Thursday, December 06, 2007

Sinterklaas Dag

So yesterday the Kidtm informed me that it had been years since I had made a Peppermint Roll. There was no arguing with this. It is true.

Too late for the Dutch observance of Saint Nick's day, and all but too late for the day itself when much of the rest of the world celebrates the grand bishop of Turkey, patron of children, who mostly made it a practice to rescue young girls, whose families could not dower them, with sufficient of the ready to find a proper husband and avoid a life of desolation as either a spinster or prostitute. To this humble foundation the World and his Wife have added substance and structure over many centuries and in much of the planet. Many cultures remember his generosity by giving him vast scope to gift all the children of the world with ephemera of far greater worth (to toy makers and retailers and multifarious and nefarious bankers) then dozens of dowries. Some have changed his name: Father Christmas, Santa Claus, Pere Noel, Nikolaus, Sinterklaas, or more colloquially: De Sint. The time of his appearance has been moved about to suit the convenience of whatever establishment there may be. Even his costume changes along with his avoirdupois.

The Dutch call him Sinterklaus and welcome the jolly gent on his arrival from Spain a day or two before the fifth of December as he saunters in his red and white Bishop's rig, complete with miter and crozier, from the docks into town on his white horse, Amerigo (or maybe Schimmel). Gamboling at his side is his faithful servant, Zwarte Piet. Black Peter is a moor. Thus the whole set up ties in with a 16th century milieu as the product relaunch for this version of Saint Nicolas. Piet's function is to toss handfuls of Peppernotten indiscriminately at all and sundry, and to hand out the gifts after Sinterklaas has pronounced judgment on the behavior of the household's children. Sometimes these character assessments are delivered in verse. Whether doggerel or poetry depends on the ability and taste of the writer (usually der Pa or der Ma). Willful miscreants were suitably treated to Morally edifying gifts such as a bit of coal, in mindfulness of their current destinalion, or a wisp of nutritious straw. The ones who sweet talked their way past the parental sense of duty to cuddle in the indulgence spot got more various things, useful or otherwise.

But, today, Piet makes some uncomfortable. Is he a racist stereotype? Depends. While folk argue that one, some turn Piet blue or orange, which possibly will offend any old punk rocker in the neighborhood. Perhaps the most true position is to concentrate on his role as helper, rather than his appearance which is true to the historical context, but not germane to the modern role.

Here then are this year's Peppernotten and the Peppermint Roll, which is a chocolate meringue rolled around whipped cream and crushed peppermint sticks.

Peppermint Roll

Categories: Dessert
Yields: 10

3 tablespoon Droste's (Dutch processed) Cocoa
0.5 cup powdered sugar
5 Eggs separated
0.75 cup heavy cream
0.5 cup peppermint sticks

Preheat oven to 350f. Line a jelly roll pan with wax (parchment) paper and butter and flour it. Sift together cocoa, powdered sugar and a dash of salt. Separate eggs. Beat whites stiff. Beat yolks light. Add dry ingredients. Fold in whites. Pour into jelly roll pan. Bake 20 - 25 minutes. Turn onto a cloth sprinkled with powdered sugar. Cool slightly. Beat cream stiff. Spread over meringue. Crush peppermint sticks between two sheets of wax paper. Sprinkle on cream. Roll. Wrap in wax paper and chill.
Adjust the time and temp to suit your stove.
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