Wrong Coffee

Wrong Coffee

“Fasten your seatbelts we will be landing shortly”, chirps a Dutch-accented voice from the loud speaker.  It will be my very first time in the Netherlands and it will be my home base for the next 9 months. “A 9-month all-expense paid trip to Europe”, my manger promised me.  I’m so excited I could hardly sleep on the overnight flight. With me, I have only one suitcase and only a vague idea where I need to go once I get off the plane.  Heart pounding with anticipation,  I look out the window to the rapidly approaching ground. Through the foggy window,  I am stunned to see the most breathtaking sight; an eye-popping patchwork quilt of the most vivid colors imaginable as far as my tired eyes could see.  It’s  April and the  tulip fields of Haarlemmermeer are in full bloom and glowing in the early morning sun.   Simply awed, my nose pressed flatly  to the window, I try to take it all in. “Wow”, I say to myself , an anticipatory chill coursing over my skin, “This is going to be amazing!”

Landed,  my head pounding with caffeine withdrawal,  I plot my first move;  Coffee!  I need a coffee!  Suitcase in hand, I plow down old ladies and small children to get to the coffee bar across from the gate.  I’m in a hurry.  “Coffee.  Black.  To go.  Please.” , I say with staccato  authority to the seemingly uninterested woman behind the counter.    Thirty seconds of tamping and whooshing  and then  a ceramic cup and saucer is slid before me.  On the saucer is a small cinnamon cookie. Inside the cup is a perfectly drawn cup of coffee. A thin crema separating the hot black liquid from my view.  “No, No,  I wanted this TO GO!”,  I demand, cranky with jet-lag.  Impatiently, she scolds me like my old third grade teacher. “Sit down, relax and drink your coffee.”, she spits.  Obediently, as if listening to my mother, I slink onto the tall bar stool and begin to sulk. Letting the warm scent caress my face,  I feel the haste release from my body.  I take a small, careful sip as if tasting coffee for the first time, resisting the urge to down it in one gulp.  A small sigh as I begin to breathe again. Even though I’m in a busy airport, I’m  light years away.  At this point,  the only things in the world are me and my new friend, Coffee. 

If there is one thing worth living in Holland for, is the coffee. Coffee is a very important staple in the Netherlands and is taken very seriously.  Maybe not as seriously as they do in Italy, but serious enough to be able to get a decent cup nearly anywhere.  The coffee here is strong and flavorful.    Many Americans find it too strong.  My coffee-addicted mother drinks tea when she’s here.  While coffee from machines comes in many different forms,  standard coffee comes in 4 basic types:  Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino,  and Coffee Verkeerd (which is more milk than coffee. Translated as “Wrong” Coffee).

In Holland, all socializing starts with coffee. The process of serving it is rather ritualized, which I find amusing.  It goes something like this; when you arrive at a person’s house, you are immediately offered  a cup of coffee, sometimes  even before you get your coat off.  Seems normal, right?  Well, cookies are always served with coffee.  However, you can only have one. The host/hostess will take a tin of cookies out of the cabinet. Remove the lid. Pass around the tin. Put the lid back on and put it back in the cabinet. When the second round of coffee is served. The tin comes back out, the lid comes off…and the ritual starts again. When I had everyone over for one of  Marko’s  decade marking birthdays,  I put a big tray of cookies on the table.  I figured everyone could  take  as many as they wanted.  I thought Marko’s grandmother was going to die!  She took one look at the cookies, gasped in indignation, and said “Is that an American tradition?” “Its rude not to.” I said. By the look on her face, you’d have thought I’d had a steaming pile of cow manure on the table. Needless to say, after my announcement of  ‘open season’ on the cookies, they disappeared quickly.

The following recipe is popular in our own coffee ritual (and its really good with cold milk, too)

Chocolate Peanut-butter Surprise Cookies (makes about 25)
Adapted from King Arthur Flour (Magic in the Middles)

Chocolate Dough

1 1/2 cups  All-Purpose Flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup granulated sugar (plus extra for dredging)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

1/4 cup smooth peanut butter

2 Tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large egg

Peanut butter filling

3/4 cup peanut butter any kind

3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar


Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease two baking sheets.
To make the filling: In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter and confectioners’  sugar until smooth.  With floured hands or a teaspoon scoop, roll the filling into one-inch balls. To make the dough: In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt. In another medium-sized mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla, milk and the egg, beating to combine, then stir in the dry ingredients, blending wellTo shape the cookies: Scoop 1 tablespoon of the dough (a lump about the size of a walnut), make an indentation in the center with your finger and place one of the peanut butter balls into the indentationBring the cookie dough up and over the filling, pressing the edges together cover the center; roll the cookie in the palms of your hand to smooth it out. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Optionally, roll each rounded cookie in granulated sugar, and place on the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between cookies.Using  the bottom of a drinking glass,  flatten each cookie to about 1/2-inch thick. Bake the cookies for 7 to 9 minutes, or until they’re set and you can smell chocolate. Remove them from the oven and cool on a rack.

If you don’t roll them in sugar, they are really good with chocolate icing made with powdered sugar, cocoa, and a bit of milk. (just using melted chocolate works too).  These cookies actually taste better after a few days (if on the off-chance they last that long)

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