Dutch and Flemish children do not have to wait for Christmas to celebrate. On the 5th December, the Netherlands celebrate Sinterklaas, when St Nicholas visits them and fills their shoes with sweets and biscuits.
One of the traditional biscuits that are given out at this time of year are Kruidnoten. These are little aniseed – flavoured biscuits, that are given to children, and also appear on your saucer whenever you order a coffee in December.
I really like them, and wanted to try my hand at doing some myself. the recent Mince Pie Party seemed like the perfect place to start, and my guests wouldn’t have to wait until Christmas either. As a bonus, these biscuits are vegan, as they contain no butter. Much older recipes do use honey, but these days stroop is a great alternative.That link is in Dutch, but stroop is basically a viscous sugar syrup, often the by-product of refining sugars. It is widely available in the Netherlands and often used on pancakes.
If you cannot get stroop where you are, golden syrup is also perfectly acceptable.
I got the recipe that I used from here. I have translated it below, and adapted it very slightly, to make it wholly vegan.
200 g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
150 g stroop or golden syrup
2 tsp speculaas spice. This is widely available in the Netherlands. If you are not in the Netherlands and fancy trying these, you can mix up your own – I will give the proportions at the end of this recipe.
1 tsp ground aniseed (I grind mine fresh when I need it in a pestle and mortar)
Preheat the oven to 160°C
Mix the flour, baking powder, spices, and salt in a bowl. Then make a well in the centre.
Add the stroop to the well, and stir in the flour. It should form a firm dough, but if it doesn’t, add a little more stroop or some water. I found that I needed a little of both, for this amount of flour.
Brush a baking sheet with oil.
Break off small chunks of dough, and roll them into balls. Press them into the baking tray, so that the base is flat. You will need to have well floured hands, and if the mixture gets a little sticky, roll it in a little flour as well.
Bake for about 15 minutes until the biscuits are browned. They should still be a little soft at this point, because they harden as they cool.
Recipe: Speculaas Spice
According to mijnreceptenbook.com speculaas spices can be made up yourself in the following proportions:
50 g ground cinnamon
15 g ground (or finely grated) nutmeg
10 g ground cloves
10 g ground ginger
5 g ground pepper
5 g ground aniseed
This mix will kep well in an airtight jar. If you want to make this up, you could reduce the amount of each spice proportionately, or make up the lot, and try it in gingerbread, cakes and other recipes that call for either ground ginger or ground cinnamon to ring the changes.