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An after-work drink in the Netherlands isn’t complete if you haven’t eaten some bitterballen. They’re also the perfect afternoon snack while enjoying the sun on a terrace. And even a Dutch embassy will serve them during events.
Bitterballen and their slightly larger counterparts kroketten, are typical Dutch foods. Whether you make them at home, order them at a restaurant, or buy them from a little box in a wall (yes, that’s a thing), they’re a great simple snack.
Kroketten vs Bitterballen
To start with the basics: the difference between kroketten and bitterballen. They are very similar, to start with, both are a soft roux filling with a crunchy outer shell that is formed during frying. Really, the main difference is the size. Bitterballen are shaped like a ball whereas kroketten have a cylindrical shape. Both can have a variety of fillings, all characterized by a smooth soft inside and brown crunchy outside. The most common filling is a beef version, but nowadays both vegetarian as well as meat containing version are available using a whole range of different ingredients.
Since bitterballen are quite a bit smaller than kroketten they are more commonly served as a small snack during drinks for instance. Kroketten on the other hand, might be part of a lunch (eaten with bread) or dinner (eaten with fries). Both are often served with mustard!
Homemade kroketten are made by first making a filling, commonly using flour as a thickener. This filling will be soft and almost liquid when warm. However, when it cools down it will firm up. This then allows the cook to coat the filling with a mixture of flour, eggs and breadcrumbs. The basis for that crispy crust.
By subsequently frying the kroketten in oil the crust becomes super crispy whereas the inside warms up again and will soften. Home made kroketten cannot really be made in the oven. However, nowadays more and more manufacturers sell kroketten that can be made in the oven. They have found a way around this required deep frying (or pre-deep fry them) to still make a crispy outside.
Why can kroketten burst during baking?
Sometimes kroketten burst open during baking (see photo below). This can happen for both the oven as well as deep fried versions. This is due to the evaporation of moisture inside the kroket. The inside gets very hot and the longer the snack is in the heat, the heater it will get and the more moisture evaporates. This can cause a pressure build up of vapour inside the kroket. If that pressure is too high it will break the crust and release the vapour.
That’s another typical Dutch food covered for you! Let me know if there are specific foods you’d like to learn more of.