Honest Cooking: Vla – Dutch Custard

A delicious, indulgent, smooth and rich dessert: recipes for two variants, vanilla and chocolate.

Chocoladevla
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A delicious, indulgent, smooth and rich dessert.

Vla is another one of those typical Dutch products. It is a dessert made with milk, cornstarch (or other thickeners), eggs (not always used nowadays), sugar and flavourings, that is served cold or at room temperature. It has the consistency and viscosity of yoghurt and is sold in square cartons. There are many different flavours available: vanilla, chocolate, caramel, raspberry, etc. There is even the flavour ‘blank’, which has a neutral colour and taste. Often producers experiment with unusual flavours and variations. Some vla flavours are only available certain times of the year, for example orange with Queen’s day and big football matches, or winter vla with spices and stewed pears. A more luxurious vla is made with cream and is usually only available in the two classic flavours vanilla and chocolate. Vanilla and chocolate vla are also available together in one carton: if you don’t shake the carton too much they will stay separate when you pour them out, so one half of your bowl is filled with vanilla vla and the other with chocolate vla; this is called dubbelvla (double vla) and is sometimes available in other flavours too. There are also vla flavours with add-ins, for example vanilla with bits or balls of chocolate. Vanilla vla is often served together with plain yoghurt and fruit syrup (something red like strawberry, raspberry or grenadine) to make a vlaflip, while chocolate vla is often served with a dollop of whipped cream. Vla is considered quite a simple and everyday dessert, some people really eat it every day after dinner, others only at the weekends or not at all, but it is not considered to be a special dessert to serve with special occasions.

The vla you buy in the shop usually doesn’t contain any eggs and uses thickeners instead of the traditional corn starch to get the right viscosity, but I prefer the mouth feel and taste of a vla made with egg yolks, corn starch and no artificial flavourings, so I usually make my own. Luckily, this is very easy!

onal corn starch to get the right viscosity, but I prefer the mouth feel and taste of a vla made with egg yolks, corn starch and no artificial flavourings, so I usually make my own. Luckily, this is very easy!

Vanilla and chocolate vla (each recipe serves 2)

Vanilla
280 g milk
15 g sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
20 g corn starch
50 g sugar
2 egg yolks
40 g butter

Chocolate
25 g sugar
15 g cornstarch
10 g cocoa powder
250 g milk
1 egg yolk
45 g chocolate, chopped fine (I use semi-sweet)
10 g butter

Vanilla
Mix milk, first measuring of sugar and vanilla extract in a pan (I like to use non-stick), and bring to the boil.
Meanwhile, whisk corn starch and second measuring of sugar together.
Add the egg yolks, whisk until mixed well with the starch and sugar.
When the milk has come to the boil, add a little to the egg mixture and mix immediately; then add the rest of the milk while whisking.
Pour the milk-egg mixture back in the pan and place on medium-low heat, while stirring constantly.
When it has thickened and boiled for about 20 seconds, the vanilla vla is ready; pour it into a bowl immediately.
Add the butter and keep whisking until it is incorporated.
Leave to cool and serve cold or at room temperature.

Chocolate
Bring milk to the boil in a pan (I like to use non-stick).
Meanwhile, whisk corn starch, sugar and cocoa powder together.
Add the egg yolk, whisk until mixed well with the starch, cocoa and sugar.
When the milk has come to the boil, add a little to the egg mixture and mix immediately; then add the rest of the milk while whisking.
Pour the milk-egg mixture back in the pan and place on medium-low heat, while stirring constantly.
When it has thickened and boiled for about 20 seconds, the vla is ready; pour it into a bowl immediately.
Add the butter and chocolate and keep whisking until it is incorporated.
Leave to cool and serve cold or at room temperature.

Notes: To make caramel vla: make caramel, then gradually mix trough the milk. The rest of the recipe is the same as the vanilla vla recipe. To make fruit vla: either replace part of the milk with fruit juice/puree and then go on with the vanilla vla recipe, or add a fruit reduction at the end (if you would add a puree the vla would become watery). For extra richness you can replace part of the milk with cream.

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