking.”
Barbe’s pie recipe has been refined and developed over the years and features traditional spices such as cinnamon and nutmeg, along with more adventurous ginger and cardamom. She recommends using Granny Smith apples for a tart and firm filling. To avoid a soggy bottom, cook the apples first and add a little flour between the dough and the filling.
The pastry is almost like a cookie dough, making it difficult to work with because it breaks easily. Take a slow and steady approach to building up the pie walls, and for the lattice topping, it pays to make it on a silicone baking tray and then slide it over to the pie top, she said.
Barbe is happy to share her recipe because no two cooks will make it the same way, she said.
“Cooking is a bit like language, we all use it differently to express ourselves,” she said. “It might start as my pie, but when you make it, then it will become yours.”
Shulie’s Apple Pie
For the filling
6 Granny Smith apples peeled, cored, diced into ½-inch pieces
1 cup raisins, washed and soaked in warm water for at least 15 minutes (you can also soak in rum after that). Drain and dry in a clean dish towel.
½-1 cup ginger (If you can find crystalized ginger, put the pieces under water and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes, let rest until later. If you have fresh ginger, simmer ginger in small pieces just under water with 2 tablespoons of sugar for 15-30 minutes.)
2 tablespoons of dark brown sugar
3 teaspoons of cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground cloves
2 teaspoons of ground nutmeg (or substitute the last two spices for two tablespoons of allspice)
Juice of 1 lemon
Start with washing and soaking the raisins. Then put the ginger in the microwave.
While the ginger is tenderizing and raisins soaking, put the diced apple in a pot, together with the juice of a lemon. Cook until the apple is a little tender, pieces a bit glassy.
Drain and put the apple in a large mixing bowl. Add the raisins.
Cut the ginger pieces very fine (as through a fine grater). Add to apple. Add the brown sugar and spices, mix until apple is covered in sugar and spices.
Cover and set aside.
For the dough
3 cups sifted flour. A mix of unbleached and whole wheat flour in 50/50 ratio is recommended.
3 teaspoons of baking powder
¾ cup of light brown sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
Pinch of salt
Mix the dry ingredients. Add the egg. Cut the butter in the dry ingredients into small pieces. Knead until a flexible soft, non-stick dough forms. If needed, add some milk (or buttermilk).
Assembly and baking
Heat up the oven to 375 F. Grease a spring form with butter. Press the dough on the bottom from the middle out and up against the sides of the spring form. The dough needs to be pressed into the corner between bottom and sides. Thickness of bottom and sides is about a quarter inch. Cut away the dough that reaches over the sides. You’ll use this for the lattice on top.
Sprinkle a light dust of flour on the dough-covered bottom (to absorb excess moisture from the filling). Spoon the filling into the pan. Do not press it down, just even out the top layer carefully. It will sit about an inch (or half inch) under the top of the sides. Cut the top part of the sides loose from the pan and fold over the edge of the filling.
On parchment paper (or silicone cookie sheet), roll four parts of dough and flatten into strips for the lattice. Drape over the filling and attach to the side. You can brush the lattice and sides with egg white.
Bake the pie in the middle of the oven until the lattice is golden brown. Usually takes about 45 minutes. But every oven is different. Go with the color.