Peperkoek (spiced bread)

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I grew up on a breakfast of buttered bread with a layer of jam and fresh pastries on Sundays. That’s how we did things in Belgium back in the 80’s. Cereal was new and expensive and I don’t think a lot of people had heard of muesli. Compared to all the breakfast options we have today, it seems very boring and unhealthy. Now and again though, I like to go back to this kind of breakfast purely for nostalgic reasons.

Something that was always on the table at home was peperkoek (spiced bread). It’s not really a bread in the traditional sense. The concept is similar to banana bread: looks like cake but is called “bread”. The proper peperkoek has rye flour and lots of honey. It is light on the inside and has a dark brown, soft, sticky crust. I found this version of peperkoek when I was looking for a simpler recipe that didn’t have so much sugars in it. Granted, this recipe still calls for 250g of brown sugar but the amount of the honey is limited to 1 and a half tablespoons.

Buttered knife with crumbs

The spices is what makes this bread an absolute dream. If you are a fan of speculaas (biscoff cookies) this will be right up your street. It uses the exact same spices. You can find my recipe for speculaas spice mix here. The only way to eat this peperkoek is with a rather thick layer of real butter. Another way to really enjoy it is by putting a slice in between 2 slices of fresh, crusty white bread.

So this isn’t going to be in the top 10 of “healthy breakfasts for you” but it definitely would be part of the “tastiest breakfast treats” list. I think you should try this peperkoek. If anything, for the fact that it makes your house smell amazing. But, if you’re trying to cut down on sugar as part of a new year’s resolution, just save it for later via my Pinterest board.

What is your favourite breakfast? Do you make an extra effort on the weekend? And does anyone make their own croissants?

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

Makes 1 big loaf

Ingredients:

100ml of water

250g flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp speculaas spice mix

1 1/2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.

3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a big bowl and a handmixer), mix all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder.

4. When the mixture is smooth, add the flour and baking powder, a tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then mix on medium-high speed for about 7-10 minutes. When you stop mixing you should see bubbles trying to form on the surface.

5. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr. Use a knife or skewer to check if it is baked completely.

6. Take the peperkoek out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the tin and letting it cool further on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

 Spiced bread or peperkoek

Traditional Belgian Sinterklaas treats

Christmas flatly with red

That moment when November turns into December it’s like a switch in my head flips and I am in full Christmas countdown mode. Taylor Swift’s latest album gets pushed to the side and Michael Buble and Bing Crosby take over my playlists. I poke my nose in every bit of fir and spruce I can find and get excited about peeling a mandarin (oh the smell!). Yes, December first marks the start of the Christmas countdown in this house.

This is how it looks:

1st December: Start of Advent

6th December: Sinterklaas

13th December: St. Lucia

24th December: Christmas Eve

We started with lighting the first candle of our Advent wreath and opening the first door of our Advent calendar. This coming weekend we will celebrate Sinterklaas with the kids and next week St. Lucia, thus keeping their Belgian and Swedish Christmas heritage alive. And then we finish off with family dinner and presents on Christmas Eve.

I talked about Sinterklaas in this post and this one too. If you want to have a go at putting together a Sinterklaas treat for your kids (or yourself) here is what you will need:

Traditional Sinterklaas treat

– Speculaas (Biscoff) cookies are a must. Try making your own with my recipe.

– Flemish Christmas buns or Sinterklaaskoeken are perfect for breakfast or afternoon coffee. Make sure to spread them thick with butter. Here’s my version of these sweet yeast buns.

– clementines

– chocolate coins

– Nic Nacs which you can buy or make yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

Next week I’ll be baking traditional Swedish saffron buns to celebrate St. Lucia. In the mean time, what does your December countdown look like?

Vintage Sinterklaas postcard

(image source: Vintage images, http://vintageimages.org) 

 

Speculaas spice mix

A few weeks ago I made these crunchy, spiced speculaas cookies. There is rarely a Belgian household that doesn’t have at least one packet of them laying around. This time of year though, people make an effort to bake them at home or to buy them at the local baker’s. Why? Because in Belgium (and in the Netherlands) Speculaas is very much associated with Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, which we celebrate on December 6th.

To make this yummy treat, you need a Speculaas spice mix. Maybe you are lucky enough to find one ready-made where you live. But if you live outside Belgium or the Netherlands, chances are you won’t find it or it might be expensive. So here is my version. Use it to make Speculaas or add it to your favourite sugar cookie recipe. Try it sprinkled on top of your latte or hot chocolate. Use it for this year’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger

Speculaas spice mix

4 measures of ground cardamom

8 measures of ground cinnamon

2 measures of ground ginger

1 measure of ground cloves

1 measure of ground nutmeg

1 measure of ground mace (optional)

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container.

What will you use this spice mix for?

ENJOY!

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

Perfect speculaas cookies (homemade biscoff cookies)

For the past 5 days Berlin has been covered in a blanket of greyness. The sun obviously thought that it also deserved a week of autumn holiday like all the school kids in the city. Rubber boots were the preferred choice of footwear and every puddle on the way to Kita had to be jumped in. I would have joined my kids in this fun activity but I don’t own rubber boots. I did attempt to buy a pair yesterday but it turns out, they are not really stocked in shoe shops. The adult version, that is, kids boots are available everywhere. But guess what, today we woke up to blue skies. It has since clouded over a bit but the rain has stopped. And so has my search for boots.

Next time it rains, I will of course end up with wet feet again. P. will point out that I should really get proper footwear for the season. I will tell him that he is right and that I will order some online tonight. We have had this same conversation for the past 3 autumns here in Berlin…

Traditional speculaas cookies

So we’ve had our first week of proper awful autumn weather in the city and this can only mean one thing. People are moving indoors in search of comfort and cosiness. Tables outside of restaurants are empty and iced coffees are swapped for hot chocolates and ginger teas. And since the ice cream shops have closed for the season, sweet temptations have to be found elsewhere. When was the last time your home smelled of freshly baked cookies? More to the point, has your home ever been filled with the smells of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and my favourite, mace?

Speculaas (or speculoos, or Biscoff cookies) are spiced cookies which can be found all year round in Belgium. The spice mix needed to make them comes ready-made and can easily be bought in shops or bakeries. I started making my own speculaas mix because these packets are not available in Berlin and maybe where you live either. The cookies will not taste like the Lotus brand of Biscoff cookies though. They are the kind you would buy at the traditional bakery on the corner of the street.

Cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger

A quick note on the spices:

– Cardamom comes in pods or already ground. If you can only find the pods, ground the seeds with a spice grinder or coffee grinder until you get a fine powder.

– The same applies for the cloves. If you can’t find the powder, grind them into a thin powder.

– Use only ground ginger and nutmeg.

– Mace is a spice derived from nutmeg. You will also need it in powder form. I find this spice tricky to find where I live. It can be left out.

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

(makes 15-20 depending on what cookie cutter you use)

Ingredients:

250g flour

150g butter, softened

140g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tbsp milk at room temperature

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground mace (optional)

Method:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Add the milk and the butter and kneed until the dough stops sticking to your hands or the dough hook of a standmixer.

3. Roll the dough into a ball them flatten into a thick disk. Wrap it in baking paper (or clingfilm) and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better as the flavours will really develop.

4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough until 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Transfer the cookies to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes.

7. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack and store in a airtight container.

ENJOY!

Stacks of crunchy, spicy speculaas cookies

Chantilly cream (Belgian recipe)

Blueberries and chantilly cream

This time last week P., the kids and I spent a lovely day at a lake just outside Berlin. The temperature had been above 30C all week so we decided our family needed a bit of cooling off away from car noise and hot concrete pavements. 2 days later, on Sunday evening, the heavens opened and thunder rumbled late into the night. On Monday, Berlin temperatures had dropped down to a comfortable and warm 25C. But summer is still in town even though you can feel that it is starting to make its way out. The air is cooler and cardigans are again part of out morning walk to Kindergarten. I know that pretty soon, socks and jackets will have to come out of the wardrobe and our windows, which have been open all summer, will have to be shut. At least during the nights. No amount of blankets will take away that horrible feeling of a frozen cold nose at 3 in the morning. But for now, we are still holding on to these last summer moments.

Blueberries with chantilly cream

Have you ever been to a pick-your-own-fruit orchard? Last year we took the kids and came home with so many plums that we ate them and baked them until we couldn’t stand the sight of them anymore. This year we plan to go for the berries. Toy buckets full of raspberries, tupperware boxes filled to the brim with blueberries and lots of berry stains on everyone’s clothes.

Late summer memories are made of squashed blueberries and raspberry smudged faces. And we like to make a bit more special by skipping the ice cream and whipped cream and serving our pickings with this Belgian version of Chantilly crème (which is no where near the recipe for the French version but this is what we call this smooth, creamy crème).

top view blueberries and chantilly cream

Belgian chantilly cream

Serves 4 big portions or 8 small portions

Ingredients:

750ml milk

50g sugar

80g cornstarch

1 egg yolk (optional, see Note at the bottom)

1 egg white (optional, see Note at the bottom)

70g soft butter

70g powdered sugar

1 tbsp vanilla sugar

Method:

1. Measure out 750ml milk and then take 200ml from this and set aside.

2. Pour the remaining 550ml milk in a saucepan and add the sugar. Heat on a medium heat until it starts to simmer.

3. While the milk is heating up, mix the 200ml of milk with the cornstarch in a separate bowl. Make sure the cornstarch is completely dissolved and no lumps remain.

4. When the milk simmers take it off the heat and add the cornstarch-milk mixture while continuously whisking. The milk will thicken quickly and you will be left with a pale, shiny crème.

5. Let the crème cool. You can speed up the process by placing the saucepan in a sink or bowl filled with cold water. Stir now and again so it cools evenly.

6. While the crème cools, mix the butter, powdered sugar and egg yolk until smooth and creamy. You can do this with a fork or use a mixer on low speed.

7. Add the butter-powdered sugar-egg yolk mixture to the crème and stir until completely incorporated.

8. Whisk the egg white with the vanilla sugar until stiff peaks form. Fold it into the crème.

You can top the crème with all sorts of berries or just dip sweet strawberries in it.

ENJOY!

Note: This recipe contains raw egg so be sure to use a very fresh egg. If you don’t want to use raw egg, you can just leave it out. The crème will still be delicious.

2 pots of chantilly cream and blueberries

Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

kladdkaka with cream and blueberries

In Sweden, where P. is from, there is this tradition that on Saturday everyone goes to the supermarket and fills a big bag full of sweets from the huge pick and mix stand. When you get home, you can keep your lördagsgodis (Saturday sweets) in the bag or put them in a large bowl and munch away all weekend long. This mix of bonbons, chocolates, fudges, caramels and more is a colourful display.

Sometimes, I think our little family is a bit like that bowl of mixed colours and flavours. P. is Swedish, I am from Belgium, the kids were born in Northern Ireland and we chose to settle in Germany. Berlin is our home and we plan to stay here. But how do you answer the question: Where are you from? In my case, I answer by saying that I am from Belgium but live in Germany. P. answers the same way. But what about our kids? They are not from Belgium. They are not from Sweden. They are essentially from Germany.

Blueberries on black background

I’ve been thinking about these things a lot lately. How will our kids deal with all of this? What sort of questions will they ask when they are older? What nationality will they take when they turn 18 and have to choose? How will they give Belgium, Sweden and Northern Ireland a place in their life? In their being? Who will they be and how will they define themselves?

Whatever the answers, we will give them the freedom to search and find their way. Their roots might be growing in German soil, but their heritage, their seeds of life, that has come from 3 beautiful and inspiring places.

P. and I wil make sure they know about their heritage. And part of this heritage for me personally is food. And not just the national dishes, but the simple tomato soup Oma (grandmother in Belgium) makes or the lobster thermidor Farfar (grandfather in Sweden) cooks on special occasions.

This week’s recipe is a Swedish sticky (Kladd) cake (kaka). It’s easy and requires just 1 bowl and something to mix the batter with. I bet you my nearly 4 year old could do this. So let the lesson “this is your heritage” begin…

kladdkaka with bowl of cream and bowl of blueberries

 Swedish sticky chocolate cake – Kladdkaka

Serves 8

Ingredients:

2 eggs

270g sugar

60g flour

1 tsp vanilla sugar

2 heaped tbsp unsweetened cocoa

100g melted butter

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C. Grease and flour a round springform tin (important!).

2. In a bowl, use a handmixer or whisk to mix all the ingredients together until the mixture is smooth.

3. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for  30 minutes.

4. Let the cake cool in the tin.

5. When ready to serve, remove the springform side. Do not attempt to remove the cake from the bottom of the tin, it is too sticky and fudge-like. Use a cake cutter (preferably one that won’t scratch your tin) to cut and scrape/lift a piece of the cake. It will come loose, it’s just nice and sticky.

6. Serve with some vanilla ice cream, whipped cream, berries, toasted nuts or sliced, fresh fruit

ENJOY!

 blueberries rolling out of bowl

Belgian waffles (the quick version)

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So yesterday was waffle day in Sweden. And since my kids are 50% Swedish it went without saying that waffles were going to be backed. I had plans. Grand plans even. I wanted to introduce my little nordic munchkins to the delights of the authentic Belgian waffle: thick yeast dough baked to perfection. Crispy on the outside and a soft, fluffy on the inside. However, things didn’t really go as I had hoped. What happened, you ask? I ran out of time. Simple as that. When you’re a mother of 2 toddlers and your pilot hubby gets called out to cover a flight and unexpectedly has to stay the night in Italy, then you’re on your own. And all your previous plans go out the window.

But, when you’re a mother of 2 hungry toddlers and you’re wingman is gone, then you improvise. And so we had waffles in the end. I suppose you can still call them Belgian waffles because they are my recipe and I am Belgian :-) But I do owe you all the recipe of the authentic version.

Waffle heart with powdered sugar

The classic way to eat these is with just a dusting of powdered sugar. Or you can opt for a brown sugar. My favourite sugars are those of T-Sugars. I adore their light brown sugar.

3 sugars

Since toppings on the waffles tend to be sweet I reduce or completely eliminate sugar from the batter. It’s a matter of preference.

Belgian waffles-the quick version

(yield: about 10 waffles depending on the size of your iron)

500g flour

4tsp baking powder

500ml milk

150g butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 eggs, yolk and whites seperated

optional: 80g sugar

toppings: powdered sugar, brown sugar, fruit, honey, whipped cream, …

Method:

1. In a stand mixer with paddle attachment (or a hand mixer) mix the milk, melted butter, vanilla, egg yolks and sugar.

2. Add the flour gently.

3. In a second bowl, whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold this into the batter. The batter will be thick and stringy.

4. Lightly grease your waffle iron and heat it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

5. Drop 2-3 tbsp of batter in the middle of the iron (it should fill about 2/3 of the iron).

6. Bake according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Eat the waffles while hot and crispy. When they cool they tend to lose their crispiness but a minute in the toaster or warm waffle iron will bring it back.

Enjoy!

waffles with sugars scattered

Waffles lightly dusted with sugar

waffle with brown sugar

Golden rice pudding with brown sugar

two portions rice pudding one with spoon side by sideSee these pots of gold? There’s a story to them…

I am from Belgium. Land of the chocolate, waffles and beer. Land of Tintin and it’s the birthplace of Audrey Hepburn (fact). Also, land of the increasingly popular Biscoff Cookie and spread!  We may be a small country but we totally make up for it with our big food culture.

When I was 8 years old we moved half way around the world to Hong Kong. We stayed for a couple of years, then moved to Austria before moving back to Asia, where I started my teenage life in Singapore. By the time I was 16 we were back in Belgium (very unexpectedly) and I found it hard to adjust. I promised myself that at the first chance I would be out of there.

By the time I turned 25, I was living near Belfast in Northern Ireland. A great little place. You should visit it if you ever get the chance. The most friendly people in the world live there (that’s my opinion anyway but I think I’m right). And then, in 2013, a husband-to-be and two kids later, we packed up everything and decided to start a life in Berlin Germany.

Why am I telling you this? Because, when you move countries  and become part of varies different cultures, you tend to feel lost now and again. You ask yourself: Who am I? Where am I from? Where do I belong? It can be very unsettling. Myself and a friend seem to be going through a bit of phase at the moment. She’s wondering wether to pack up and move back north. Myself and hubby are wondering wether to buy our first german home.

One thing that helps me feel grounded again is to cook or bake something my mother used to when we were kids. Comfort food, really. The smells and the tastes remind me of my family. And the thing with families is that no matter where you live in this big old world, they are the constant factor in your life. They are your home.

two portions rice pudding with spoons and with pot of brown sugarThis rice pudding is a traditional, Belgian dish. It instantly transports me back to my childhood and the days spent abroad where my mother would adjust and adapt every recipe she had according to the ingredients available in the country we lived in at the time. Kudos to her. This was late 80’s and early 90’s, by the way (for those of you who are of the post 2000 generation, this means no internet and no affordable, international shipping. Just making sure we’re on the same page here).

two portions rice pudding with spoon viewed from the top with pot of brown sugar

Golden rice pudding

(makes 4 small or 2 large portions)

90g (1/2 cup) Arborio rice

600-700ml (2 1/2 – 3 cups) milk

1 vanilla pod or 2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of saffron (saffron can be expensive so don’t worry if you leave it out)

1 tbsp sugar

2 tsp brown sugar (light or brown, whichever you prefer)

Method:

Put a saucepan on medium heat.

Add the rice, 600ml (2 1/2cups) of milk, saffron, seeds of the vanilla pod (or the extract) and sugar. Stir to mix it all together.

Heat the mixture until it’s just about to boil, then turn the heat low and let it simmer.

Stir the mixture every 3-5 minutes so it doesn’t stick. This is like making a risotto.

After about 30-40 minutes the rice will have absorbed the milk and be soft. If while cooking you notice the mixture getting dry and the rice isn’t soft yet, add the remaining milk.

Spoon the rice pudding in glasses or bowls and top with some brown sugar.

Let the rice pudding cool for about 5-10 minutes. You’ll notice the sugar dissolving a bit and running down into the pudding. That’s exactly how you want it.

two portions rice pudding with pot of brown sugar Close UpIn Belgium, the story goes that when you die and go to heaven, you will be eating rice pudding with a golden spoon every single day. This refers to the fact that in the 16th century,  this dish was a big treat and served at big celebrations like weddings for example.

blurred spoon in foreground and focus on one portion of rice pudding

Close-up spoon with rice pudding

Belgian style chocolate truffles

Three chocolate truffles on a white heartIf you follow me on Twitter you will have seen my panic about the fact that tomorrow is St. Valentine’s. And the fact that I am totally not prepared to shower my loved one with a card, small gift, romantic dinner for two, a glass of something bubbly, …

But if I’m totally honest, P. and I don’t really celebrate Valentine’s. OK, I admit that he usually buys me something small which of course I appreciate but if he didn’t I wouldn’t mind. Why? Let me paint you a romantic picture of our relationship. Be sure to find the humour and sarcasm in this list.

Point 1: P. celebrates his birthday 2 days after the feast of love and we prefer to celebrate that. Why don’t we celebrate both days? See point 2.

Point 2: We have a nearly 2 year old and a 3 1/2 year old running around. If you have kids, you’ll need no more explanation on this subject. If you don’t, here’s how it is in our house:

“Want to go out for (insert event) tomorrow? There’s a new restaurant on the other side of town serving the most amazing (insert favourite food).”

“Sure… I wonder if the babysitter is available at such short notice? I’ll give her a call.”… “She can do it! I’ll book a table.”

“They only have a 20:30 slot for us. What do you think?”

“By the time we get there, have a 3 course dinner and get back it’ll be midnight or possibly later if the place is amazing… Who is going to get up tomorrow at 6am when the kids decide it’s time to do arts and crafts? You or me?”

Why don’t we plan ahead? See point 3.

Point 3: Planning ahead is almost impossible if you are a family with small kids. If you try, no doubt one of the following will happen: 1 child is sick OR more than 1 child is sick.

So, in our house, romantic gestures are a very much a spontaneous thing. Sort of like: “The kids are in bed, they are actually asleep, quick, get the take-away and I’ll get 2 cold beers out of the fridge.” or “I walked past this shop the other day and they had a book I thought was perfect for you but I couldn’t go in and get it because our son was having a tantrum and our daughter decided walking was overrated and sat down in the middle of the pavement.”

So, for all of us who’s life a matter of last minute decisions and last minute plans, here’s my recipe for Belgian style truffles. 3 ingredients, very little effort involved and I bet you have everything in the house.

Row of truffles on red paper

 Belgian style truffles

(makes 20-30 truffles depending on size)

For the truffles:

200g good quality dark chocolate

100 ml whipping cream

50g butter

optional: 1 tbsp of your favourite liquor (i.e. whisky, Amaretto, Grand Marnier)

For the coating:

200g good quality dark chocolate, in pieces

Method:

Chop the chocolate into very small pieces and put in a bowl. The smaller the better as they will melt quicker.

Heat the cream in a saucepan until it nearly starts to simmer.

Add the butter and stir until it is completely melted.

Pour the cream-butter mixture over the chopped chocolate. Stir as the chocolate melts. At first it will look spotty but it will all come together and you will end up with a shiny, smooth mixture. Add the liquor if using.

Cool in the fridge for about an hour. The mixture will set.

Belgian truffles tend to be oval and not round. Use a teaspoons to scoop out a truffle. Irregular shapes are OK, if not a must.

Put the truffles on a silicone mat or baking paper. Refrigerate while you make the coating.

For the coating: Fill a saucepan with a small amount of water, about 3 cm/1 inch. Let it get warm but not beyond simmering point. Put the chocolate pieces in a glass or metal bowl and let the bowl sit on the pan without it touching the water. Stir as the chocolate melts. Once all the pieces are melted, take the bowl of the pan. Be careful of the steam coming out from under the bowl and use oven mitts to hold the bowl as it will be hot.

Use a fork on which you rest a truffle and dip it in the chocolate. Let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.

Place the coated truffle on a silicone mat or baking paper and let it set. Repeat until all truffles are coated.

Close up row of trufflesThese truffles will not only melt in your mouth but also in your hand so eat fast! That’s the beauty of good quality chocolates, they will cover your hands and fingers. And since these are made with fresh cream and butter they will not last too long either. But try not to keep them in the fridge. As a Belgian and lover of chocolate, storing chocolate in the fridge is a big No-No.

Have a lovely Valentine’s whether you are celebrating or not. P. and I will be in IKEA buying our daughter a toddler bed… maybe we’ll hold hands and steal a kiss as we browse the duvet cover aisle.

ENJOY!

truffles in a row focus on middle one

truffels on and next to white heart

Klaaskoeken – Flemish Christmas buns

It’s December which means it’s time for all sorts of festive activities. We started with celebrating the first Sunday of advent with Saffranslängd. Lots of golden goodness in this saffron bread. Then it was time to join our kids in their annual kindergarten lantern procession in honour of St. Martin. Then it was time for a visit from Saint Nicolas or Sinterklaas as we call him in Belgium. His visit happens at night, just like Father Christmas, and he leaves presents, chocolate, clementines and speculoos (something I want to bake with you later). As children, my brothers and I would also eat Klaaskoeken for breakfast on this day. Its a sweet yeast bun that is traditionally eaten with a good layer of butter in top.

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They are not difficult to make but like any yeast dough you need to leave enough time for it to rest and grow. They also freeze really well so you don’t have to eat them all at once… Ours were gone within 48 hours.

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We will be continuing the festivities tonight by celebrating St. Lucia with other Swedish families (as P. is Swedish we honour their traditions for our kids). But for now, have a go at these very Flemish, sweet little bread men.

 

Ingredients

500g flour

42g fresh yeast

50g butter, softened

50g sugar

1 egg

7g salt

pinch of cardamom or cinnamon

100ml lukewarm water

100ml lukewarm milk

an extra egg for glazing the buns

Method

Crumble the yeast into the water and stir to dissolve. Let it rest for 10 minutes.

If you are using a standmixer, attach the dough hook. In the bowl, add the flower, salt, egg, sugar, milk cardamon or cinnamon, butter and the yeast in water mixture. Let the machine knead the dough for 10 minutes.

If you are using your hands, put the flour in a bowl and make a hole in the middle (so it kind of looks like a volcano with a huge crater). Sprinkle the salt on the rim of your flour hole and in the centre of the hole, add the yeast in water mixture. Now add the egg, sugar, milk, cardamom or cinnamon, and butter. Knead for about 20 minutes.

Put the dough in a bowl and cover with plastic or a clean, damp tea towel. Let it rise for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Knead the dough again but only for a minute. Cover again and let it rise again for 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

Dust your work surface with some flour. Roll out the dough until about 1 cm thick. Use a large cookie cutter to cut out little men or shape them into balls. Put them on a line baking tray about 5-10 cm apart. Cover and let them rise for another 15 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 220 degrees C.

Lightly beat the egg for glazing and brush the tops of the buns.

Bake golden brown in 15 minutes.

Cool on a rack and eat with a good layer of butter.

The amount of buns you get really depends on the size of your cutter. I got 25 and baked them in 2 batches.

Enjoy!

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