What are kruidnoten?
These cookies are richly flavored as they contain a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, white pepper and anise. Vergeoise (brown sugar), made from beet, replaces sugar as often in Belgian and Dutch pastries. It gives the cookies a special texture and taste.
The price of spices and peppers was once very high, these cookies were rare and therefore only prepared for the holidays. Today, they can be found all year round in pastry shops, but they are nevertheless still associated with Saint Nicholas.
What is the origin of kruidnoten?
Kruidnoten can literally be translated as “gingerbread buttons” or “spiced nuts”.
The kruidnoten are mentioned in the Van Dale Groot woordenboek van de Nederlandse taal, the most famous Dutch cookbook still published today and first written in 1864.
The exact origin of the kruidnoten is unknown, but they are most likely ancient biscuits, as evidenced by the abundance of spices which are characteristic of the tastes of the Dutch golden age, the period during which the Flemish merchant ships brought back large cargoes of spices from Asia. In the Middle Ages, these cookies were thrown on the newlyweds because they contain pepper and it was once thought to be an aphrodisiac and therefore a symbol of fertility.
During Sinterklass, kruidnoten are often accompanied by other traditional sweets such as mandarins, oranges, speculoos, pepernoten, chocolate pieces, marzipan fruits and a chocolate figurines of Saint Nicholas.
How to make kruidnoten
The preparation of kruidnoten can be done by hand or in a stand mixer. In both cases, the soft butter must be mixed with sugar, salt and spices. Add the egg and milk, then the sifted flour, added gradually.
Finally, the yeast is added, and the dough should not be worked too long so that it doesn’t become too sticky. One hour rest time is required, for the butter to cool and firm up.
The dough can then be cut into quarters, rolled on itself and then cut into ½ inch (1 cm) slices. These equal slices are rolled into small balls and placed on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Baking is done in the oven for aabout 15 minutes.
The cookies must cool before they can be transferred. Prepared this way, they keep very well. Kruidnoten are often presented in small boxes decorated with a ribbon and it is not uncommon for them to be offered to loved ones during the Saint Nicholas holiday.
What are the variants of kruidnoten?
The kruidnoten are firmer than the speculoos, the color and shape also differ but the mixture of spices is very close. However, they should not be confused with other Belgian cookies, pepernoten, whose shape is radically different and the texture softer.
On the markets, at the time of Sinterklaas, one can find variants of kruidnoten made with chocolate, rolled in sugar or decorated with yogurt.
Spice-flavored cookies are plentiful in Europe, and most of them date back to the Middle Ages. France, Germany and Italy have dozens of varieties, the form is different, the butter is sometimes replaced by lard and the spice combinations are not always the same but most of them are often prepared for end of year celebrations. They may also contain dried fruit and candied fruit.
- 4 cups flour sifted
- 1½ cup vergeoise brown sugar
- 1 cup unsalted butter soft
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons milk
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground anise
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the butter, sugar, salt and spices.
- Add the egg and milk and mix with the flat beater.
- Gradually add the flour mixed with the yeast until obtaining a homogeneous dough. Do not knead the dough too long.
- Wrap the dough with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 375 F (190°C).
- Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces and form 4 long rolls of ½ inch (1 cm) thick.
- Cut the rolls into ½ inch (1 cm) pieces and roll each into balls.
- Place the balls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten them very slightly.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until they turn light brown.
- Remove from oven and let cool completely on a cooling rack.