Pepernoten and Other Treats in the Netherlands

In the next weeks, leading up to Christmas, we will spread the Holiday Joy by bringing you regular articles featuring snow, Christmas decorations, special drinks, twinkling lights….and all of it tied into Video games. Mina has already kicked it off with Snow-Themed Games for this Snowy Time of Year. And although this article has nothing to do with video games, I wanted to share it with you anyway!

Sinterklaas Kapoentje

Being in the Netherlands there’s another celebration first though. In the Netherlands we don’t get a visit from Santa Claus at Christmas Eve, we celebrate the birthday of Sinterklaas on the 5th of December. The saintly bishop doesn’t get presents for himself. Instead, he gives them away to children who have been good all year!

Sinterklaas, December, Ladiesgamers,

Most families with smaller children celebrate Sinterklaas. Children put their shoe in front of the fireplace with a carrot or other treats for the horse of Sinterklaas, and sing their little hearts out to find little presents in the morning. Even if you don’t have a young child, it can be celebrated by buying each other presents, wrapping them in an extravagant way and adding a little verse to it in rhyme.

Pepernoten and Schuimpjes

I don’t really celebrate it anymore, we’ve moved the present-giving to Christmas, as I really love that time of year. But there’s one part of Sinterklaas that I gladly take a part in: eating the special candy that you can find in the shops around that time of year. I love “schuimpjes” in all different pastel colors. Not good for you in any way as they are pure sugar, but they taste so amazing. As do the chocolate frogs and mice, both filled with an extremely sweet, sugary sticky substance.

And the “pepernoten”! Some of them covered in chocolate, most of them plain, they all taste amazing.They are like small domed cookies with a special speculaas taste that you can get from a mix of herbs. If you would like to try your hand at making them yourselves, here is the recipe.

It’s copied from a cookbook “Cooking on Clogs” that has family recipes compiled by Dutch ladies who had emigrated to other countries and really wanted some of the Dutch specialities. These should be little tiny balls before you bake them… about the size of the top joint of your little finger. If you are able to use the commercially mixed Dutch Speculaas herbs you should use 2 and 3/4 teaspoons instead of the separate spices.

If they end up looking like this, you’ve done a good job…although of course the taste is what matters! And let me tell you, the whipped cream helps too! Enjoy!


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