Pepernoten (also called kruidnoten) are something that everyone in the Netherlands grows up with. These little brown biscuits are a key feature of our major December holiday, ‘Sinterklaas’. Sinterklaas (or Sint Nicolaas) is our Santa or Father Christmas: he brings presents, wears red, is beloved by children.
Unlike Santa though, Sinterklaas rides a horse, is dressed like a Bishop, lives in Spain (although his nationality is Turkish) and leaves the chimneys to his army of helpers in blackface… So not quite the same.
These biscuits, though, only appear in stores around the time Sinterklaas is due to make his way over to the Netherlands, and are associated with the holiday as the treat children are given by Sinterklaas and his helpers.
They’re like a crunchy, super-intense gingerbread, made with Dutch gingerbread spice, or ‘Speculaaskruiden’. Dutch gingerbread spice is distinctly different from other types, as it’s not actually that gingery, but heavier on cinnamon, and includes more farfetched ingredients like white pepper, mace, and anise seed.
Simply dump all of your ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Easy!
Make sure to add plenty of Speculaaskruiden – it’s the star of the show!
Turn on your stand mixer, and mix until the dough comes together nicely, like so.
At this point, I had a little taste of my dough and decide that it needed more spice, so I sprinkled a bit more Speculaaskruiden on a surface and kneaded it through the dough.
Wrap your dough in clingfilm, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
Once your dough has rested, unwrap and tear little uniform chunks. I really wanted all of my Pepernoten to be of equal size, so I weighed them so that each one was exactly 10 grams. It got old, though – you may just want to eyeball it.
Use your hands to roll each little ball until it’s nice and round, and place on a prepared baking tray.
Place in a preheated oven, and bake for 15 minutes.
Aren’t they cute?
- 500 grams all purpose flour
- 35 grams baking powder
- 250 grams dark brown sugar
- 200 grams butter
- 100 ml milk
- 35 g speculaaskruiden (gingerbread spice - see recipe)
- 3 grams salt
- In a stand mixer bowl, dump flour, sugar, speculaaskruiden, salt, milk, and butter. Mix on medium speed until the dough comes together in a ball.
- Transfer the dough ball onto a surface sprinkled with speculaaskruiden. Use your hands to mix together to create a cohesive dough. Wrap in clingfilm, and place in fridge for anywhere from 30 minutes, up to a day.
- Preheat your oven to 170 degrees celsius.
- Prepare a few baking trays with baking paper (I needed four baking trays). Take chunks of dough of around 10 grams, and roll into balls.
- Bake each tray for 15 minutes. To cool, turn off the oven but leave the trays in, and crack the door.