The appeltaart from Winkel Cafe is surrounded by thick, cake-like dough. // © 2014 Winkel Cafe
In Amsterdam, traditional Dutch apple pie — or appeltaart — rules the bakeries and can be found in almost every cafe. While each shop has its own version of the treat, most of these mounds of crumble and fluff are more cake than pie. And though they use similar ingredients to the American apple pie, including cinnamon, lemon and raisins in the mix, appeltarts constitute a whole new experience.
The apple pie has reigned as the favored Dutch dessert for centuries; references can be found in the Dutch “Cookery Book” of 1514. Made in a spring-form pan with a flaky crust on the bottom, sides and top, the center is layers of sliced apples or, even better, apples cuddled in soft-textured cake.
About nine inches in diameter, three inches high and often served “met slagroom” (with whipped cream), appeltaart is a part of Dutch history no visitor should miss. But where can one find worthy examples in Amsterdam? Here are some of our favorites.
The appletaart served at the Winkel cafe is deservedly famous, and it makes for a delicious treat or lunch substitute. The cookie-firm exterior, majestic and tall, has a crispy caramel taste. The interior has big chunks of apples surrounded by a soft cake-like dough, spiced with a blend of cinnamon and sugar — a good combination of sour and sweet. No surprise that Winkel cafe is an Amsterdam institution. The outdoor seating area, next to Noorderkerk (northern church), is a great place to watch all the activity in the Saturday and Monday open-air markets.
With its rows of cakes, cookies and tarts, multitudes of chocolates and half a dozen different meringues, Patissierie Kuyt is a bakery-holics dream come true. Kuyt bakes appletaart for a number of other eating establishments. A low-rise ‘coffee-cake’ version, the apple schnitt, is available in-house. It has a thick buttery base, like soft shortbread, topped with tiny slices of apple mixed with raisins, currants and slivered almonds, finished with a dusting of powdered sugar. Visitors can also taste Kuyt apple pie at the modern film museum EYE Bar Restaurant or Cafe Het Paleis.
Patissierie Holtkamp is a small shop full of temptations, serving up another beautiful array of desserts just a few blocks away from Patissierie Kuyt. Holtkamp’s sophisticated-looking appeltaart has cut apple pieces, big plump raisins, currants, cinnamon and a thin sprinkling of powdered sugar on the crust. It’s very moist, including the crust. Holtkamp is also known for its kroketten (croquettes) in flavors such as shrimp and veal.
Located in the Jordaan area of Amsterdam, the Villa Zeezicht cafe has an impressive outdoor seating area that overlooks the Singel canal. The appeltaart here is tall and cake-like in appearance and features very thick slices of apples. It’s not too sweet though, and the whipped cream is a nice counterbalance to the well-cooked fruit.
Established in 1642, this picturesque corner cafe has outdoor seating in warmer weather. In the appeltaart served here, apples are sliced thin and laid one over the other as in American apple pie, but they are stacked higher. This version features lots of citrus, raisins and a very sweet crust, like soft vanilla cookies. Cafe Papeneiland’s appeltaart comes with an unverified but interesting story: when former President Bill Clinton visited the cafe, he liked his slice of pie so much that he took an entire cake back home in a doggy bag.
The appeltaart here has delicately sliced apples layered inside a buttery crust. Biting in is like eating an apple, as the slices retain a hint of their former crunch. It’s lighter than the appeltaart at Winkel but not by a significant amount. Some might opt to skip the pie here and go for the scones, which are served with clotted cream, jam, jelly and lemon curd. Bakkerswinkel is a good place for breakfast, lunch or tea. Don’t miss the hot chocolate, made with chunks of white and dark chocolate, or the fresh mint leaf tea.
This cozy, old-fashioned corner bakery and tearoom is not far from the American Bookstore. There is no top crust on the appeltaart here and the apple slices taste almost uncooked but with a nice texture. There’s a layer of spongy cake for a base, a clear jelly on top and hazelnut and citrus flavors throughout. Lanskroon’s delicious king-sized honey stroopwafels (gooey syrup sandwiched between thin waffle discs) are also noteworthy. These are best eaten after placing them over a hot drink for four to five minutes to soften the filling.