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Holiday Harbinger: Oliebollen Stands Amsterdam  The Netherlands

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Holiday Harbinger: Oliebollen Stands

They appear as early as October: pop-up stands in squares and on bridges emanating aromas of cinnamon, apple and warm baked goods. Look closer and you'll find sphere-shaped sweets that are a sure sign the year-end holidays have arrived in the Dutch capital: oliebollen, precursor of the American donut. As if stroopwafels, tompouce and other Dutch desserts weren't enough to sate the sweet tooth of Dutchies during the first nine months of the year, these seasonal treats are eagerly anticipated during the holiday season at temporary outlets in Leidseplein, Museumplein, Schiphol and other high-traffic spots throughout the city.

Like their cousins in the US, oliebollen ("oil balls") are deep-fried dough, sometimes flecked with raisins, currants or other dried fruit, sprinkled with a liberal dose of powdered sugar. Poffertjes—small, fluffy pancakes with a light, spongy texture—are a delectable variation. Another seasonal option is an appelflapje, filled with apple slices and topped with a sugary glaze or powdered sugar. On New Year's Eve, pick up a few warm ones to eat while watching the fireworks in Museumplein.