Sunday, December 5, 2010


Cheap Eat Challenge Count Down: 27 days

I celebrated my first Saint Nicolas Day when I was in college. I had a roommate who was a) awesome and b) half Dutch. (You remember Chaliese. You met her over with the Dutch almond bars. If you made them, you've also realized that she is worth knowing.) One morning on December 5th, we woke up to find our kitchen table piled high with goodies. Sinterklaas had come. Oh boy. I honestly don't remember what the fare was, but then I ended up living in The Netherlands for 9 months and Belgium for 7, so I got another taste.

For the Dutch, Saint Nicolas Day is a big deal--like Christmas big. Maybe not quite American Christmas big, but big. Christmas itself is a quieter, more adult affair. On the evening of Saint Nicolas Day the children (and adults, incidentally) get together to eat and sing songs about Sinterklaas as they wait for a knock at the door. When they hear it, sometimes they're greeted by sweets being flung inside; sometimes they go out to find a bag of goodies. There are nuts, tangerines, chocolate letters, gifts, and speculaasjes.

It's all good. But the speculaas, it's much better than good. It's a type of spice cookie that puts gingerbread a little bit to shame (and I love gingerbread). I once made 'smores with speculaas instead of graham crackers. And let me say this, I don't know why drugs need to be legal in a country where speculaas exists, potentially in combination with melted marshmallows and perfect Dutch chocolate. (Or perhaps that's why they're legal--perhaps they don't have to worry about their citizens becoming drug addicts when there are much better things to become addicted to.)

The problem is, the Dutch don't really bake. They buy their baked goods from lovely little bakerijs that are such a far cry from the Bakery Section at WalMart that I feel ashamed placing them in the same sentence. But recipes for baked goods are tough to find in The Netherlands. Also, I wasn't at that point in my life someone who cooked. And so. When I got home and learned to cook and got a hankering around Christmas for speculaas, which is a spice cookie that can be hard or soft, but is always divine, I went to the Internet to find one. And I got a good one. One that fit what I remembered speculaas to be.

And so, Chaliese, this one's for you:

Sinterklaas kapuntje,
Ligt iets in mijn schoentje,
Ligt iets in mijn larsje,
Dank je sinterklaasje.

adapted from
Serves 30

Note: One of the beauties of this recipe is that speculaas can be enjoyed both soft and crispy, so if you overbake it a bit, it will forgive you. (Just to be clear, I'm not talking blackened edges here.)

1 C butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla
1 C sugar
1 ¼ C brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs, beaten
3 ½ C flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp anise extract
1/8 tsp salt
½ C sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter, vanilla, and sugars until fluffy. Add eggs. Sift in dry ingredients and stir into butter mixture (the dough will be stiff). Roll or press dough into jelly roll pan. Press almonds lightly into dough. Bake 20-30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

You can also chill the dough and then cut it into rounds or into shapes. You know, if you're the energetic type. As for me, I keep my experimentation to adding milk chocolate chips on top instead of almonds. Pretty good by the way. Pretty good.



  1. Thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe! My family and I really loved these cookies - so glad I had the chance to visit your blog for SRC Cookie Carnival 2014! :)

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