That's right, today you're getting not one, but two Dutch-inspired recipes! And a really long post about the book that ruined my life and why Amsterdam is the greatest place on earth. Read on!
Embarrassing confession time: I've only read three books. Seriously, how sad is that. Outside of all required school reading, the only books I've ever read for pure personal pleasure have been The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Hunger Games, and The Fault in Our Stars. As you can tell, I'm really into dramatic young adult fiction, which is pretty fitting considering that I'm a dramatic young adult. Okay, maybe I'm a little older than 18, but we can let that slide.
Let's talk about The Fault in Our Stars. The alternate title of this book is The Book I Read in Four Hours Flat. Also: The Book that Left Me Sobbing in my Seat on a Transatlantic Flight and Confused One Too Many Air France Flight Attendants. Or how about: The Book that Killed Me and Made Me Feel All of the Feel Ever to be Felt. Yeah, that one.
Just in case you have been living under a rock for the past two years, TFIOS is the magnum opus of the brilliant John Green and is the most genuine of love stories of two cancer-stricken teens that meet in a support group. Sounds dreary, right? It's not. I mean, you'll cry about six or seven or fifteen times, but it transcends the usual sappy cancer plot that you're used to. It's wonderfully charming and smart, teaches a lot about both the importance and fragility of life, and makes you want to love the way Gus and Hazel love. It's pretty great. The book was adapted into a major motion picture this summer and was released on DVD this week. I watched it last night and cried... again. (All of the feels, remember?)
I will refrain from posting spoilers on the rare chance that you're one of the few people that aren't familiar with the story/didn't read the book/didn't even bother to see the movie, but a good chunk of the film takes place in Amsterdam. Coincidentally, I bought this book in the Amsterdam airport and read it on the day I left Amsterdam, which left me more emotional damage than I would've liked to boarded a nine hour flight with. Fate, right?
Simply put, Amsterdam is my favorite place in the entire world. Never in my life have I been in an environment more perfect. No really, it was like my biggest fantasy had unfolded itself and materialized right before my eyes. The vast history, the unsuspectedly amazing food, the masses of people buzzing past canals on pretty matte black bikes, the beautiful architecture, the boutiques of the de 9 straatjes, everything — it was like my Pinterest boards had come to life. Most importantly, the people. How the hell is everybody so attractive in Amsterdam? No really, it was like the ultimate representation of my "type" appeared before my eyes every time I passed somebody on the street. Hot damn. Get me back there, ASAP.
In the meantime, let's focus on the food. Since my visit, I have been dreaming up the perfect Dutch-inspired desserts. I've been developing and testing recipes since June and finally found two that I have fallen in love with. Considering the release of The Fault in Our Stars this week, I couldn't think of any time to share my recipes and my love letter to the city that stole my heart.
First, I decided to make a Dutch-inspired cheesecake, complete with a Daelman's Amsterdam cookie crust, a cinnamon and stroop infused whipped cream, and plenty of stroopwafels for garnish. In case you're unfamiliar with stroopwafels, they are two ultra-thin wafer cookies filled with stroop (a Dutch syrup) or caramel. They serve these hot on the street throughout the city and they are absolutely stupid delicious. Throw them on top of the perfect cheesecake et voila!
But I didn't stop there. (Don't you know me by now?) Amsterdam is full of amazing chocolate shops that sell chocolate anything and everything. But the real star of the Dutch chocolatiers is hagelslag, which is essentially just the Dutch's answer to the chocolate sprinkle. I know what you're thinking, "Graham, they're just sprinkles." Blasphemy! Number one, what's wrong with sprinkles?! If you don't like sprinkles, we can't be friends. Shame on you! Secondly, hagelslag aren't just sprinkles. They're of a much higher quality than the tradition chocolate jimmies available in America; they're actual chocolate, over 35% cacao by law. Essentially chocolate crack. The Dutch traditionally put hagelslag on their morning toast, but I decided that they'd be even more delicious acting as a sprinkly envelope for my favorite sugar cookies. (Y'know, or straight out of the palm of my hand.) I can't even begin to express how amazing these cookies are.
Thanks to the geniuses behind World Market, these traditional Dutch ingredients required for recreating these recipes are readily available essentially anywhere. So no excuses, I challenge you to rent The Fault in Our Stars, have an emotional breakdown, and then stuff your sorrows with one (or both!) of these Dutch-inspired desserts. Okay? Okay. :)
Amsterdam Cookie Crust:
- 2 cups finely ground Daelman's Amsterdam cookies (a little over one box)
- 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
- 16 oz. cream cheese, softened
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 pint sour cream
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
Cinnamon Maple Whipped Cream:
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease and flour an 8-inch springform pan.
In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, ground cookies, and cinnamon until homogenous. Press the crust mixture into the bottom and an inch up the sides of the prepared pan. Refrigerate crust while making the filling.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the cream cheese on medium speed until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, making sure the mixture is thoroughly combined between each addition. Gradually add the sugar and beat until smooth, about two minutes. Scrape down the bowl and add the sour cream, lemon zest, and vanilla extract. Mix until smooth. Pour the filling into the prepared crust.
Wrap the bottom and sides of the springform pan with aluminum foil. Place pan in the center of a wide rimmed baking sheet. Fill the baking sheet with boiling water, making sure the water reaches about halfway up the sides of the pan. Bake for 50-55 minutes, until set around the edges but still a bit jiggly in the center. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes before transferring to the fridge to set for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together all ingredients until the whipped cream forms desired consistency. Remove the cheesecake from the pan and top with whipped cream and stroopwafels.
Hagelslag Sugar Cookies
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- hagelslag for rolling
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the sugar, sour cream, and melted butter in a large bowl and whisk. The mixture will form a smooth paste. Mix in the vegetable oil. Stir in the egg, milk, and vanilla. Whisk until the mixture is smooth. Gently fold in the dry ingredients.
Refrigerate the dough for at least 15 minutes.
Scoop out tablespoons of dough and roll in hagelslag. Place on baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool. Eat. Repeat.