The province of Limburg in the South of the Netherlands is famous for its pies, called “Limburgse Vlaai” in Dutch or simply “Vla” in the local dialect. Vlaai is especially baked or bought for a birthday party.
You may think this looks like an Italian crostata di ciliegie (cherry tart), but the main difference is that a crostata or tart is made using flaky shortcrust pastry (pasta frolla) with 50 grams of butter for each 100 grams of flour, whereas vlaai is made with a yeast dough with only a small amount of butter. This gives the pastry a very different consistency.
There is a big difference between a ‘real’ freshly baked vlaai from Limburg and the industrially produced ones that are available all over the country. Kersenvlaai (vlaai with cherries) is one of the best known kinds. The pastry of the kersenvlaai I remember from my childhood tasted of cardboard. I can still remember the first time I had real kersenvlaai from Limburg, about 20 years ago. A friend of mine from Limburg was visiting, and since Limburg is so far away (3 hours is considered far in this small country of ours), my friend would be sleeping over. His mother had given him a kersenvlaai, bought from the local bakery in Nuth, as a gift for my family. That kersenvlaai was freshly baked and changed my opinion of vlaai completely. It was delicious! It is this kind of kersenvlaai that I tried to bake, and I think I came pretty close for my first attempt. It is fairly easy to do and very tasty, so I urge you to give this a try. You will be glad you did!
250 grams (1 1/2 cups) cake flour
15 grams (.5 oz) fresh yeast, or 5 grams (1 1/2 tsp) active dry yeast
20 grams (1 1/2 Tbsp) butter plus more for buttering the pie shape
about 100 ml (7 Tbsp) milk
1 Tbsp sugar
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
For the filling
700 grams (2 1/2 cups) cherries in syrup
sugar to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp pure vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 tsp almond extract (optional)
1 egg white (you could add the yolk to the dough if you like)
2 Tbsp coarsely granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C/390F (static) or 180C/350F (fan). Put an oven proof dish with about 125 ml (1/2 cup) of water in the oven.
Eat as soon as possible. This type of dough is at its best when eaten fresh, and is not as forgiving as shortcrust pastry in that respect. Vlaai is customarily served with a cup of tea or coffee, especially on birthday parties, but it is also great as a dessert. If you do serve it as a dessert and would like to do a wine pairing, Brachetto d’Aqui (a red version of Moscato d’Asti) is the way to go.