I was planning on posting a new recipe much earlier, but the recent events in Paris changed all plans I had last week. I know we are supposed to be fearless to show we will not let them take us down, but it’s not easy. It’s all getting a bit too close.
The Minichef found herself very near to one of the shootings last January on her way to school, and the last attacks happened in a neighbourhood we visit often in the weekends. We’ve enjoyed delicious bo buns at Le Petit Cambodge and it’s incredibly sad to think about what happened there.
With all that’s going on, and so many people worldwide who have to live in fear, it seems very trivial to write about cookies.
Yet that is what I’m going to do.
I’m going to write about cookies and Sinterklaas, the strange kid’s holiday we celebrate in the Netherlands. Because this is how we live our lives.
So here we go:
If I told you an old rich man, who lives in Spain, visits the Netherlands each year on the 5th of December to bring presents through the chimney, you would probably not believe me.
Especially if I added that he delivers those presents while riding his horse on rooftops, assisted by his helpers. If you wish, you can write him a letter, asking for presents. Just leave the letter in your shoe and place it by the fire place, and his helpers will come and get the letter at night, replacing it with candy. Recognizing him is easy, he wears a long red cape and white gloves, and reaches the country by steam boat, packed with presents. He goes by the name of Sinterklaas.
Crazy, right? But wait, there’s more!
Sinterklaas arrives somewhere mid November, giving him enough time to find out if you’ve been naughty or nice. Nice kids get the presents they’ve asked for, naughty kids are taken back to Spain. In a bag.
I know, this doesn’t sound like a very kid-friendly tale. But Dutch kids love Sinterklaas. This is most likely due to his generous nature; he doesn’t bring presents on the 5th of December (his own birthday by the way) alone, he tends to hand out small gifts from the moment he arrives in November.
I’ll admit, we might have gone a little overboard with the whole storytelling. When I was a kid, the arrival of Sinterklaas was broadcasted on tv. An event that had me glued to the screen of course. Nowadays, there’s even a special daily news bulletin for kids, the Sinterklaasjournaal. Each day they are being informed about the well being of Sinterklaas, his helpers and, maybe most importantly, the gifts!
For us grown-ups the joy of Sinterklaas has more to do with eating the special food that comes with it. A big bonus of this particular holiday, is that the associated food isn’t just preserved for December 5. Quite the contrary, we start eating Sinterklaas candy a few months before the good man has even set foot on Dutch grounds. There’s a lot of complaints from people who feel that the candy should be preserved for a few weeks a year only, but I’m not one of them. I can’t get enough of pepernoten, kruidnoten, chocolate letters, marsepein, speculaas, taai-taai and borstplaat! There’s just too much specific candy for two weeks, if you want to try all, you should start early.
The spice cookies go by the Dutch name of kruidnoten, are also known as pepernoten (but beware, pepernoten purists will tell you they are not at all the same kind of cookie) and highly addictive. Traditionally they’re very small, almost as if they were meant to be eaten by the handful. These Dutch spice cookies XXL are extra extra large, and have more of a normal cookie shape. They’re made with special speculaas spices, which might be hard to find and can be replaced by pumpkin spice or a homemade blend (see tips).
Bon appétit and please be kind to each other, remember most people are good.
This recipe was previously published in DUTCH, the magazine in the November 2015 issue.
- 125 gr (1 + ¼ cup) flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 75 gr (1/3 cup) butter
- 70 gr (1/3 cup) packed brown sugar
- 4 tbsp pumpkin spices*
- Pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp full fat milk
- Preheat the oven to 160 C /320 F
- Mix all the ingredients except the milk, you can do this by hand
- Add the milk until you get a supple dough (if needed, you can add a tiny bit more)
- Take portions of 25 grams (0.9 oz) and roll into a ball in the palm of your hand
- Lay the balls on a baking tray covered with baking paper and flatten slightly with the ball of your thumb (yes, they will crack, but that's ok)
- Bake for 20 minutes and let cool off before serving*
*Kruidnoten are meant to be crisp, not chewy