The best apple pie ever

Published 9:48 am Thursday, September 20, 2012

During my trip to the Netherlands I wanted to soak up everything I could about the culture, the people and the food.

From the time I was little, my mom used to make a dish called Dutch Lettuce, which was mashed potatoes, crumbled bacon, shredded leaf lettuce wilted by a little bit of bacon grease and vinegar all mixed up. I know, it sounds like a mess, but I swear it’s good. Just down right comfort food.

The more time I spent in the Netherlands the more I realized a lot of the food we were “experiencing” were comfort foods. The Dutch are all about the potatoes, cheese, bread (preferably with creamy butter), sausage and apple pie.

On the other hand, Dutch food is also heavily influenced by other cultures, specifically India because of the spice trade. Therefore, you can find your share of curries, tikkas, marsalas and other spice filled dishes.

Among the different foods we sampled in the Netherlands, Tracy and I tried stampotten (the hotchpotch kind), which is mashed potatoes mixed with readily available vegetables (like carrots, etc.) with a meatball, bacon and sausage (the mashed potatoes part reminded me of Dutch Lettuce), “Vlaamse frites” (Flemish fries) and “pannenkoeken”, Dutch pancakes that are more crepe-like than similar to American pancakes. Yes, we were being really bad. But, hey, it was vacation.

Yet it was in Delft, just south of Amsterdam, where I really fell in love, specifically with Dutch apple pie, or “appeltaart” as I call it.

I’m from upstate New York, the apple capital of the world. I grew up playing in orchards, picking apples and making (and eating) apple pie.

I really thought I knew apple pie. I think most Americans believe they know how to make apple pie, but no, let me tell you the Dutch have perfected the apple pie.

They literally have taken the dish and made it an experience.

First off, one slice of Dutch apple pie is probably four times as thick as the pie you’re used to. That’s right, it’s a deep dish pie with a cake like crust and chunky-cut spiced apples in the middle and they often use raisins in the mixture.

The real secret, however, to Dutch apple pie is something called “speculaaskruiden”, an easy to make spice blend mixed in with the apples.

To make “speculaaskruiden” mix up the following spices together and store in an air tight container.

4 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp ground mace

1/3 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground white pepper

1/4 tsp ground cardamom

1/4 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/4 tsp ground anise seeds

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

I have yet to make an apple pie this season, but when I do I think I’ll replace the same old cinnamon with speculaaskruiden. It may remind me of sitting in a square in Delft enjoying some of the world’s best apple pie.    

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: or call (252) 332-7209.