Look what I found at IKEA last Sunday!
That is sugar beet syrup, and it is awesome. Those crazy Swedes. What will they think of next?
Let me explain my delight. I was not raised on fluffy American-style pancakes, but rather on Dutch pannenkoeken, which are like crÃ¨pes â€” or perhaps more accurately their savory whole-grain cousins galettes â€” on steroids. Picture a plate-sized cake, maybe two or three times as thick as a crÃ¨pe, and you’re starting to get the idea. Pannenkoeken, like eggs, are not particularly a breakfast food in the Netherlands â€” there’s bread and cheese and cold cuts and hagelslag and vlokken for that) â€” more of a lunchtime meal, or even a light dinner. They can be sweet or savory, depending on their fillings, which are not rolled up in the cake, as with crÃ¨pes and galettes, but cooked into the cakes themselves. One popular savory pannenkoek involves bacon (ontbijtspek): it is intense. The first time I had one I almost couldn’t handle it. We’re talking heck of salty, folks. The sweet pannenkoek filling I’m most familiar with is raisins, again added to the batter in the pan, like you might add blueberries to an American-style pancake. Plain, a pannenkoek is served with sweet toppings, like jam, or powdered sugar, or stroop â€” sugar beet syrup. It tastes like childhood, in the best possible way. As a bike trip stop-for-a-snack-every-two-or-three-hours food, it’s hard to beat.
I think of stroop (long O, by the way) as being like the molasses equivalent to the beet sugar-making process, but I’m not entirely sure this is accurate. The consistency, for one, is a little thicker, more viscous at room temperature. Does molasses dry out and crystallize into brown sugar over time? Because stroop will turn into brown sugar â€” the awesomely named basterdsuiker â€” over time. Basterdsuiker is subtly different from cane-based brown sugar in a way that’s pretty much impossible for me to articulate, and I mostly succeed in not being an enormous snob about it. There is no substitute for stroop, on the other hand. It’s way different from molasses â€” but then again, I usually get unsulphured blackstrap molasses, which is unlike anything else on Earth except maybe licorice. I have never seen anything labeled beet sugar, let alone brown beet sugar or beet sugar syrup, for sale anywhere in the U.S. Until now.
ANYWAY. When I saw this bottle at IKEA, I wasn’t sure it was the right stuff, but I was willing to take a chance. Even if it wasn’t stroop, I figured I could use it to make the crazy Swedish limpa bread recipe on the label (it makes four loaves? holy monkey gods!) or slightly weird molasses-ginger cookies. In the unlikely event that it was totally gross, I could throw it out. No biggie. But when I got it home and broke the bottle open, it was the stuff. Happy monkey dances ensued, followed by calls to people who would understand my joy â€” my mom, who at first didn’t answer her phone, and my brother Piett. So. There are pannenkoeken in my not too distant future, and it makes me happy. Readers, I hope your weekends also have many good things in store.