Historical Dutch Apple Pie recipe from author Dominic Smith

Historical Dutch Apple Pie recipe from author Dominic Smith

Life is weatherbio_portrait_dominic. Life is meals.

I always recall this James Salter quote from Light Years whenever I think about food in fiction. Meals are also a signifier in novels and stories. What a character eats—and how they eat it, and with whom—tells us a lot about their background and worldview.

In The Last Painting of Sara de Vos, each storyline has its own food. On the brink of destitution in 17th century Amsterdam, Sara de Vos pilfers some sugared almonds from a salon so she can decorate a white cake she’s made for her husband’s birthday. The cake’s ingredientsarahdevoss have been stockpiled, one by one, for weeks. When it’s finally ready to eat, Sara’s life is coming apart and the cake looks and feels oddly out of place.

In 1950s New York, Marty de Groot takes Ellie Shipley to dinner at a Spanish restaurant. To Ellie, the food—ordered by Marty in Spanish—signifies an exotic world of travel and sophistication. Years later, still reeling from the exploits of her twenties, Ellie throws a party in her own honor after winning an art history prize. She makes a quiche—a dish that’s often seen as the opposite of exotic—and it underlines her thoughts that this is “a sad little party” and her life is lacking.

Food in fiction is an opportunity to characterize. A melting bowl of ice cream, a half-finished pastrami sandwich, a stolen pear—all of these can add nuance to our understanding of a scene or a person.

Food can also take on national characteristics. It tells us something about an entire people and their history and, of course, that changes over time. We think of apple pie as being quintessentially American, but its origins are European. Here is a 17th-century version of Dutch Apple pie, a dessert I remember with great fondness from my year spent living in Amsterdam almost sixteen years ago.

Historical Dutch Apple Pie (appelltaart) from author Dominic Smith

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Yield: 1 9 inch pie

A 17th century Dutch Apple Pie (appelltaart) recipe from author Dominic Smith, paired with his novel, THE LAST PAINTING OF SARA DE VOS.


For the Filling

4 tablespoons raisins

Juice of 1 lemon

2 1/4 pounds tart apples

4 1/2 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

For the Dough

¾ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus extra for greasing the pan

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup self-rising flour (the wordsmith in me finds it interesting that Australians and Europeans call this self-raising flour) (see note)

¾ cup superfine sugar

Pinch of salt

½ teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

1 large egg

1 tablespoon water

1 tablespoon dried breadcrumbs

For the Glaze

¼ cup good quality apricot jam

2 tablespoon white rum (or water)

Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving

Ground cinnamon, for sprinkling over the top


Prepare the filling: Soak raisins in a bowl with a cup of hot water. Let stand for 15 minutes

Add the lemon juice to a large mixing bowl. Peel and core and chop apples, placing pieces into the lemon juice as you go. Stir occasionally. Drain raisins, squeeze out water gently, and stir into the apples. Mix in sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Butter the bottom and sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Preheat oven to 365°F.

Prepare the dough: In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter on medium speed with a paddle attachment until softened and creamy, 1-2 minutes. Remove bowl from mixer.

Sift flours into a large mixing bowl, and add sugar, salt, lemon peel, egg and water. Mix all ingredients with your hands; knead until it’s pliable dough. If it’s too dry, add a teaspoon of water. If it’s too sticky, add a touch of all-purpose flour. Cut a third of the dough and set it aside.

Shape the remaining dough into a ball and place it in the middle of the spring-form pan.

Press the dough over the bottom of the pan and up the sides, until two-thirds of the pan height is covered. Keep dough spread evenly. Sprinkle the base with the breadcrumbs. (They will soak up some moisture from the apples.) Stir the filling again and pour it into the pan, spreading evenly.

Divide remaining dough into smaller pieces. Roll remaining dough into approximately ten thin strips and lay strips that will fit across the pan over the apples in a lattice pattern.

Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 45-50 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Prepare the glaze: Ten minutes before the pie is ready, place apricot jam and rum (or water) in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, until it comes to a boil and then immediately remove from the heat.

When the apple pie is ready, remove from the oven and spread glaze immediately over top with brush. Allow to cool.

Remove sides from pan and serve. Pie can be eaten warm or at room temperature. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, sprinkled with a little cinnamon.


Recipe adapted from My Little Expat Kitchen (http://mylittleexpatkitchen.blogspot.com/2011/11/dutch-apple-pie.html)

To make self-rising flour at home: Add 1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt to 1 cup of all-purpose flour (use ¾ cup of this mixture for this recipe).

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