Limburger Cherry Pie (Limburgse Kersenvlaai)

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!

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Other traditional types of vlaai include apricot, gooseberry, rice pudding, and crumble.

Ingredients

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For a 27 cm (11″) vlaai

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)

To finish

1 egg white (you could add the yolk to the dough if you like)

2 Tbsp coarsely granulated sugar

Preparation

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Heat the milk in the microwave oven to lukewarm. Add the yeast and stir.

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Combine the flour, butter, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the milk and yeast mixture.

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Mix until all the flour has been incorporated.

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While the machine is running, add just a bit more milk until the dough comes together. This is probably not more than a single tablespoon of milk.

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Scrape the dough from the paddle attachment and remove it.

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Fit with the dough hook and knead for 5 minutes on medium speed.

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The dough should have the consistency of fresh pasta dough (smooth and elastic, not sticky).

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Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. The best place for this is inside a closed oven with only the light turned on.

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Meanwhile, drain the cherries and catch the syrup in a saucepan.

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Combine 3 tablespoons of the syrup with 1 1/2 tablespoons corn starch and stir with a fork until well mixed.

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Add the corn starch slurry to the syrup.

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Stir in the slurry and heat the syrup until it has thickened.

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Turn off the heat and add the cherries.

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Allow to cool. The syrup will thicken even more.

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The dough should have doubled in volume.

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.

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Knead the dough briefly by hand to get rid of any trapped air. Divide into 2/3 for the bottom and 1/3 for the top of the pie.

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Roll out the bottom dough into a circle big enough for your pie shape, about 33 cm (13″).

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Butter a 27 cm (11″) pie shape.

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Line it with the dough, and make some holes in it with a fork.

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Sprinkle evenly with breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs will absorb some liquid from the cherries and will help to keep the bottom dry while baking.

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Taste the cherries and add more sugar if needed. You can enhance the flavor of the cherries also by adding a bit of vanilla extract and/or almond extract.

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Pour the cherry filling into the prepared pie shape.

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Arrange the cherries evenly.

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Roll out the remaining dough into a 27 cm (11″) circle.

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Cut into strips about 1 tot 1 1/2 cm wide (1/2 inch).

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Use the strips to cover the pie with a lattice.

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Lightly beat the egg white until bubbly. Brush the top of the pie with the egg white.

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Sprinkle coarsely granulated sugar on top.

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Bake for about 25 minutes at 200C/390F (static oven) or 180C/350F (fan).

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The top of the vlaai should be golden brown.

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Allow to cool for a bit.

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Carefully remove the vlaai out of the pie shape as soon as it has cooled off enough for you to handle, and allow to cool to room temperature on a rack. This will allow the bottom to dry.

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.

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25 thoughts on “Limburger Cherry Pie (Limburgse Kersenvlaai)

    1. Welcome to the wonderful world of a pyrolytic self-cleaning oven 🙂 The oven is 11 years old and I’ve used the autoclean a couple of times per year. Afterwards you only need to remove a bit of ashes.

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  1. Soooo making this! Am always looking for interesting regional desserts and this definitely qualifies. Thank you! When I went to Holland for the first time as a child I remember eating these little tiny pancakes type of dessert, sprinkled with powder sugar I think. I loved it but I forgot the name. What is it?

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    1. Non c’è di che 🙂
      Those tiny pancakes are called poffertjes. They are made with yeast and buckwheat flour. and served with butter and powdered sugar. I don’t own the special pan needed to make them, or I would do a post on them.

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  2. Beautiful pie. But in the States, Limburger is a famously strong and super-stinky cheese. At first glance I was shocked, but that is why you read the recipe- “Limburger” has a very different meaning here… 😉

    The almond extract with the cherries is a nice touch…a very good flavor combination.

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    1. I was a bit worried about that, because I do know about Limburger cheese (which around here is not as well-known as in the US even though it comes from a few hours away) and thought it may be confusing. The almond is my addition and not something that is done in Limburg, but it does help to boost the cherries.

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  3. This tart looks fantastic, Stefan. Cherries baked in any way, shape, or form are a personal favorite and I always include a dash of almod extract. Michigan is known for its tart cherries and I take advantage of them every June. Looks like this June I’ll be baking a pie with a yeast dough crust. Thanks for sharing.

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