Celebrate St. Nicholas Day with Dutch cookies
December 3, 2013 1:34PM
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter 3/4 cup brown sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground mace (or substitute 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)1
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt1
1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour (toasted almond flour preferred) 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 to 4 tablespoons milk (regular or low-fat, not nonfat)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 to 4 tablespoons milk (regular or low-fat, not nonfat)
In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, vanilla, spices, and salt. Stir in flour, almond flour and baking powder, then enough of the milk to make a stiff dough.
Form the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours or more.
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease, or line with parchment, two baking sheets. Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough 1/8” to 1/4” thick. Cut out shapes using your desired cutters, and transfer the cookies to the prepared pans.
Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned around the edges. Be careful not to burn. Remove them from the oven and transfer them to a rack to cool. As they cool, they’ll harden.
Yield: 4 dozen small cookies.
Adapted from “Spiced Star Cookies,” King Arthur Flour
Updated: January 5, 2014 6:16AM
Sharp with ginger and spice, sugary baked thins tell decorative stories of St. Nicholas to every Dutch boy and girl on the eve of St. Nicholas Day.
Ornate impressions of roosters, puppies with ribbons around their neck, tall and willowy Christmas trees, wooden shoes, or even St. Nicholas himself last for only the few moments it takes to whisper a lovely story of Christmas heroism. Afterward, they are gobbled up alongside a glass of milk before the ringing of St. Nick’s bells portend a treat-filled visit from the revered icon.
Speculaas cookies are Holland’s favorite St. Nicholas Day treat. For the Dutch, the baking of the spicy goodies rings in an annual tradition on Dec. 5, the eve of St. Nick’s Day. Hundreds of different hand-crafted cookie molds reveal different symbols or characters from the many Dutch Sinterklaas stories.
Each cookie is unique and cherished by the baker and the recipient. They represent the celebration of family at Christmastime, story-telling and gift-giving.
But to us, these cookies are still popular, although not necessarily a Christmas treat. We’ve absorbed the recipe and the desirable flavor, but the traditions must have been lost in translation. We have, in fact, kept up with the design, albeit only one speculaas design remains popular in the United States. It is the universal design for these dark-brown spice cookies and we see them all year long: the windmill cookie.
Windmill cookies are such a ubiquitous treat that it seems only natural they should be honored during the holidays. The spice, the brown sugar, the way they seem to round off a steaming mug of egg nog or hot cocoa — these are the traits that make it perfect for the season.
So why not embrace the time-honored tradition the Dutch love so well? Forget the windmill shape. It’s been overused. Bring on the speculaas!
There are two common recipes for speculaas: a cakey one and a crispy one. This recipe yields firm, crisp cookies that are perfect for dunking.
Prepare the dough ahead of time, then roll them out and cut with your favorite holiday cookie cutter while your family hangs their stockings on St. Nicholas Day eve.