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) 

 

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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