Wednesday, 14 December 2016 15:43

Christmas in July in December

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After a day spent touring the Points East Circle Drive on Prince Edward Island, on a warm evening in July, we make our way to Charlottetown, where our hotel room smells funny.

Striking out for a bottle of Febreeze, followed by supper, little do we know we’re about to find our new favourite Christmas recipe.
First, however, we continue to discover that, on P.E.I., (nearly) all roads lead to Anne of Green Gables.
There’s Anne, The Musical, the score of which drifts from inside an Anne of Green Gables store, where tourists stock up on period nightgowns and bottles of raspberry cordial featuring labels with a red-pigtailed girl.
When a song that Gilbert Blythe would surely never sing comes over the air, I cringe and we move along.
I love Anne. I grew up with Anne.
And so, earlier in Cavendish, we visited the foundation of the home in which Lucy Maud Montgomery grew up, and paid homage. We walked the trails Anne would have walked. Stepped, with something like reverence, through the farmhouse that belonged to the author’s aunt, and was the inspiration for Green Gables itself.
We did not, however, visit Anne Land, or whatever it was called: the theme park down the road, where actors pretending to be Matthew and Marilla interact, Disney-style, with visitors.
Back in Charlottetown, we choose a downtown trattoria that turns out to be a disappointment, much like the hotel. We do not order dessert.
As we begin to explore the enchanting shopfronts and walkways around us, we soon stop in front of a lit window, where we watch as batter is ladled into rows of perfectly shaped dimples that, we are about to discover, make up the traditional moulding of an (industrial) Poffertjes pan.
Seasoned from tens of thousands of uses, the cast iron griddle mesmerizes. And when the cook neatly flips each little pancake to turn golden on the other side, we step inside, wait as she plates and mounds an order of poffertjes with butter and confectioners’ sugar, then hands them to an ear-to-ear-grinning customer.
Eagerly, we mangle the pronunciation (poff-er-chuz) and place two orders of our own.
 “Maybe we should have shared a plate,” I say when I see just how much butter is slathered before the icing sugar is dusted. A suggestion which solicits a glower from Chefhusband. And another of the same, two nights later, when we return for seconds.
Poffertjes, we learn as we tuck in, are traditional Dutch treats.
The slathers of butter and heaps of powdered sugar are also traditional, but already I’m thinking of Christmas Eve or Morning, or a family brunch during the holidays, and serving these with drizzles of Summerland Sweets syrups. Or maple. On top of, of course, daubs of soft butter.
Fortunately, for our plans, the shop sells poffertjes pans. And once home, we discover that the packaging the pan came in has a recipe printed in both German and Dutch.
After translating the Dutch (thank you Internet), I get out the flour and yeast, and improvise a little. And once the batter has risen, we heat up the pan.
Five months after discovering poffertjes in Charlottetown, we soften some butter, sift a snowfall of powdered sugar, and enjoy a preview of the Christmas that, for us, began back in July.
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp flaked kosher salt
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1 2/3 cups lukewarm milk
1 egg, beaten
In a small bowl, proof the yeast in the milk, along with a teaspoon of the sugar. In a separate bowl, combine flour, remaining sugar and salt. Add yeast mixture and egg, and whisk to combine.
Cover bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise for an hour.
Oil a poffertjes pan set over medium-low heat.
Fill divots with batter (we used a plastic squeeze bottle with a wide nib--trim to widen if necessary). Using 2 bamboo skewers, turn the poffertjes over as soon as the bottom is golden and has set (this happens quickly).
Serve with butter and generous siftings of confectioners’ sugar.
For pans, shop: www.poffertjes.cas

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