Dutch Christmas

Sinterklaas treats and recipes

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Sinterklaas in the Netherlands is a time for presents and sweeties. Foodie Paola Westbeek shares her recipes for speculaas and kruidnoten, typical Sinterklaas treats.

Children in the Netherlands are full of anticipation when December rolls around. On 5 December, they are visited by Sinterklaas (Santa Claus), an event which calls for lots of sweet Sinterklaas treats such as pepernoten (small spiced cookies), marzipan, chocolate letters and banketstaaf (almond-filled flaky pastry). Here are two other popular recipes for Sinterklaas treats, even if you don't celebrate Sinterklaas with infantile abandon, like I do.

Cookies for Sinterklaas: Kruidnoten recipe

Bake these on a cold day and your house will instantly smell of festive warmth. I always have a glass jar full of kruidnoten during this season, which are very similar to the Sinkerlaas treat pepernoten. Great for nibbling!

Ingredients

  • 250g self-rising flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 80g dark brown sugar
  • 45g light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp speculaas spices – these are usually only available in the Netherlands but you can make your own by mixing 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp mace, 3 tsps cinnamon and a pinch of pepper.
  • Tsp nutmeg
  • 100g soft butter
  • 3–4 tbsps milk


Directions

Preheat oven to 150°C and line a cookie sheet with baking paper.

Sift flour, add sugar spices and salt. Stir well. Add butter, in small pieces, and the milk. Knead well until the dough comes together.

Make small balls the size of marbles and arrange them on a baking sheet with a little room between them. Flatten them a little and bake for about 20 minutes.

The kruidnoten keep well in an airtight container for about a week.

Sinterklaas treats: kruidnoten/pepernotenDutch kruidnoten and the Sinterklaas treat pepernoten (above) look very similar

Celebrating Sinterklaas: Speculaas recipe

Whip out the cookie cutters, gather the children around the table and have fun making this classic Sinterklaas treat. Theyʼre excellent with a cup of hot cocoa.

Ingredients

  • 200g butter, softened
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 2 tsps Speculaas spices – these are usually only available in the Netherlands, but you can make your own by mixing 1 tsp cloves, 1 tsp nutmeg, 1 tsp mace, 3 tsps cinnamon and a pinch of pepper.
  • Tsp nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 500g flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder.


Directions

Put the butter in a bowl and cream it with the sugar. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the spices and sift the flour and baking powder into the bowl. Knead everything with your hands and form into a ball. Refrigerate overnight.

Remove dough from fridge 1.5 hours before using it. Preheat oven to 175°C. Roll out the dough and cut out shapes. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Sinterklaas cookies: Speculaas

Sinterklaas fact

The Dutch Protestant settlers brought the tradition of Sinterklaas with them to New Amsterdam (modern day New York) in the 17th century. The Dutch still celebrated the feast of Saint Nicholas, but at that time it was separate from Christmas. When Clement Clark Moore published his Twas the Night Before Christmas in 1822 the Santa Clause we now know was born and in 1931 Coca Cola gave him a face, although there are several older references to gift-giving Samaritans from Europe on which today's Santa is thought to be based.


Paola Westbeek / La Douce Vie / Expatica

Photo credits: William Warby (Santa thumbnail), setepenrah0069 (pepernoten).

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