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Dutch cookies: Arnhemse meisjes

>> Sunday, October 24, 2010

Arnhemse meisjes 1

Regarding my summer vacation, I still had to devote a post to the Netherlands, where we spent some fantastic time trying to lose ourselves among the natives, that means that we barely used the car and used the bike a lot. Although in our case, losing ourselves is quite unlikely, since the Dutch are all at least two heads taller than we are (do you know that the Dutch have the highest average height of Europe?). First we spent a couple of nights in an idyllic rural cottage north of Amsterdam, to see the Sail 2010 up close, an impressive gathering of tall ships from around the world that is held every five years in the Ijhaven, the port of Amsterdam. After that we spent five days in Delft comfortably installed at our friends L. and H.'s place, enjoying their generous hospitality (scrounging?). I lived in Delft a year and a half from 1989 to 1990 and I love the town. I always love to return, but this time I particularly enjoyed it. And my family feels the same. Delft is a beautiful place with a lot of history, and for me one of its greatest charms is to be the hometown of Jan Vermeer that happens to be one of my favorite painters (I highly recommend viewing the film Girl with a pearl earring, which besides being a beautiful film, depicts a recreation of Vermeer's paintings that is unsurpassed). And be sure that the light that he portrayed is still there...

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons: Woman with a water jug, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

During those five days we had the pleasure to reencounter some old friends (thanks R. and G., M. and J. for two wonderful evenings) and we received our graduation as Dutch apprentices with a dreadful shower in the wind during a night bike ride... So what? In the Netherlands even infants are used to such things. But understand that we are native to an arid continental plateau and this is unusual for us. But on the other hand, it is a pleasure to move around a city by bike, the kids had a blast and the adults too. And despite the high population density in the area, nature always seems to be just around the corner...

To choose a recipe to represent the country's cooking is no easy task, because Dutch cuisine is not... How shall I put it?... exactly wide and varied. But in all parts of the world there have always been a liking for sweet things and is not rare to find a wealth of sweetmeats comparatively higher than savory dishes, even in the Netherlands of austere Calvinist past. By the way, these cookies are among the favorites of Roald Dahl, so he tells in the cookbook that I mentioned in this post. These famous cookies have their origin in the city of Arnhem, a name that we relate to World War II, don't we? Arnhemse Meisje literally means Arnhem girl (check here the pronunciation of Meisje). These cookies consist simply of an oval flaky pastry studded with large sugar crystals, baked until they are well toasted and caramelized. They originated in the 19th century in the bakery Zalinge, former establishment of the city of Arnhem, owned by the Hagdorn, which still manufactures them. After a thorough study of the matter (ahem...), to prepare these cookies I've chosen Dahl's recipe, which he claims to have received from the very owner of this bakery. Although in my Dutch cookbook and in many websites the recipe calls for common puff pastry... I also followed the step by step procedure in the web of King Arthur flours, which in spite of not crediting the source, oddly enough follows Mr. Dahl's recipe almost exactly. These cookies are made with baker's yeast.

Arnhemse meisjes
Yields around 50 with a 5cm cutter

  • 190g flour
  • 100g milk
  • 4 lemon juice drops (okay, maybe I dropped 6 or 7 drops, should I be punished?)
  • 5g fresh baker's yeast
  • 105g butter at ambient temperature
  • Sugar for glazing the cookies *
* Sparkling sugar is best for this purpose, so that the cookies really sparkle. I did not have any, so I used regular sugar.

Arnhemse meisjes 3
  1. Weight the flour, the milk and the yeast and mix on low speed with the lemon juice in a stand mixer.
  2. Divide the butter in eight parts and add them one by one on medium-high speed. Wait each time for the dough to absorb the butter, around one minute. You will get a smooth and satiny dough. Put the dough in a bowl covered with plastic and put it into the fridge overnight. The recipe instructs to chill the dough to make it more manageable, given the huge amount of butter it carries, but I believe it is equally desirable to give it time for some fermentation to happen.
  3. The next day preheat the oven to 140ºC.
  4. Line a couple of cookie trays with parchment paper and roll the dough on a floured surface. I could not notice any rising in the dough. The actual shape of the cookies is oval, but I have no oval cutter, so I've made them perfectly round. Instead of flouring the countertop surface, you can also just spread the sparkling sugar and roll the dough on it. I think this is a good idea if you're going to cut the cookies into diamonds, for example, and you hardly have trimmings left, but if you are going to use a curved cutter, the dough in the trimmings will take up sugar and I do not like the idea. Flour the surface repeatedly because the dough tends to stick and you have to roll it very fine, something in between 1 and 2 mm.
  5. Generously dust the cookies on the trays with sugar, remember the dough itself includes no sugar. Press lightly for the sugar to stick to the cookies.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes, until golden. The girls of Arnhem puff up nicely in the oven... Take them to a cooling rack.
Arnhemse meisjes 2

I found these cookies very "Dutch"... something uncomplicated and that can be delicious with good ingredients. Although as I have not ever tasted the genuine Arnhemse Meisjes, I have no reference. They are very crunchy, with a penetrating aroma of butter... I do not know if they should be more caramelized, but with that oven temperature it is impossible because it does not reach the caramelization of sugar (that's why they have such a bland color). And although it is not faithful to the original recipe, I think a touch of cinnamon would do them good.

I'm sending these cookies to Susan's Yeastspotting at Wild Yeast.

19 comentarios:

Cherine October 24, 2010 at 12:00 PM  

Those cookies look so good and crunchy! They'd be perfect with a cup of tea!

Unknown October 24, 2010 at 12:08 PM  

Mmm, que pinta tan buena! El otro dia comentaba con una amiga que nunca hago galletas! Igual me animo a hacer estas!

fromBAtoParis October 24, 2010 at 1:39 PM  

Hi Miriam,

Your posts should appear in the Sunday Magazine of a newspaper! Not only because of what you cook, but I also love how you tell stories...AND the photos!!

Qué hacen los del ABC y El Pais, que no te publican???

Belinda @zomppa October 24, 2010 at 4:22 PM  

What a wonderful time you seemed to have had, and these are just delightful. How I would love to enjoy these with a cup of hot tea.

Gio October 24, 2010 at 6:48 PM  

wonderful pictures! I loved Holland very much and Vermeer is absolutely fantastic!
will take note of the cookies recipe!

Torviewtoronto October 24, 2010 at 8:37 PM  

looks wonderful must try

Magic of Spice October 25, 2010 at 10:23 PM  

Delightful little cookies and gorgeous photos :)

Anonymous October 26, 2010 at 10:02 AM  

Good work finding something that looks great for your Dutch cuisine post... being an Amsterdam resident, I know it would have been difficult to find something! ;)

briarrose October 26, 2010 at 2:05 PM  

Very interesting recipe.

Unknown October 26, 2010 at 7:09 PM  

What a fascinating cookie. I love the way they puff up like that. This would be awesome with a cup of tea on a rainy day. I can just imagine myself gobbling these all up LOL.
*kisses* HH

Medifast Coupons October 26, 2010 at 8:03 PM  

Nice cookies. When I first looked at the picture I thought they were some kind of stuffed cookie. Nice how they rise up. And I have to see if I can find sparkling sugar, never heard of before, would make them very festive looking.

Deeba PAB October 27, 2010 at 5:31 PM  

I can almost hear the crunch...sigh, almost. The connect between food and culture always makes everything taste so much better. Love the cookies Miriam ... and love them being all cute and puffy!

Simones Kitchen October 27, 2010 at 9:00 PM  

Funny enough; I have never tasted Arnhemse meisjes before either... I had to laugh about your comment on Dutch cuisine... Not a huge cuisine for sure! lol... I loved your stories of Holland. It's always fun to read about it through the eyes of someone not Dutch!

Nancy October 28, 2010 at 1:03 AM  

Miriam I wish I could reach into the computer screen and grab a bunch of your cookies. That is so neat the way they puffed up. The town sounds beautiful. Vermeer is also a favorite of mine and the movie was good.

Ah so great I see you added your button. Also I would like to tell you that I have an award for you. But I can't remember if you accept them. Either way it's not a problem.

Kris Ngoei October 28, 2010 at 11:10 AM  

Such a nice name for these delicious cookies... Wish I would have a chance to try it or otherwise I think I would need to bake it myself then..

Sawadee from Bangkok,

Dewi October 29, 2010 at 4:23 PM  

Your cookies look so amazing. I love how its puff up like that. Definitely bookmarking this.

Laura November 1, 2010 at 4:13 AM  

Wow these look amazing ~ am bookmarking now!

Miriam November 6, 2010 at 4:01 PM  

Cherine: they are...
Marta: son muy fáciles y resultonas, yo desde luego las repetiré.
Cristina: gracias, guapa!! Jajaja, si todo el mundo tuviera en mi la misma fé que tú, pues los publicarían ;)
Belinda: thanks!
Gio: glad we have so much in common ;)
Torview: thanks!
MoS: thanks!
MB: :0, I hope no Dutch hears you! ;)
Briarrose: thanks!
HH: ;) thanks!
MC: the sparkling sugar makes them look marvelous, but I can't find it in Spain either.
Deeba: thanks!
Simone: yes, I love to do the same concerning Spain!
SF: thank you! I don't pass on any awards, nothing personal.
Kris: thanks!
Elra: thank you! I love your blog!
Laura: thank you!!!

Marisa November 8, 2010 at 4:44 PM  

Lovely looking cookies! Dutch food has influenced our South African recipes quite a lot, so I found this to be a very interesting read.


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