Tag Archives: saint nicolas


zwarte pieten bring pepernoten on bike


[no-stal-juh, -jee-uh, nuh-]


1. a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time: a nostalgia for his college days.

2. something that elicits or displays nostalgia.

“Nostalgia” is also described as the feeling of being homesick, which I reckon goes pretty close to what I felt this morning, when my friend Patricia Pulles posted the following message on FB:

” folklore olandese…l’arrivo di San Niccola sulla nave a vapore al porto di Harderwijk per la sua festa il 5 dicembre…”

and posted a lovely video to go with it.

Hard to say the way I felt. A mixture of echoed laughs came to my ear, the image of zwarte pieten flocking around the white bearded Sinterklaas and his white horse came to mind, the Bijenkorf shopping windows dressed up for the occasion, the letter-shaped chocolate, the surprises (pronounced suur-pree-zes), the “Sinterklaasgedichten” (funny little poems going with the presents/surprises) and the Pepernoten, the spicey cookies typical for this festivity!!!

The aroma of anise and cinnamon coming out of each baker shop in town during this period use to dawn on me like a blessing; wrapped up in my coat, crossing town on my bike, the smell of fresh pepernoten hit me at each corner, and I could not help but stop for a moment to run in and buy kiloes of the delicious little cookies. I would happily live on pepernoten for weeks!
There are at least two variation of Pepernoten: the round stone-hard ones, which one can find also at Albert Hein (the dutch uber-supermarket); and those in the shape of little cubes, made by ducth bakers only during the Sinterklaas period, that is to say from now to the 6th of December. I personally prefer the latter, not only because of the home-made feel to it, but also because the flavour and the texture it’s very different, more interesting, kind of pleasently gummy and better spiced, where anise balances cinnamon in a much round and satisfying way.

delicious pepernoten

(little less)delicious pepernoten

As a matter of fact, my favourite pepernoten are made with a dough that is very similar to another lovely dutch cookie called Taai-Taai, which industrial version is shaped in the guise of a fat brown Sinterklaas and it is to find typically in every supermarket. Although at this time of the year one can also find them (along with all other kind of breads and pepernoten) every saturday at the Organic Farmers’ market on the Noordermarkt, or the “Hippie Market”, as my dear friend Debra Solomon of Culiblog likes to call it.

taai taai cookies (approved by Sint & Piet)

Baker's stand on the Noordermarkt

Being away from Amsterdam for a while now, I cannot help thinking that perhaps I will never stop missing all the wonderful little things my life revolved around in the city that fathered me for such a long time. Some of these things are hard or impossible to replicate now that I am in another time and another place, but others, such as the yammy little cubes called Pepernoten can be easily be made over and over and over. So here is the recipe, make & enjoy!

Ingredients Edit  href=

  • 200 grams self raising flour
  • pinch salt
  • 150 grams Dutch syrup (stroop) or honey
  • 2 tsp cinnamon powder
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 tsp ground coriander (seeds)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • pinch of ground anise seed


– Preheat the oven to 160 °C.

– Sift the flour with the salt and spices into a bowl. Make a hollow in the top of the mound and pour in the syrup.

– Mix everything from the centre and knead into thick dough. Place in the fridge for an hour.

– Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/2 cm, and make into small, marble-sized balls, or better little cubes.

– Grease a cookie sheet – or use a non-stick one – and put the ‘marbles/cubes’ on it. Press them down slightly. Put in the centre of the preheated oven and bake for 15 – 20 minutes, until done and golden brown. For the cube version, please note that the result should not be a hard little cookie, but a nice semi-soft gummy one.


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