St Nicholas’ Day is celebrated on the 5, 6 or 19 December, depending on where you are in Europe. In the Netherlands, it’s the 5th (so I’m a little late with this). St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas in Dutch, is a sort of predecessor to Santa Claus/Father Christmas, gifts are usually given on St Nicholas’ Day, and children will leave food out for his horse (not reindeer).
Speculaas are spiced biscuits often eaten on St Nicholas Day. They’re traditionally made using a carved wooden block as a mould, usually with windmill, people or Sinterklaas designs. Unfortunately I didn’t get a wooden block, so mine are just little circles, but just as delicious (I hope). Making these really made me feel Christmassy, and now it’s coming to the season where I’ve got lots of Christmas baking to do, as well as continuing onwards with this project. After next week’s second Dutch recipe, I only have 8 countries left, which means I’ve completed 20 countries, which seems insane. And it seems like Brexit is just as uncertain as when I started. But there’ll be some sort of big news after the forthcoming vote on the deal on Tuesday, so I’ll write more on Brexit once that’s done.
230g self-raising flour
100g demerara sugar
100g butter (room-temperature)
2-3 tbsp milk
3 tsp speculaaskruiden (spice mix)
1/2 tsp baking powder
zest of 1/2 orange
1 large egg white
Brown sugar (for sprinkling)
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, butter, milk, spices, baking powder, and zest with your hands. The dough is ready when you can shape it into a ball without it sticking to your hands.
Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for at least an hour so the spices can work their magic.
Meanwhile, heat the oven to 175C. Line two baking sheets with baking paper.
Lightly flour your work surface and roll 1/4-inch thick.
Using a cookie cutter or speculaasplank, cut the dough and place the shapes on the trays.
Brush the cookies with egg white and sprinkle brown sugar with brown sugar.
Bake 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the cookies, or until the cookies turn a slightly darker shade of brown.
Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.