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Pepernoten (Dutch Gingernuts) Recipe

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.

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Dutch Gingerbread Spice (Speculaaskruiden) Recipe

Dutch gingerbread is not like other gingerbread. Sure, gingerbread exists in many, many countries around the world. The Dutch (probably) did not invent it. However, no other gingerbread tastes like Dutch gingerbread, or ‘Speculaas’ does. It has a distinctively different flavour, and is actually much less heavy on the ginger. I’ve met many gingerbread haters who loved Dutch gingerbread, simply because it isn’t that ‘gingery’.

 

Speculaas (Dutch gingerbread) is made with a complex spice mixture that contains many interesting spices that other gingerbread recipes don’t – for example, white pepper, and ground anise seed. We call this spice mixture ‘Speculaaskruiden’, and it’s available pre-mixed in supermarkets, and generally stored away somewhere in a Dutch person’s spice cupboard.

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Dutch Apple Tart (Appeltaart)

Dutch apple tart is delicious. I’ve you’ve ever been to the Netherlands, you’ve probably had it – it is sold everywhere: cafes, department stores, restaurants, pubs. Call it our national cake, if you will. You grow up with it – it’s just always there.

 

It consists out of a sweet shortcrust pastry, filled with chunks of apples and raisins, flavoured with lots of cinnamon. It’s not difficult to make, only fairly time consuming considering you need to peel a whole load of apples. It’s definitely worth it, though. This cake is delicious, and it looks super impressive once finished. It’s a great cake to make one or two days ahead of time, and take with you as a gift.

 

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Black Bread

Bread baking is fun. Many people seem to find it an incredibly daunting task that they’ll avoid at all costs – “too many things that can go wrong!”, they say. “I tried once and it was an utter failure!”

 

Then you have others who go super-science about making bread, and post on bread-making forums about the exact ratios and milligrams they have used, and make their own flour. Admirable, but not my bag.

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Manakeesh with Za’atar

I don’t know about you, but I love bread. Any kind, any shape. There is just nothing more comforting than warm, crusty bread, almost straight from the oven. I think that is pretty much a universal truth.

 

This particular type of bread is flat, and a common Levantine Arabic food. It can have various types of toppings, from cheese to lamb to fried eggplant.

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Chocolate Cake

Simple Chocolate Cake

I’ve pretty much always loved baking. When I was 16, I got obsessed with cake decorating – Cake Central was my favourite site – and I found any excuse to decorate a cake. Get-togethers, friends’ birthdays, friends’ mums’ birthdays – you name it.

 

It was more about the decorating though, and not so much the cake itself. The cake was a bit of an afterthought that was solved with a Betty Crocker mix (a bit of magic on their own, if you ask me. Add water and oil, get a cake – what?!)

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