Ouma Sjaan’s Beginnings
My Ouma (Dutch grandmother) Sjaan is one of my favourite people on this good green planet. She’s probably the strongest person I know. Born in the Netherlands in 1936, she survived polio as a child. It left her with a distinct gait but it never hampered her or slowed her down.
She grew up with 11 siblings (oh good Lawd, imagine the laundry!) and a very, very high work ethic. Girls were just expected to help run the household and raise the younger kids. At 84, Ouma still cleans her own house impeccably.
World War II Lessons
Germany’s occupation of Holland kicked off in May of 1940 with a massive bomb blast over Rotterdam. This is only kilometers from where Ouma Sjaan lived at the time. She was four then and all the way until she was nine, her family experienced the suppression, food rationing and fear that would come with this time in history.
She came out of World War II with a very low wastage mentality and I definitely got my
cheapskate frugal genes from her. Nobody is excused from the dinner table if there are still traces of food on the plates or in the serving dishes. You just don’t waste. You will eat until you are convinced that you’ll be fasting for the next three days or you will sit here.
The Aromas of a Grandmother’s Home
One of Ouma Sjaan’s true splurges is her Dutch baking. Her others include her exquisite taste in very expensive jewellery, but I just can’t match that. And then her collection of German Hummel figurines, but I need a very. large. glass cabinet to house said collection and, well, you know, kids and glass and breakable things. So, let’s go with the baking.
You know those distinct smells only your grandmother’s house can exude? Boterkoek is it for me. I buy a cheapened down version from the local grocery store but a packaged product baked in a factory just doesn’t do the aroma thing. I need the smell wafting through my kitchen. So I had Ouma Sjaan write us her special fool-proof (I use this word ultra carefully because if I flop this one…the fool would be me) golden nugget:
The Boterkoek recipe, everyone. In Ouma Sjaan’s own hand…
The Handwritten Boterkoek Recipe
If you’ve seen other Boterkoek recipes, they can be longer and more frilly. But do not be tempted to pollute it. These ingredients are easy pickings in most pantries any day of the week and this is definitely the place where the simple outshines, nay out-tastes, the competition.
|260 g flour||2 cups + 1 tbsp. flour|
|220 g butter||1 cup butter|
|180 g caster sugar||7/8 cups caster sugar*|
|2/3 egg in batter + 1/3 egg on top||2/3 egg in batter + 1/3 egg on top|
|1 sachet vanilla sugar||1 tsp vanilla essence|
|*If this is too tricky mathematically, this is just in the middle between 3/4 and 1 cup.|
Notes for Ingredients
I ultimately recommend weighing the grams out, but if the American equivalent is the only option available to you, then it’s a bit more winging it.
The butter needs to be soft for mixing. Ouma Sjaan microwaves it just to the point before melting. I don’t have a microwave (although the 5G tower in our town might count?) so I make a bain marie. Place the butter in a metal bowl on top of steaming water on the stove until its soft.
I prefer sifting the flour and caster sugar together to make sure there are no clumps.
Dutch supermarkets sell these sachets of vanilla sugar. Ouma swears by it. She’ll pack it in her luggage if she’s making Boterkoek somewhere else. If its not available to you, replace it with a teaspoon of vanilla essence to flavour the recipe.
I use this 23cm Boterkoek Cake Pan available in Holland. It is a dream with a circular cutter to loosen the cake from the pan. Of course you can go for any round springform pan, but this is really what all the cool kids are doing. Also, they are buttering it up in cool wavy patterns.
The egg separation is a little bit like craft time in kindergarten but it is the only way to have the glossy top of the final product. You need to guesstimate the split between 2/3 and 1/3.
Let’s keep this sweet and simple. Yum.
- 1. Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F/Gas mark 6)
- 2. Butter your pan
- 3. Sift dry ingredients together
- 4. Soften butter
- 5. Whisk egg in a bowl and separate it into 2/3 and 1/3.
- 6. Take the 2/3 egg and whisk it into the butter
- 7. Combine all ingredients (except 1/3 egg) and knead into a PlayDoh consistency
- 8. Press dough into cake form
- 9. Spread 1/3 whisked egg to cover top of dough
- 10. Bake 15 minutes at 200°C/400°F and last 5 minutes a 150°C/300°F
Ten quick steps! Yeah, baby. Perfect for when that person phones and says they’re on their way for tea. Hostess with the Mostest you are!
My personal preference is cold Boterkoek. It seemed weird until I heard from Ouma Sjaan that she bakes two at a time and refrigerates them until she serves. So I guess cold Boterkoek is in the genes.
It makes perfect sense to bake two, because one of them will probably never even make it to the fridge! It is absolutely melt in your mouth. And now my house smells like my grandmother ❤