Today is the eve of St Nicholas day which the Dutch celebrate, as many Americans do Christmas, with gifts and food and lots and lots of Koekjes! Sinterklaas arrives by ship from Spain with his grey-white horse, Schimmel, and Zwarte Piet, his trusty kickside. They visit every house. Black Pete knocks and throws in a handful of peppernotten (gingernuts to the Brits) just to get everybody's attention. The usual recital of naughty and nice with presents ranging from coal to straw to something a kid would like whether useful or otherwise. For the fascinating tale of this tall dignified cleric's transformation into the jolly old elf of Madison Avenue's Dream follow the link above and here.
To make peppernotten according to Dutch and Belgian Cooking (Galahad Books 1973):
Preheat oven to 350ºf. Mix 2½ cups flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder, ½ cup Brown sugar, ¼ teaspoon each of anise, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Add one egg yolk and 2 tablespoons of water. Butter two baking sheets. Knead all ingredients into a soft ball. form into about 90 marble sized balls and place on sheets. Bake 20 minutes or until rather hard.Somehow my flour is always too dry for this to work. So I add a whole egg and about a half cup of water. Add it little by slow so you wont use too much. When it is right the dough will clump together rather than stick to the sides of the bowl. I also double the quantity of the spices and replace some of the four with a cup of whole wheat and a ½ cup of rye flour. The result is not particularly sweet but, lord, they are too easy to eat!
tags: Sinterklaas, peppernotten, Feast of Holidays