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Gemberbolus Recipe (Dutch Ginger Buns)

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Gemberbolus Recipe (Dutch Ginger Buns)

Gemberbolussen

Photo © Kosmos

This recipe has been translated and adapted from the original Dutch in Het Nederlands Bakboek and published on the Dutch Food site with the kind permission of the publisher.

There are many varieties of bolussen, or sweet spiral buns, in the Netherlands, including the popular spiral-shaped and cinnamon-inflected Zeeuwse bolus (also known as Jikkemien), pretzel-shaped Hague bolus, ginger-laced gemberbolus, amandelspijs-filled orgeadebolus, a hybrid version with ginger and spijs, and various varieties of fruit-studded bolussen.

According to Het Nederlands Bakboek author Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra, the name of this treat was originally not Dutch. In fact, she argues that both the word and the bun probably originated in Spain, and offers two possible explanations. Apparently, the Spanish word for sandwich is bollo and several types of spiral rolls exist in Spain. It's possible that these spiral buns were part of the ration of the Spanish soldiers who were encamped in the Low Countries during the Eighty Years War (1566-1648). The other possible source of the bolus is also indirectly Spanish. At the end of the 15th century, during the Inquisition, Spanish Jews faced two choices – they could convert to Christianity or they could leave their homeland. Many chose to migrate to more hospitable places. Amsterdam was a popular choice, which resulted in a large Sephardic-Jewish community in the city. The syrupy ginger treat could be a delicious legacy of this mass Jewish migration to the Netherlands.

We should point out that the recipe described below contains a lot of ginger and is therefore strictly for ginger lovers. While the ‘normal’ bolus has gained wider popularity, the ginger version has remained confined to Jewish circles and a select few connoisseurs out there. In fact, they are still a popular Jewish-Amsterdam delicacy, but while they were once readily available at kosher bakeries in the city very few such bakeries remain, which means that the gemberbolus is now only produced in very small quantities. They’re somewhat tricky to make and shape at home, but the effort is certainly worth it. To prevent burning or sticking, Pagrach-Chandra advises lining your muffin tin with muffin papers made from thick, waxed paper or, better yet, foil tins. They are at their best when served warm.

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: Makes 12.

Ingredients:

  • DOUGH INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 4½ tbsp (65 g) butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • ⅓ cup (75 ml) milk, lukewarm
  • FOR THE FILLING:
  • ¾ cup (150 g) stem ginger in syrup
  • ¼ cup (50 g) soft butter
  • 6 tbsp (75 g) superfine (caster) sugar
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) ginger syrup (from the jar of stem ginger, or more to taste)
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • YOU WILL NEED:
  • A 12-hole muffin tin, lined with foil or paper molds.
  • A stand mixer

Preparation:

Put the flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a large (stand mixer) bowl. Add the milk, butter and egg and fold the wet and dry ingredients together with a spatula. Using the dough hook attachment of a sturdy stand mixer, knead until it forms a soft, elastic, non-sticky dough. If you don't have a stand mixer, simply knead the dough by hand on a floured surface or silicone mat.

Form the dough into a ball and place it back back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and put the bowl in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has almost doubled in volume. Please note that because this is an enriched dough, it will take a little longer to rise than a normal bread dough.

Drain the stem ginger (keeping the syrup for later), chop (or puree) very finely and mix it with the superfine (caster) sugar and the butter to form a paste.

Punch the dough (see Tips) and lightly knead it again. Now divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each portion out to a rectangular piece of about 7-inches x 2-inches (18 x 5 cm). Lay a neat line of ginger filling down the center. Lightly moisten the edges of the dough with water and seal by squeezing them together to create a pointy cigar-shaped roll.

Sprinkle 1 tsp granulated sugar on the work surface and roll the cigar-shaped roll back and forth until you have a sausage shape of about 10-inches (25 cm) long. Shape it into a coil and tuck the ends underneath the dough. Place each coil into one of the foil- or paper-lined muffin holes. Evenly drizzle 1 tsp of ginger syrup over each bolus. Loosely cover the dough spirals with plastic wrap and leave them to rise in a warm, draft-free place until they've almost doubled in size.

Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Bake the bolussen for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Immediately remove the paper or foil muffin tin liners from the tin. Ginger addicts may want to brush the warm cakes with some more ginger syrup - in which case you'll need another 3 tbsp (50 ml) or so of ginger syrup.

Allow the bolussen to cool slightly on a wire cooling rack, and serve warm.

Tips

  • Learn more about the different types of wheat flour.
  • Learn how to knead dough.
  • Learn how to punch down dough.
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