There’s something about being abroad that makes me hungry. You might be thinking, of course you’re hungry, you’re in Europe! You are surrounded by delicious and exotic delicacies of every kind, that delicious European full fat butter, beautiful pastries, rich chocolate truffles, thousands of kinds of cheese, pasta, crepes, bread, the list goes on and on–the fact that you can stop eating ever is an absolute miracle!
Before you get carried away, imagining me sipping tiny cups of italian espresso while nibbling on a warm buttered croissant, and a macaron or two–let me remind you that while Macedonia is like Europe, Macedonia is close to Europe, and technically, Macedonia is even geographically in Europe, Macedonia’s delicacies are not all that delicate…think a pot of various meats and vegetables tortured (as my Taiwanese friend in MK would say) until the whole mixture is virtually unidentifiable. Or another famous (and admittedly delicious) Macedonian delicacy, Ajvar, where the same procedure is performed on peppers and eggplant until they too no longer resemble their former selves. Second, I would like to remind you that we are not actually in Macedonia at the moment, so my coffee experience pretty much consists of waiting in line at Starbucks with the rest of you and drinking my coffee as I drive. Ah, America! Finally, I am afraid there won’t be too many tiny coffees or macarons in my future either, as we are gearing up to move to Kazakhstan, where the national culinary delights consist of boiled noodles, boiled horse meat, and if you are a particularly honored guest, the boiled head of a sheep. (There are actually a few other dishes that sound marginally better and even verging on tasty, but I’ll have to let you know once I try them for myself…)
Now that we’ve established the kind of experience I am not having, let me get back to my main point, which is, being abroad makes me hungry. Hungry for things that remind me of home. Of course, being from the ‘Apple Capital’ there’s been a time or two when I had a hankering for a crisp, juicy Washington apple, or the tail piece of a King Salmon from the Copper River prepared with lemon pepper and onions, or a spear of my grandma’s spicy pickled asparagus, but usually, my cravings run a little closer to the kind that can be satisfied at a convenience store–a few oreos, a reese’s peanut butter cup, a slice of cheddar cheese… Somehow these things that I don’t even notice while I am in America suddenly become more than necessary once I am abroad.
By now, I’ve been in and out of America enough times to accept this hankering I get for American junk food, and I’ve even been know to throw a bag of mini reese’s peanut butter cups into my suitcase so I am prepared for such emergencies. Interestingly, now that I am living in America again, I find myself occasionally craving some kind of European junkfood…a bite of baklava from Macedonia, a polvorone from Spain, or a bag of mushroom flavored potato chips from Russia. (You heard me!) When we used to travel back and forth between Macedonia and the U.S. at Christmas time, we often flew threw Amsterdam. Each time, I had the same routine–Starbucks for a chai latte, and a package of stroop waffles from the gift shop. Due to the fact that we spent this Christmas in the U.S. I haven’t been able to satisfy my stroop waffle craving. Now, here I am, at the end of March, pizzelle iron in hand, whipping up a batch of stroop waffles.
If you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you’ve surely come across these addicting little cookies. Or you may have seen them next to the register at Starbucks, or above the frozen foods at Trader Joe’s, or oddly enough at your favorite health food store. Which, after you read the list of ingredients, you’ll agree is ironic, since there is nothing healthy about them. Incase you have somehow missed these little drops of heaven*, let me try to describe them for you.*Bonus points if you caught the Friends reference…* Stroop waffles are basically flat waffle cones that are sliced in half and filled with a spicy caramel-y filling that oozes out to the edges. I’m told by my friend Leo, (a genuine dutchman) that they are traditionally served over a steaming cup of coffee or tea, so that the steam from your cup gently melts the caramel inside the cookie. The result is dangerous. Seriously, it is best to make these and share them with friends immediately, lest you give yourself a sugar headache. Not that I would ever find MYself in that situation, I just thought I would give a fair warning to the rest of you. An additional warning–these cookies are a bit labor intensive, so if it all seems too much, and you aren’t planning a trip to Amsterdam any time soon, I hope I have at least convinced you to cough up the $5, or whatever ridiculous ‘I-can’t-believe-someone-would-pay-this-much-for-a-cookie’ amount of money it costs the next time you are at Starbucks to try one of these little dutch beauties!
By the way, I found this recipe over at The Dutch Table, an EXCELLENT blog about Dutch cooking!
Ingredients for the dough
4 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2-1 cup warm water
pinch of salt
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, cinnamon and sugar. Cut in butter until the pieces are the size of peas. Slowly pour in 1/2 cup of warm water and stir gently until the dough starts to come together. Add eggs one at a time. Add a pinch of salt and use your hands to knead the dough into a solid ball. If the dough doesn’t seem to be coming together or seems a bit crumbly, add a little more warm water, one tablespoon at a time.
Cover and let rest for 30 minutes.
Ingredients for the caramel
1 cup brown sugar
1 stick butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 tablespoons pancake syrup
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Melt sugar and butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add cinnamon and pancake syrup and continue to stir gently until the caramel begins to bubble. By this point the carmel should have thickened up a bit. Be careful to keep an eye on it and to continue stirring so you don’t accidentally burn it. Once all the sugar has dissolved and the caramel has a rich smooth texture, stir in the vanilla extract. Switch the caramel to a new burner on the lowest heat.
Divide the dough into 20 equal pieces. As recommended on The Dutch Table, the easiest way to do this is to weigh the total dough and divide by 20, the pieces should come out at approximately 50 grams each. If you’re not too concerned with each cookie being exactly the same size, you could also just eyeball it. Roll each bit of dough into a ball and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap to prevent them from drying out.
Heat your waffle cone/pizzelle iron according to the manufacturers instructions. Place one of the balls of dough in the middle of the iron, close the iron and bake each waffle for approximately 40 seconds or until the top is nice and golden. Transfer the cookie from the iron on to a flat surface.
This is the tricky part, like waffle cones these cookies get hard once they cool down, which means you wont be able to slice them without them breaking. Using a non-serrated knife, slice the cookie horizontally in two. Spread the inside of one half of the cookie generously with the caramel mixture. Place the second side on top and press down gently until the caramel reaches the edges. Let the cookie finish cooling on a wire rack. Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.