Each year, here up North,
a man comes forth from Spain.
Train nor plane he uses;
a boat is what he chooses,
as well as a white horse,
and (to make matters worse)
travels together with guys
(I tell you no lies)
who paint their faces…
The Dutch embrace it all
and make their way to the mall
to shop till they drop
and return home with many a gift,
that plenty a spirit will lift.
Does this tradition ring a bell?
Well, maybe if you hear his name
your X-masses will never be the same;
Sinterklaas is what he’s called…
Please don’t be too appalled
Dear Santa and elves
When you see yourselves
reflected in this feast
that is politically incorrect to say the least.
For Sinterklaas – indeed- is the reason why
A guy who goes “ho ho” stops by
on your shores; his boat is now a sled,
the horse became reindeer with noses red.
All devoid of that annoyed
“black Pete”, made obsolete by elves
who can show themselves
without any accidental tourist dropping jaws
’cause they see their Santa Claus
fretting in such an anachronistic setting.
Here in the old world, tradition reigns
and black Pete, alas, remains…
However racist it may seem;
rest assured the theme
at the root of all of this, is equal
and Santa is just a better sequel
to a storm of giving and sharing,
so let that be your bearing!
Give and share, share and give,
and live a full life void of strife!
There are many traditional baking goods associated with Sinterklaas. Butter fondant, chocolate letters, chocolate fondant frogs and mice (nobody seems to know where they came from) and pepernoten. There are three varieties of them floating around, going from rather chewy and lebkuchen-like, to crunchy and easy to eat. The traditional pepernoot is right in the middle and made with hartshorn salt (yes, we use Rudolf’s antlers to make cookies). This is the king of all rising agents when it comes to strength.
Since baking with hartshorn salt involves a chemical reaction to cause your kitchen to smell like ammonia for about a minute during the bake, many people are a bit wary to use it. Rest assured that there is no harm done; open your kitchen window to get rid of this volatile gas even faster. No traces of it will be left in the pepernoten. For those interested in trying it; King Arthur sells Hartshorn salt as “baker’s ammonia” on their site.
Here’s the video recipe.
Traditional Pepernoten (big batch)
1 kg. all purpose flour
500 gr. honey
300 gr. sugar
15 gr. hartshorn salt
1½ ts cinnamon
¾ ts cloves
1 ts white pepper
100 gr. confectioners sugar
a little water.
Warm the honey on a low heat together with the sugar, the eggs, hartshorn salt and all the spices, untill the sugar has melted. Mix well. Sift through the flour in parts and mix well until the stiff dough comes together (be careful not to wreck your KitchenAid on this dough!).
Preheat the oven to 190° C and grease two sheet pans. Form 2 cm balls out of the dough, place them on the sheet pan, keeping enough space between them (at least 1 cm). Bake the pepernoten for about 15 – 20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until golden brown.
Right after baking let them cool on a rack. Bring some confectioners sugar diluted in a little water to the boil, mix until smooth and brush the pepernoten with it to give them a nice finish.
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