The Dutch East Indies lasted for 350 years in Indonesia and it is inevitable that some Dutch recipes become part of Indonesian culinary tradition. Case in point, the Dutch boterkoek, though most Indonesians know it by another name, Lekker Holland.
I am no culinary historian, so don’t ask me how we end up with this name. But I can tell you that this stuff is sinfully delicious. If you still need to bake something for Chinese New Year (or any other festive occasion), then a boterkoek can be a good choice.
Butter, Flour, Sugar, Egg, Vanilla, and Almond
Those are basically all you need. My recipe has salt, but only because I stock unsalted butter. If you want to stick to tradition, then we usually use Dutch canned butter, in particular Wijsman brand which already has salt in it.
If you live in Indonesia, then you know Wijsman butter is everywhere. You can buy them from Amazon, just search for it, but the sticker price is going to give you a heart attack. So nope, this recipe with regular unsalted butter works just as well.
Is this thing really a cake?
If this is the first time you bake/see/eat this cake, it is going to be really hard to fathom how this is called a cake at all.
The batter is stiff, closer to a cookie dough batter. You will need some elbow grease to spread them in your cake pan.
If I must describe a boterkoek, then it is the cookiest cake ever, or you can also think of it as the cakiest cookie ever.
Rich, dense, and very filling
Boterkoek is extremely crumbly when just out from the oven. So you will definitely want to let the cake cool completely before very gently and very carefully remove it from the pan.
This is why I suggest you line your pan with enough parchment paper overhang so you don’t accidentaly destroy your cake, which is a very sad thing.
Use a very sharp knife and with one stroke cut the cake into squares. Personally, I love this with a cup of black coffee. This is a good cake to make if you want to share with guests. I would say don’t cut it into anything less than 16 squares, you can even try 25 squares if you wish.
Indonesia was under Dutch colonial rule for a long time, and many Dutch recipes are now common in everyday Indonesian life. Among the many Dutch-influenced foods, bitterballen is easily at the top of my favorites.
Bitterballen has a crunchy golden brown skin encasing a soft and flavorful potato and beef mixture. You can serve them as a side dish, an appetizer, or as a snack to go with your afternoon tea or coffee. They are always served piping hot with a side of mayonnaise and chili sauce. ♥
For the bitterballen itself, we will need butter, onion, white button mushroom, ground beef, all-purpose flour, milk, mashed potato, nutmeg, salt, ground white pepper, sugar, cheddar cheese, and Chinese celery.
You can also use regular celery instead of Chinese celery, but choose the thinner one with plenty of leaves.
For the coating, we will need bread crumbs (preferably panko) and eggs.
We usually serve bitterballen with a simple sauce by mixing mayonnaise and bottled chili sauce. You can use Sriracha, though I prefer Indonesian bottled chili sauce.
Part 1: Prepare bitterballen dough (ragout)
1. Sauté onion in butter
Melt butter in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion until translucent.
2. Add mushrooms and ground beef
Add mushroom and cook until wilts. Then add ground beef and cook until no longer pink.
3. Add all-purpose flour and milk
Add all-purpose flour, and stir until the mixture clumps together. Slowly pour the milk, and keep stirring until the sauce is thick and smooth.
4. Add celery, cheddar, seasonings, and mashed potatoes
Add mashed potato, nutmeg, salt, ground pepper, sugar, cheddar, and celery leaves. Mix well, and cook until the sauce is dry with no standing liquid. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Part 2: Shape the meatballs
1. Shape into balls
Once the dough is cool enough to handle, shape it into round balls.
For appetizer/snack size meatballs, use a #60 cookie scoop (~ 1 tablespoon) to get about 40 meatballs from one recipe. I find that these are easier to serve as finger/party food.
Coat each meatball with bread crumbs, followed with lightly beaten egg, and finally, another coat of bread crumbs.
I love using panko breadcrumbs for its crispy finish, but you can use regular bread crumbs too.
If you don’t have enough breadcrumbs, you can use all-purpose flour for the first coating, but please use bread crumbs for the final coat.
Part 3: Fry the meatballs
Fill a pot with at least 2 inches of oil. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 170 Celsius (340 Fahrenheit).
Once the oil is hot, gently fry coated meatballs until golden brown and crispy. Please don’t crowd the pot to maintain the oil temperature. You will most likely need to fry the meatballs in batches.
Remove fried meatballs with a slotted spoon and drain over a wire rack/stainless steel strainer to remove excess oil.
Serve bitterballen immediately with mayo and chili sauce.
Storing and reheating bitterballen
Store any leftover bitterballen in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
For longer storage, arrange fried meatballs on a lined baking sheet and freeze until solid, then transfer into a freezer-safe ziplock bag. You can store frozen bitterballen for up to 3 months.
To reheat, bake bitterballen in a 180 Celsius (350 Fahrenheit) preheated oven or a toaster oven to return them to a just-fried state of crispy goodness. It should take about 5-8 minutes for non-frozen meatballs, and about 10-13 minutes for frozen meatballs.
Please do not reheat bitterballen in a microwave since they will lose all the crispiness.