The Dutch are not world renowned for their cuisine, however there are quite a few specialities, hailing from this small, but very diverse country. One of those things is Vlaai, a specialty from the south of the Netherlands and associated with the the province of Limburg: A sweet yeast pie base filled with a smooth and creamy custard, topped with crunchy streusel. However, more modern varieties have been created: Appel Kruimel/Apple Crumble, Chocolate, Cherry, Banana, Strawberries and Cream or the traditional Rijestevlaai/Rice Vlaai which has a sweetened rice pudding type of filling. The list is literally endless!
Vlaai was originally consumed by Germanic tribes, who baked the thin dough on a hot stone, drizzling it with honey or fruit juice to make it more palatable. Later in history, it was baked in monasteries and used as sacrificial bread. Merchants that traded across the border between Germany and the Netherlands probably brought the Vlaai to Maastricht, where it was baked to celebrate special events such as weddings, birthdays, and a twice yearly fair.
Vlaai became popular in the Netherlands and a version was created in Weert, a small town in the south east of the Netherlands, known as Weertervlaai. It was sold in Antje stasie (local dialect for the station) by Maria Hubertina Hendrix, better known as Antje van de stasie. She used to enthusiastically sell the pies to weary travelers at the station, a bronze statue stands opposite the station to commemorate her.
How to Buy?
You will be relieved to hear that you can buy Vlaai per slice, quarter, half or whole. So it gives you plenty of excuses to try a different one each time.
Where to Buy?
Today, the best bakeries are in Maastricht, serving many different varieties of authentic Vlaai. You can choose from between 27-30 different varieties. As you enter a Vlaai bakery a feast will behold your eyes, such is the variety, laid out before you in glass counters, a choice seems almost impossible. Carefully crafted works of art behold you, as you try to make your choice.
Traditionally a vlaai is filled with rice pudding and the top is left open which can then be filled with fruit (apricots, plums, cherries) and topped with a lattice. One other popular choice, and my all time favourite, is to fill with pudding or apples and top with a crunchy streusel.
There are bakeries which specialize in vlaai, and fill them with about anything you can think of. A ‘Limburgse vlaai’ is always baked completely with filling and topping. A vlaai base, baked first and then filled with a mousse or something similar is just called vlaai.
A chain of outlets have sprung up across the Netherlands known as Multi Vlaai. However, if you want to taste the original Limburgse Vlaai then the only place to find it is in Maastricht.
A vlaai, is generally, cut into 12 portions. However people from Limburg consider this a frugal habit, and cut a vlaai in 6-8 portions. On special occasions (birthdays, weddings, parties, etc.) it’s traditional to buy or bake several different flavours of vlaai to celebrate the occasion. Custom in the Dutch workplace is, that if it’s your birthday, or other special occasion, you supply the Vlaai. If you are working on your birthday, be prepared, it’s almost expected that you follow this tradition, make sure you buy enough Vlaam, as some people will eat 2 or 3 slices at one celebration. Don’t worry though, there will be several other opportunities to enjoy Vlaai provided by other people. Vlaai is normally served on a plate with a fork, but since a piece is quite sturdy and easy to pick up, it can also be eaten with the hands. The generous topping on some could prove a challenge, my advice is to stick with the fork.
Perhaps you are feeling adventurous enough to bake your own, The Dutch Table, a blog about Dutch recipes, has a recipe for Limburgse Vlaai and is in English. It is not difficult, but can be time consuming, due to the yeast content and the requirement to let it rise. So head to Maastricht and enjoy a great weekend of history, and a chance to taste one of the country’s celebrated flavours.
Pack Your Bags
Limburg, situated in the south-east of the Netherlands, enjoys more sunshine than any other city in Holland. With chilly winters and temperate summers the best months to visit are June through September when temperatures can be expected between 19°C and 24°C and rainfall moderate, evenings can be cool so make sure you pack a jumper. The Netherlands is on European Standard Time (EST) and is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), in the summer months you can enjoy long, light evenings. Throughout the Netherlands the Euro (EUR) is the official currency.
Maastricht’s nearest airport is Maastricht Aachen Airport (MST). The airport is situated 14 km from the centre of Maastricht. Other options are Liege Airport (LGG) or Eindhoven Airport (EIN) — respectively 43 km and 105 km from Maastricht. All airports offer international and domestic flights. If you are planning to arrive by train, the station is located very close to the city centre and is served well by the national rail service of the Netherlands. Have a look at the online journey planner (which is also in English) to plan your journey.
The easiest way to navigate your way around Maastricht is to take to the bike. There are several options for bike rental in the city, one of the most popular is Orange Bike.nl (Sint Jacobstraat 4B, Maastricht) hire bikes from 15 EUR per day. They also offer guided city tours and will deliver the bike to your hotel if required
Don’t miss a trip to the historic St Pieter’s Fort (Luikerweg 71, 6211 ED). Take a step back in time and visit the extensive underground cave network, where marlstone was extracted for 700 years. The fort was one of the cities main defences during the past civil wars’
VVV/Tourist information (Kleine Staat 1, 6211 ED) has a wealth of information on what to do and see around the city.
Maastricht City Guide, will help you find information on what to do, see and, where to stay around the city.