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I am walking at a narrow plastered alley, on a cold Monday morning. The air is crisp and the skies are pale blue. I have half an hour until my meeting, so I choose to wander around aimlessly, looking at doorsteps, windows and rooftops. A small bakery looks really busy, people going in and out, holding big bags. I stop at their window. Piles of cookies, bread of all sorts, cakes and croissants and mini pizzas. But most of all, pies! Fruit and cream and custard pies of all sizes and decorations. Small explanatory signs in Dutch: Vlaai.

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Rijstevlaai, Kruimelvlaai, Kersenvlaai. Vlaai, vlaai, vlaai. What is this???

I go in the bakery. I come out holding a box with 3 different Vlaai pieces. I sit on a bench at the church park nearby. It’s the beginning of a new chapter in my life: The Dutch Vlaai!

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Vlaai is a typical pie in the south of the Netherlands, the province of Limburg. Its crust is unique: a yeast-based brioche-style pastry, which is not too buttery or sweet. The filling varies depending on the seasonal fruit produce or the creativity of the baker. I’ve had summer fruit vlaai, strawberry vlaai, plum vlaai, rice-pudding vlaai and many, many others. But my all-time favourite is this peach vlaai!

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I got playful and added a touch of lavender, to make it even more summery, something my Dutch friends would probably disapprove of. Yes, I know, it’s almost mid-October and I should be making apple pies or pumpkin pies or something automn-y and cosy, something you would enjoy below warm blankets watching at the rain hitting against the window, while your cat purrs on your lap…

Well, no! Peach it is, the last ones I could find at the market a week ago 😉

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Peach Lavender Vlaai

Crust

  • 2 & 1/2 cups flour*(+ 2-3 table spoons while kneading)
  • 7 grams dry yeast (2 tea spoons)
  • 2/3 cup lukewarm milk
  • 3 table spoons butter at room temperature (ca 50 grams) (+more for greasing pie tray)
  • 2 table spoons vanilla sugar (or normal)
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt

*I used a mix of spelt, wheat & rye flour, but AP will be fine

1. In a cup, mix milk and yeast. Set aside and let proof for 5′.

2. In a big bowl, mix flour, butter, sugar, salt, egg and the yeast-milk mixture. Knead well for around 7-10 mins, until the dough is elastic and does not stick to your hands. I had to add 3 table spoons of extra flour to have a good texture.

3. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and let at a warm place to proof, for at least 45′ or until double in size. (This recipe makes enough dough for 1 covered vlaai, and one smaller uncovered one).

Filling

  • 6-7 big peaches
  • 1 table spoon lavender sugar*
  • 3 table spoons vanilla sugar
  • 2 table spoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 table spoon cornstarch

1. Wash & peel the peaches. Cut them in wedges ( of around 0.5 cm width) and put them in a bowl. Toss in the sugar and the lemon juice and set aside for at least 30′ (or overnight). The more time you will let them, the less watery your vlaai will be.

2. Over a sauce pan, shieve the peaches so that all the juices fall in the pan. Heat the peach juice on medium heat, for 5-6 mins, while you are shifting the pan, until it turns into a light syrop and the sugar starts to caramelise.

3. Add the cornstach to the sauce pan and stir, so that it dissolves. Once the colour changes, take off the heat, and add the mixture to the peaches. Mix carefully, so that it covers the fruit. Set aside to cool.

*If you don’t have lavender sugar (sugar infused by fresh lavender flowers) just use normal sugar & add 1 tea spoon fresh lavender flowers. If you hate lavender just leave it out 😉

Assembly

  • 1 egg lightly beaten
  • brown sugar

1. Grease a round pie tray with butter (I used a 31-cm diameter one).

2. Punch down the dough and divide it in two pieces. Roll the first piece out, into a round disk, big enough to cover the bottom and the sides of the pie tray. Place in the pie tray and using a fork, pinch the dough in several places. Cover with a damp towel and let proof at a warm place for around 10′.

3. On a clean working surface roll out the second piece of the dough. Cut it in stripes with a pizza cutter or a knife, so that you can make the lacing. Cover with a damp towel and let proof at a warm place for around 10′.

4. Pour the filling into the pie tray and cover with the lacing. Brush the lacing with egg wash and sprinkle with brown sugar. Bake in the oven at 175°C (347°F) for around 45-50′, until golden. If the lacing changes colour too quickly, cover with aluminium foil.

5. Remove the vlaai from the oven and let it cool for at least an hour. If there is excess fruit juice once you cut out the first pieces, remove it from the pan, so that the vlaai does not get soggy. Cut and serve with vanilla ice cream, or plain, but always with coffee. Devour for the first time this masterpiece of Dutch patisserie, smelling like a summer morning. Alstublieft! 😛

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