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 caramelizing 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 Dutchies 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 4 months. Unsurprisingly, chocolate-covered kruidnootjes are a huge success: they are pure evil…
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.
- 1kg / 35oz cooking pears (I used Gieser Wildemann), peeled, cored and halved lengthwise
- 250ml / 1 cup unsweetened berry juice
- 125ml / ½ cup red wine
- 50g / 1¾ oz caster sugar
- 4 cloves
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- Add the pears, wine, sugar, cloves, and cinnamon sticks in a pan and top with the berry juice until the pears are fully covered
- Bring to a boil, put on the lid and simmer for about 30 minutes until cooked and remove them
- Reduce the remaining liquid over high heat back to about 125ml / ½ cup (add some extra sugar to get a more syrupy consistency)
- To serve: add some yogurt 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)
- 250g / 9oz self-raising flour
- 125g / 4½oz Demerara sugar
- 100gr / 3½oz cold butter, cubed
- 2 tbsp speculaas spices
- 30g ground cinnamon
- 4g ground cloves
- 4g ground nutmeg
- 2g ground white pepper
- 2g ground ginger
- 1g ground cardamom
Just mix them together and store in an airtight container
- 6 tbsp milk
- pinch of salt
- Preheat your oven to 175℃ / 350℉
- Grease a baking sheet (or line it with greaseproof paper)
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, spices, and salt
- Add the cubed cold butter and the milk to the dry ingredients and knead it to a supple dough that no longer sticks to your hands
- Wet your hands and roll little marble-sized balls of dough (approx. 1cm / ½ inch)
- Place them the baking sheet and gently press down on each one to slightly flatten
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes and allow to cool