This recipe is for the apple "vlaai" that Frieda, my mother, used to make. "Vlaai" pies are traditionally made in the (far) southeast of The Netherlands, even though the name is probably derived from an old German word for a flat tart (I'm taking culinarily here - not the whorey kind of tart). The crust of a "vlaai" is neither a pastry crust, nor a pie crust. A "vlaai" has a filling of apples, cherries, plums, apricots, or gooseberries. And: no whipped cream on top, or layer of baker's pudding inside a real vlaai!

Dutch and English apple pies date back at least 500 years. Apple seeds were introduced to (colonial) North America in the 17th century, as were apple pie recipes.

  • Preparation time: 45 minutes
  • Bake time: 40 minutes
  • Makes 12 servings.
  • Best when made 1 day ahead.


  • Ingredients for the dough
  • 300 grams (2.5 cups) self-rising flour (UK: self-raising). If you don't have such flour in your pantry, just mix the following:
  • 300 grams (2.5 cups) all-purpose flour (D: type 550; F: type 55)
  • 2.5 teaspoons (10 grams) baking powder
  • 110 grams butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature
  • 1 large egg (or 2 small eggs)
  • 120 ml (1/2 cup) of milk, at room temperature
  • 1 package of vanilla sugar (standard 8 grams envelope; with real vanilla, not artificial flavoring)
  • pinch of salt

  • Ingredients for the filling
  • 1 kg (2.2 lbs) apples
  • This is about 700 grams when peeled & cored
  • Which apple variety to use? The apples should have lots of flavor, not be too sweet, and not fall apart when baked. Examples: Cox Orange (classic!), Elstar (light sour note, flavorful), Jonagold (sweet-sour), Boskoop, Gravensteiner, Granny Smith. Also: Idared (sweet), and even Braebrun (firm).
  • 110 grams fine crystal sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest, or 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • 125 grams (1 cup lightly packed) dark raisins, soaked in hot water for at least 15 minutes, drained
  • 2-3 tablespoons dark rum, cognac/brandy, or Cointreau - according to your preference
  • I exclusively use Myers's "Original Dark" Rum from Jamaica- not necessarily a sipping rum, but the flavor is perfect for deserts and mixed drinks.
  • 12 large amaretti (NL: bitterkoekjes) 
  • Use amaretti with a high almond content;  they should be dense and chewy. They typically have a diameter of 3-4 cm (1.5 inch). See photo below.
  • Do not use the small, hard, hollow, "bone-dry foam" Saronno-style cookies!
  • Alternatively: use 120 grams (4 oz.) almond paste (at least 50% almond content), crumbled.


Perfect amaretti, handmade by Calou


  • Round metal pie pan, 24-26 cm diameter (10 inch) and 2-3 cm high (1 inch);
  • Traditionally, a thin pie pan ("flan tin") is used that has a fluted side wall (like a quiche pan), that leans outward (i.e., is sloped, not vertical). See photo below. The bottom should be flat.
  • Non-stick is great, as is a removable bottom.
  • Large bowl
  • Medium size bowl
  • Optional: kitchen machine with a dough-hook.
  • Rolling-pin
  • Scissors
  • Powdered sugar  (F: sucre glace), for dusting the baked "vlaai"


  • For the filling:
  • Soak the raisins in the alcohol of your choice
  • Quarter and peel the apples, remove the core.
  • Cut each quarter lengthwise into about 4 slices, and put into a large bowl
  • Add the raisins and crumbled amaretti (or the crumbled almond paste), and toss or fold-in to mix
  • Add the sugar and cinnamon, and mix
  • Note: the sugar will draw liquid from the apples.

  • For the vlaai:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 175 °C (350 °F)
  • In a bowl, combine all ingredients for the dough
  • Knead into a smooth, elastic dough, by hand or with kitchen machine with dough hook (about 5 minutes)
  • The dough should not be sticky; if sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and knead until well absorbed.
  • Split dough 1/3 + 2/3
  • Form the 2/3 dough part into a ball; dust your work surface slightly with flour, and roll out the ball until big enough to cover the entire pie pan, and only slightly overhang the edge of the pan.
  • Lightly grease the pie pan with some butter (make sure to get it into the fluted "ribs")
  • Transfer to dough to the pie pan and prick with a fork in about 15 spots
  • Transfer the apple slices to the pie pan and distribute evenly. Do not to transfer the liquid that has drained from the apples!
  • Form the 1/3 dough part into a ball, and roll out until big enough to cover the entire top of the pan
  • Cover the pie with the dough, join the side and top dough, and cut off overhanging dough
  • With scissors, snip about a dozen or so vent holes in the top of the pie
  • Brush the entire top with some milk and evenly sprinkle some sugar over it
  • Bake in oven for 35-45 minutes, until dark golden.
  • After the vlaai has cooled off, dust with powdered sugar.

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