A traditional poffert is prepared from self-raising flour, currants, raisins, candied peel, whole milk, eggs, butter and little sugar and cooked in a special poffert trommel (poffert drum) in a water bath or bain marie. It is usually eaten in fall and winter with good-quality butter and either applestroop (Dutch apple syrup - spreadable like a thick molasses, made from reducing apple juice with other sugars) or so-called keukenstroop (a sweet sugar syrup that the Dutch eat instead of maple syrup). A delicious tradition with definite retro charm.
A hot-water bath, classically called a bain-marie, is a simple and effective way to protect delicate foods–puddings, custards, some cakes–from the hot, dry heat of the stovetop or oven. This ensures they will emerge moist, tender and, in the case of custards, uncracked. The poffert trommel, pudding mold or other container holding the food is simply placed in a larger container, and boiling water is poured into the larger container to come halfway up the sides of the mold, creating an insulating layer of water to moderate the heat.
Dutch Coffee Cake - "Poffert"
Ingredients for the Poffert
- 60 grams raisins
- 60 grams currants
- 100 ml warm apple juice OR strong, freshly-brewed tea (preferably loose leaf)
- 250 grams unbleached all-purpose flour, self-rising, plus some for flouring the mold
- 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/2 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
- 50 grams unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the mold, at room temperature
- 100 grams superfine baking (caster) sugar
- 1 1/1 tsps. pure vanilla sugar
- 3 eggs (M), organic or free range
- 1 red skinned apple (M), preferably a regional baking apple
- boiling water, as needed
- Generously butter the inside of your poffert or steamed pudding mold (1000 ml), including the lid. Make sure that the bottom of the mold is especially well buttered. Dust the mold and lid with either flour or fine bread crumbs, shaking out the excess.
- In a medium glass bowl, combine the raisins and currants, add warmed apple cider OR freshly brewed black tea and let stand while preparing the batter or, better, let soak for about 30 minutes prior to getting started.
- In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and cinnamon.
- In another bowl, whisk together the butter, sugar, and vanilla sugar.
- To the butter mixture, add the eggs, one at a time.
- Stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture.
- Drain the soaked dried fruits and keep the soaking liquid.
- Add the apple juice OR tea soaking liquid (start with about 50 ml and add more as needed) to the batter and stir. NOTE: You should have a batter with a good dropping consistency. If not, stir in a little more liquid to loosen it.
- Fold in the raisins and currants. Then grate the apple (with skin on) and fold into the batter as well.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared mold and cover with the lid.
- Place the mold on a wire rack inside a large, heavy pot and add boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the mold, creating a hot-water bath. Place the pot over medium-low heat, cover the pot and cook, adding more boiling water as needed to maintain the original level, until the poffert pulls away from the sides of the mold and a knife inserted at the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours.
- Transfer the mold to a wire rack. Uncover and let the pudding rest in the mold for 15 minutes. Invert onto a pretty plate.
- Cut into wedges and serve warm, accompanied with the best butter you can get your hands on (how about that fresh butter from the farm) and homemade jam, local honey or go Dutch with apple stroop and keukenstroop (available in the Netherlands AND online, of course) or even some cinnamon sugar!
In the Netherlands, the poffert is also referred to as trommelkoek (tin cake) or ketelkoek (kettle cake) and is often enjoyed as a meal in itself rather than dessert or a cake.
Apparently, the first mention of a poffert is a Frisian cookbook, called "De Welkokende Vriesche Keukenmeid", which dates back all the way to 1772. The poffert is said to be "very suitable for travelling", meaning that the original recipe certainly travelled well and kept well for a number of days.
There is quite the range of recipes out there for poffert, some calling for the addition of rosewater, some call for yeast, some call for lining the pudding mold with strips of bacon (that would be rib-sticking goodness) - other recipes call for dried apricots or dried figs - but no matter which recipe you decide to follow, they all have an idea in common - namely that the poffert is meant to be served as a meal, especially since the recipe does not involve a lot of sugar.Therefore, you can liberally add syrup, butter or cinnamon sugar to dip your heavenly slice of poffert into.
And if you do not own a poffert baking mold or poffert trommel, you can always use a steamed pudding mold with lid, a bundt or angel food pan and cover the top with parchment paper-lined aluminium foil.
For a spicier, richer poffert, soak the currants and raisins in four tablespoons of rum or cider brandy for several hours or overnight, and stir these into the mixture before you transfer it to the baking mold. Or, do as I did and "go local" with this Dutch treat: I brewed a very strong tea with my favorite autumn tea from my local tea merchant and soaked the dried fruits for 30 minutes in the warm tea. Then instead of adding juice to the batter, I added some of the tea soaking liquid to the batter.
If the autumn weather is getting you down or you are feeling grey or sad, I am certain this poffert or steamed raisin cake will put you right in no time at all. It takes moments to prepare, will steam away happily all by itself without needing attention, and is the ultimate in comfort foods.
Soaking the dried fruits (raisins and currants) in a good, loose-leaf tea and adding some of that soaking liquid to the cake batter, will not only impart a wonderful slightly spicy flavor to your poffert, but also add a nice bit of color to the steamed cake - very fall like, albeit not traditional.
The tea I used goes by the very catchy name of "Karl Heinz" and is made with black teas from Ceylon, China and India as well as cinnamon, orange peel, lemon peel, star anise, anis, fennel and cloves. For more information, go here - my local tea merchant will ship worldwide.
And while you enjoy another Dutch treat, please remember to let me know how much you liked it!