The Dutch Vlaai

We've had quite a few birthdays this year already, and I've been asked to make cakes for at least 3 of those. For some funny reason people keep asking me for roughly the same sorts of cakes every time. One of these is the famous, traditional Dutch Vlaai. May I introduce you? 

Vlaai |vly| noun [C] (pl. vlaaien; ENG vlaais) 1. Pastry that consist of a dough base and a filling. 2. Pastry with upright edges covered in a fruit compote
These are actual dictionary inputs. The second 'dictionary explanation of vlaai' actually comes from THE Official Dutch dictionary (online version). I think it's the most inaccurate sorts of explanation I've seen. Apart from my horrible translation of 'upright edges', this is like saying a pie is 'a pastry crust filled with chopped apple'. Does that cover pies for you? I doubt it.

So let's try again, for my own explanation:
Vlaai |vly| noun [C] (pl. vlaaien; ENG vlaais) 1. Type of pastry similar to pie that consist of a yeast dough crust and a filling: I have a strong desire to eat a vlaai - Limburgse vlaai
It's pronounced 'fly' with a v. It rhymes with 'pie'. It goes like this:

Vlaai crust
for 1 vlaai* - from Het Nederlands Bakboek

80 ml milk
1 teaspoon yeast
30 grams butter
225 grams flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg

1. Heat the milk until it is lukewarm and add the yeast. Sitr till smooth. Melt the butter in a different pan or bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
2. Whisk all dry ingredients together and make an indent in the middle of flour.
3. Pour the milk, butter and egg into the flour and knead until smooth. It will be a soft, slightly wet dough, but it should not be too sticky. Add more flour or milk if needed.
4. Leave to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until doubled in size.
5. Knock the dough back and shape it into a ball. Flatten the ball and, with a rolling pin, roll it into a large circle that fits over your pie mold.
6. Press the dough down into a shallow pie or quiche mold and up the sides and remove any excess dough if necessary.
7. Pour a filling of choice onto the dough. Top with a topping of choice (see below). And bake at 180 degrees Celsius or 360 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

* enough for one vlaai of 26cm/10inch or one vlaai of 24cm/9inch with a raster top (see below).

I'm covering the vlaai fillings in another post, because there are by far and way too many to put into one post. And even in the post on vlaai fillings I only cover a few, because we literally could go on forever. I mentioned vlaai is very comparible to 'pie', right? How many different kinds of pies can you think of? Exactly.

There is still the matter of toppings though. Vlaais are usually topped of with a 'raster' made of the same dough as the crust (also called lattice) or with a sweet buttery crumble topping (also called streusel). Vlaais that are meant to be served cold might be topped with whipped cream and fresh fruits. Note that most vlaais are served cold anyway, just like apple pies, but they are so much better when eaten straight out of the oven with barely any time left to cool - if you know what I mean. 

Streusel topping
for 1 vlaai - from Vlaairecepten

100 grams butter 
110 grams sugar
150 grams flour

1. Soften the butter if necessary and mix all ingredients together.
2. Crumble with your hands (this is the best part!) into small and large chunks and use to top off any kind of vlaai.
3. Bake according to the vlaai crust (step 7). 

Raster vlaai (lattice top)

see 'Vlaai crust' above
jam and sugar pearls (optional)

1. If you're making a 24 cm / 9 inch vlaai you should have enough dough left to make a lattice layer. For this layer simply roll out the dough into a large circle.
2. Use a 'pastry lattice cutter' to make the pattern. Or, use a knife to cut alternating slits of about 2 cm / 1 inch.
3. Lightly stretch the dough while you cover the vlaai. Press the edges together and bake according to the vlaai crust (step 7).
4. Optional: once baked, you can spread some jam over the top of the raster, to give a shiny effect. Also, these kind of vlaais are more often than not topped with sugar pearls, because it looks so pretty!

And tadaa~ Now you've actually come all the way down to this bit of text you have:
        1. Learned what a tradtional Dutch vlaai is.
        2. Two (or three) ways of making one - and we didn't even start the fillings. 
And maybe: 3. You are totally interested in what you can put into this lovely vlaai, so you're going to click right here somewhere, to figure that out! [well, there'll be a link as soon as that post is out there obviously...]