Pepernoten, a recipe

Sinterklaas is back in the country! The yearly national craze has started again here in the Netherlands, with an old man dressed as a saint (Sinterklaas, or: Saint Nicolas, who is the predecessor of Santa Claus!). After his long trip on a steam boat from Spain (where he lives), he arrived last weekend and has been personally welcomed by the majors and burgomeisters of every little and big town of the Netherlands. Children are in a continuous state of nervousness and excitement, because the Good Man knows everything and writes every act of mischief in his big book. And good behaviour will be rewarded of course, on those days that the kids may put their shoes in front of the fireplace…
Sinterklaas has a lot of helpers, the so called Black Peets, and they bring the most delicious little ginger-cookie like treats called ‘Pepernoten’ (pepper nuts) with them. They traditionally leave them in the pre-mentioned shoe in front of the fireplace, together with a little gift.
Making your own pepernoten is super easy and a fun activity to do with children (and also really delicious even if you’ve never heard of Sinterklaas in your life). They taste especially good with hot chocolate, I feel.

Here’s the recipe:

  • 150 g (2/3 cup) butter
  • 135 g (3/4 cup) brown sugar
  • 10 g (2 teaspoons) ‘speculaas spices’ (if you can’t buy them ready-made see recipe below)
  • 250 g (1 1/4 cup) self raising flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 4 tbsp milk

For the speculaas spices, mix:

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 160 °C (320 °F). Cut cold butter in little chunks and knead through sugar, speculaas spices, salt and self raising flour. Add the milk bit by bit until the dough is smooth and supple. Start making little balls (a bit smaller than a marble). Your kids can help with this: if you give them little pieces of the dough, they will love making the little balls! Line the little balls up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten them slightly with your thumb (I make two batches). Bake for about 15 minutes until light brown.

Bon appetit!

xxx Esther

PS If you want to read more on Sinterklaas, please read this post I wrote a few years ago!


Comments (6)

Sara - Belgium
November 28, 2011

YUMMMM!!!! My daughter is getting very excited about St. Nicholas/Sinterklaas coming to Brussels! I have to provide snack this week at her school and I think I’ll bake these to share with her classmates!!! He’ll be visiting her class next week. Thanks for sharing this!! 🙂

Courtney in London
November 28, 2011

Yummm! I always LOVE the Pepernoten I get at your house around this time of year. How exciting that I can actually make it at home! (Although I would also love a trip to Amsterdam to pick some up!)

Emilie in Paris
November 28, 2011

So happy you posted this, I have been waiting for a your Pepernoten recipe!

December 6, 2011

Thanks so much for sharing this recipe Esther!!! My husband’s family is Dutch and so we have tried to observe/celebrate Sinterklaas. But not being Dutch myself, I don’t have many ideas how to help. These are delicious and my kids will be taking them to share with their classmates tomorrow.

December 5, 2012

[…] If you don’t have the ready-made ’speculaas spices’ see PEPERNOTEN, A RECIPE. […]

November 25, 2013

thank you so much for this!

Leave a Comment