December 5 is the date of the Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas) celebration in the Netherlands. Sinterklaas is a bearded fellow dressed in red who gives presents to children. Sounds familiar? The Coca Cola company moved him to Christmas and the North Pole, but Santa Claus was definitely modeled after Sinterklaas. Saint Nicholas was an actual bishop in Turkey in the 4th century, but for some strange reason Dutch children are made to believe that he arrives each year mid November by steamboat from Spain. His servants are black (white people with their faces painted black), which has led to a big controversy about the political correctness of this children’s holiday.
The Sinterklaas holiday comes with different kinds of sweets, and the most popular kind are kruidnoten, which are incorrectly most often called pepernoten. (Real Pepernoten are made from rye flour and are flavored with aniseed.) Kruidnoten are very small cookies flavored with a speculaas spice mix (which is often called speculoos in English speaking countries). The ‘black petes’ (the servants) throw the kruidnoten on the floor for the children to run after, pick up, and eat.
The amount of the spice mix in kruidnoten is usually less than in actual speculaas, but in my recipe I have included the full amount for more flavor. There is no exact recipe for this spice mix and you can tweak it to your own taste or availability of the spices, although cinnamon is definitely mandatory. For best results the dough should mature in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours to allow the flavors to develop.
140 grams (10 Tbsp) unsalted butter (cold)
60 ml (4 Tbsp) milk
3 grams (1/2 tsp) salt
275 grams (1 5/6 cup) pastry flour
20 grams (8 tsp) speculaas spice mix
5 grams (1/2 Tbsp) baking powder
4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground coriander
Allow the dough to come to room temperature for about an hour before proceeding (otherwise it would be difficult to handle). Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF (fan forced). Shape the dough into small balls with your hands.
The secrets to good homemade Belgian fries are to fry them twice in beef tallow.