It all started with a Rembrandt exhibition. My brief was to come up with a Dutch dessert. Now, countless trips to the Netherlands left me with the conviction that Dutch food, by and large, is unimaginative and not particularly palatable – my apologies to any Dutch friends I might have offended but my memory sends me flashbacks of dinners served at ungodly early hours, with an abundance of cold cuts, cheeses, meats and preserved fish, none of which ever left me craving for more.
As far as desserts are concerned, there are, surprisingly, very few chocolate ones and many of the fried varieties – even if I know that doughnuts came to us via the Netherlands, somehow I couldn’t picture Rembrandt and doughnuts. St. Nicholas, not the patron saint of chefs, came nonetheless to my help. On his day, December 5, the Dutch celebrate by drinking their famous Dutch processed cocoa and eating “speculaas” that the Saint himself is supposed to deliver (coming down the chimney maybe?). Upon further research, speculaas seemed to include “pepernoten”, a gingery and peppery cookie vaguely related to the German pfeffernusse.
The original pepernoten is supposed to be ball-shaped and rolled in powder sugar. My concoction is round, but flattened, and dipped in sanding sugar that, at night, makes it shimmer and can’t help you make you feel a bit festive.
You know you have fully grown up when you appreciate a cookie with hints of white pepper and nutmeg in it – but I promise that paired with a strong cup of dark hot chocolate and some whipped cream it will warm you up. And munched while admiring Rembrandt’s drawings, it’s a heavily combination any Dutch would be proud of.
SPICED GINGER COOKIES
2 1/2 C AP Flour
12 ts Baking Soda
8 oz Butter
1/2 C Granulated Sugar
1/2 C Brown Sugar
1 T Ground Ginger
1 ts Cardamom
1 ts Cinnamon
1/4 ts Nutmeg
1/2 ts White Pepper
1/2 ts Salt
1/4 C Molasses
1. Sift together the flour and baking soda. Set aside
2. In a standing mixer, using the paddle, cream the butter, sugar, spices and salt until light and fluffy.
3. Add egg and molasses until blended – scrape sides of the bowl.
4. Add flour mixture on low and mix until just incorporated. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate.
5. When ready to bake, spoon the dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment using a spoon or an ice cream scooper. Dip the cookies into sanding sugar and bake at 325 until set, about 8 mins. Cookies will firm up while cooling but will stay fairly cakey.