Greek Yoghurt with Mulled Pears and “Kruidnootjes”

A super way to start your day or as a dessert. Both the mulled pears and “kruidnootjes” will make your house smell great too!
Which was much-needed after caramelising 2kg of onions for this soup seemed to have permeated the entire house 🙂

Firstly, I think that some more information on “pepernoten” and “kruidnootjes” is in order. They are part of the various sweets and chocolates associated with Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas) holiday in the Netherlands and translate to English as “pepper nuts” and “spice nuts” respectively. The former are small cubes of a gingerbread type of dough whilst the latter are small firm dome-shaped spiced cookies. Nowadays, pepernoten seems the generic term for both.

Below I will give you a recipe for kruidnootjes so you can make them yourself, but be warned that they are highly addictive…

The origin goes back to the 16th century, when around the Sinterklaas festivities kids got sweets made from leftover gingerbread dough. Due to the spice trade with the West and East Indies, the current type of kruidnootjes has come in fashion in the 18th century. The kruidnootjes are made from “speculaas” dough which is generally made from flour, brown sugar, butter and mixed spices (usually cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, mace and white pepper).

We Duchies are completely nuts about our “spice nuts”. Even though Sinterklaas is only on December 5, they were available in the supermarkets earlier than ever: we already spotted them on August 31. In 2014 about 4,5 billion of them were made in the Netherlands which is a whopping 250 per head and that while they are only “in season” for about 3 months. _40U9925Unsurprisingly, chocolate covered kruidnootjes are a huge success: they are pure evil…
_40U9964

Other signs that it is serious business:

  • This year Van Delft, the absolute market leader, started 1 permanent and 15 pop-up stores where they sell “only” 35 varieties of pepernoten and kruidnootjes
  • In September, a Facebook petition asking to start selling white chocolate covered kruidnootjes separately – instead of only in a mix – was liked more than 264.000 times in less than 3 weeks. It was way more than the 200.000 goal that was (jokingly) set by Bolletje, so they complied

The recipes

Mulled pears 

  • 1kg / 35oz cooking pears (I used Gieser Wildeman), peeled, cored and halved lengthwise
  • 250ml / 1 cup unsweetened berry juice
  • 125ml / 1/2 cup red wine
  • 50gr / 1 3/4oz caster sugar
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 sticks of cinnamon

poached pears

  1. Add the pears, wine, sugar, cloves and cinnamon sticks in a pan and top with the berry juice until the pears are fully covered
  2. Bring to a boil, put on the lid and simmer for about 30 minutes until cooked and remove them
  3. Reduce the remaining liquid over high heat back to about 125ml / 1/2 cup (add some extra sugar to get a more syrupy consistency)
  4. To serve: add some yoghurt to a bowl, add a few mulled pears, drizzle over a couple of spoons of the syrup and cut up a 5 kruidnootjes and sprinkle them on top

Kruidnootjes (courtesy of Uit Paulines Keuken, in Dutch)

  • 250gr / 9oz self-raising flour
  • 125gr / 4.5oz Demerara sugar
  • 100gr / 3.5oz cold butter, cubed
  • 2 tablespoons speculaas spices
    • 30gr ground cinnamon
    • 4gr ground cloves
    • 4gr ground nutmeg
    • 2gr ground white pepper
    • 2gr ground ginger
    • 1gr ground cardamom
      Just mix them together and store in an airtight container
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • pinch of salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 175C / 350F
  2. Grease a baking sheet (or line it with grease proof paper)
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, spices and salt
  4. Add the cubed cold butter and the milk to the dry ingredients and knead it to a supple dough that no longer stick to your hands
  5. Wet your hands and roll little marble-sized balls of dough (approx. 1cm / 1/2 inch)
  6. Place them the baking sheet and gently press down on each one to slightly flattenrecept pepernoten
  7. Bake for about 20-25 minutes and allow to cool

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