The start of December really is like the start of Christmas for me. On December 6th, the Dutch celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas which is in essence, their Christmas. Since my dad was born in Holland my family created some of our own traditions to celebrate our heritage. Just like the Dutch tradition, we put a pair of shoes by the fireplace the evening of December 5th and Sinterclaaus (Santa Claus) comes in the night and fills them with treats.
I believe the shoe tradition eventually led to the tradition of putting the stocking over the fireplace on Christmas Eve. Since the other side of my family is not Dutch, we do both. Hey, who am I to complain about additional presents?
This week I wanted to focus on a couple of Dutch treats, 1 traditional and 2 of my favorites. I have a few more around Christmas since this month is filled with many reasons to indulge in fried dough, pureed almonds, spiced cakes and plump raisins. You’ll love it, I promise.
So in the tradition of the Feast of Saint Nicholas, families exchange good will in the form of gifts, mostly food like chocolate letters (yes they make chocolate shaped letters – great fun for adults and kids alike), and these spiced speculaas cookies. You can also find them called ‘Dutch Windmill Cookies’.
These cookies are pretty simple. As you can see I just cut them in squares but you can get fancy and use cookie cutters or a springerle rolling pin. Any way they look, they smell absolutely divine when they are baking. It’s that smell you want when people come over right around the holidays.
Since they are thin, they don’t take long to bake and they get slightly crispy around the edges but still a bit soft in the middle. Everyone who has received these treats from me over the years always wants more.
Even here in California we can have a little Dutch tradition. Make up a batch of these spiced cookies and give them to your friends to start your own Dutch tradition on December 6th!
- 1/2 cup (1 stick or 113 g) cold unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (75 g) white granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (165 g) packed dark brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 3/4 cup (235 g) all purpose flour
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat. Cut the butter into 1/2 inch cubes. Place in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the sugars, baking soda, salt, and spices. Cream butter and dry ingredients together on medium speed for 30 seconds or until the batter is uniform in color. Scrape down the sides with a large spatula and add the vanilla extract and egg and beat on medium speed until incorporated (about 30 more seconds). Scrape down the sides again and add the flour. Beat on medium speed until incorporated (about 30 more seconds).
- Split the cookie dough in half. Roll the dough out until 1/4 inch thick with a plain rolling pin and either cut into squares, cut with cookie cutters or press the springerle mold shapes into the dough, then cut out cookies and place on the baking sheet.
- Place the baking sheet in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. 10 minutes before the time is up, preheat the oven to 375˚F. Bake the cookies in the oven 8-10 minutes or until the cookies look golden brown on the edges. Let cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving the cookies to a wire rack to cool to room temperature. The cookies will harden as they cool.