If the title sounds foreign to you, then chances are that you have not yet had the pleasure of enjoying typical Dutch treats that make their appearance during the holiday season. Tomorrow, December 5, is Sinterklaas – the day on which children across the Netherlands wait in anticipation for the gifts that Sinterklaas or Saint Nicolas brought them.
Much like the Santa Claus tradition in most English speaking countries, Sinterklaas is something that’s exciting if you have children in the family. Traditionally, he arrives sometime in November. The event is marked with much fanfare – Sinterklaas and his helper Zwarte Piet (literally, black Peter, this character has become the centre of a controversy related to race and skin color very recently in the Netherlands – quite surprising considering the origins of the character are unrelated to race and has survived for centuries) arriving by steamboat in Amsterdam.
The Dutch are well known for their baked goods and snacks. So it’s not unusual that this day is also marked with feasting on a whole variety of treats including chocolate letters (usually the initial of their name made in chocolate), cookies and more. Kruidnoten (spiced cookies) and taai taai (taai translates to tough in English – an indication of the intensely chewy texture of these cookies) are two such varieties that show up in stores all around Holland at this time.
I happen to have a Dutch baking book called ‘Het Nederlands Bakboek’ by Gaitri Pagrach Chandra. I have enjoyed baking with recipes from another book from the same author (I wrote about it in my post on Duivekater). So when we decided to celebrate Sinterklaas this year given that we’re not going to be home for Christmas, I decided to look up some seasonal recipes from the Dutch book.
Peter was extremely excited at the prospect of homemade kruidnoten especially given the rarity of these treats on this side of the ocean and the exorbitant prices at shops that do sell them. I liked the challenge of trying something different and the results passed the quality control test by a true Dutchman.
If you want to try something different this year than the usual sugar cookies and pinwheels, etc, give these a try. Just a few ingredients will turn your kitchen and home into one sweet smelling heaven!
Chocolade Kruidnoten (Chocolate Covered Spiced Ginger Cookies) – covering these little cookies in chocolate is entirely optional. You can go for a 50-50 split, covering half and leaving the other half uncovered if you like.
Ingredients (makes somewhere between 50-60)
1.76oz/3.5tbsp/50g unsalted butter at room temperature
1/3cup / 65g dark brown sugar
1 cup/125g wholewheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground mace
1/8 tsp ground cloves
2 tablespoons or a couple of splashes of milk
8oz/250g chocolate chips/bar of your choice
In a stand mixer, beat together the butter and sugar for a few minutes until the two are well integrated and form a soft mixture. Sieve together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt and spices) and add this slowly to the mixer bowl. Beat together until just combined. Add the milk to bring it all together. Remove the bowl from the mixer and using your hands, mix its contents to form a rough dough. The dough will not be soft but will be very crumbly so just press it all together until it forms a rough ball. Cover this with clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 350F/180C. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Take the dough out of the refrigerator. Divide it into four quarters. Divide each quarter again into four quarters. You should get a total of 16 little pieces of dough. Divide each little piece once again into smaller pieces and roll each piece into a marble sized ball. The dough will still be very crumbly so just press it all together as best as you can. Flatten each ball a little and place on the lined baking sheets about half an inch apart from each other.
Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and transfer the parchment paper with the baked cookies on them to a wire rack to cool. The cookies come out soft but will harden as they cool.
To cover them with chocolate – melt the chocolate chips/bar in a bowl or saucepan placed over another pan filled just a little with water and placed on low heat. Once all the chocolate has melted, remove the bowl or pan and place it on a counter. Using two forks or teaspoons, roll each cookie in the chocolate and place it on a lined baking sheet where it can set and harden.
These cookies keep well at room temperature without the need to cover them.
Taai Taai (Spiced Soft Cookies)
Ingredients (makes around 16)
1 cup/125g fine rye flour
1 cup/125g wholewheat flour
1 1/8 tsp baking soda
a good pinch of salt
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground aniseed
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cup/125g honey
1 cup/125g keukenstrooop or treacle syrup – this maybe hard to find except in a store that sells Dutch stuff. Maple syrup maybe a good substitute
2 tbsp water
1 egg lightly beaten for egg wash – optional since I completely forgot to do this but the cookies turned out just fine!
Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Sieve the rye and wholewheat flours together with the baking soda, salt and spices. Pour the honey, syrup and water into a small saucepan. Place the pan on a low heat and bring the mixture to a light boil, stirring all the way. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat off and let it cool to a lukewarm temperature.
Pour the honey mixture onto the flour mixture. Using a whisk, mix it all together to form a very wet dough. Lightly flour the countertop with wholewheat flour and turn the wet mixture onto it. Flour your hands as well as this can get real messy! Lightly pat the mixture into a flat disc. Using a rolling pin that has been coated with flour, roll it out into a rough rectangle about 28 x 20 cm in size. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into rectangles about 7 x 5 cm in size to yield 16 cookies. If like me, you’re not particular about the number, you can use any fun shaped cookie cutter and cut out as many cookies as possible.
Place the cookies on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 7-9 minutes. Remove the sheet from the oven and place on a wire rack. Let it cool for a few minutes before transfering the cookies to another wire rack to cool completely. If you find that they’re sticking to the parchment paper, place a wire rack over the sheet. Hold everything tightly together and flip it upside down so the baking sheet is now on top and the wire rack below. Remove the baking sheet and carefully peel away the parchment paper to release the cookies.
Once cool, place the cookies in an airtight container for at least 24 hours so the flavours can develop. These cookies, true to their name, are very chewy but that makes for a treat that lasts longer and a good workout for the jaw.
Bake these up and bring some Dutch delight into your homes!
Peri's Spice Ladle says
Congratulations on the site move, looks lovely and the design is clean and easy to follow. These chocolates are just mouthwateringly delicious:)
Thanks Peri and thanks for stopping by! It was time for a change 🙂 Am still tweaking some of the features to make it look even better.
Hi Sujatha!!! I love the changes you have made to the site! The logo is beautiful. Did you make it yourself? I resubscribed to your email list, so I will get your posts again:) These treats look delicious. I hope you are having a nice holiday season!!!
Thanks Sara! 🙂 I worked with a designer on 99 Designs for the logo. Thanks for signing up again!
We’re doing great, hope you guys are well too…hugs!
Conor Bofin says
The good news is that I am still getting your posts in my reader.
Lovely new site and beautiful photos too.
Thanks Conor! I’m glad you noticed my posts in the reader. I just wasn’t sure how many of my subscribers would see that so I thought I’d better reach out and let them know of the changes!