Today is the name day of Saint Nicolas. In the Netherlands we celebrate this on the eve of Saint Nicolas day and we call it Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas is our Santa Claus. Actually, the North-American Santa Claus is based on ‘our’ Sinterklaas 🙂 We had a group of toddlers celebrating (their first) Sinterklaas at our house so we had a pretty busy night yesterday. I wanted to do this post yesterday but was too busy preparing for the party.
A little explanation is in order for my non-Dutch readers (so that’s pretty much most of you 😉 Saint Nicolas is the patron saint of children (among other things). Each year on the 5th of December Sinterklaas and his helper ‘Zwarte Piet’ (Black Pete) bring presents to every child…correction: every child that has been good that is! But Sinterklaas is celebrated by adults too. One of the traditions concerning Sinterklaas is that you make poems to accompany the gifts.
Saint Nicolas day is celebrated in some more European countries, each with their own traditions surrounding it. But I believe that in the Netherlands (and Belgium) it’s celebrated in the most elaborate way. It used to be the gift-giving holiday we had but Christmas is big nowadays too (we celebrate it without Santa though). Read more about Sinterklaas here.
From September till Sinterklaas the shops are filled with Sinterklaas related goodies like kruidnootjes (apple spice flavoured mini cookies), pepernoten (anise flavoured mini cookies), marzipan figures and fruit, gevuld speculaas (almond paste filled cookie), taai (anise flavoured cookies), fondant frogs and mice, banketstaven (puff pastry covered almond paste log), letters made of chocolate, chocolate coins and borstplaat (candy that is between fudge and fondant).
My inspiration for the meringue came from gevuld speculaas, a speculaas flavoured bar cookie (or you could even call it pie) filled with almond paste. I flavoured the meringue with speculaas spice mix (similar to apple spices) and filled them with marzipan butter. Making the butter turned out to be challenging. It was very hard to make a smooth butter. I tried processing it in a foodprocessor but that didn’t work well enough. After processing I tried pushing it through a sieve but again this didn’t work well enough. I would recommend using a passe-vite (which I unfortunately do not own). So my butter was not as smooth as I had pictured it but delicious in spite of it (or because of it?).
The meringue recipe was adapted from Coffee & bites (also called Cafe gourmet) by Susie Theodorou. It has delicious recipes and really pretty pictures. I used the recipe once before and I was very happy with the result. Unfortunately, this time they didn’t turn out as pretty looking as last time because they didn’t grow a lot in the oven. I’m not sure why but I think it was because the mixture didn’t cool down enough while I was whisking it. I used my standmixer but the bowl is covered with a lid when whisking, and therefor keeping the heat in instead of letting it out. Last time I believe I used a hand mixer. Here’s a picture of the way they were supposed to look 😉 How I miss the great lighting conditions I had in Israel….
I’d like to submit this recipe to Joyous Jumble Holiday Food Challenge even though a lot of Dutch people do celebrate this holiday. However, on a global level it is not celebrated a lot so in that sense I thought this would be a great way of promoting Sinterklaas 🙂 Read all about the Joyous Jumble Holiday Food Challenge on My bit of Earth…
150 g (5 oz) egg white
300 g (11 oz / 1 Â¾ cup) soft light brown sugar
2 Â½ ts speculaas spices (or apple pie spices)
Preheat the oven to 150Â°C (300Â°F). Line 3 baking sheets with baking paper.
Put the egg white, sugar and speculaas spices in a heat-proof bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the sugar dissolves (this will take a while and the mixture will become quite warm).
Take the bowl from the pan. Whisk the mixture with an electric mixer for about 15 minutes. Spoon the meringue onto the baking sheets, about 2 ts for one. Space them well apart.
Bake for 15 minutes, turn down the oven and leave in the oven overnight. Do not open the oven before!
60 g butter, cut into small cubes
60 g marzipan, cut into small cubes
Combine the butter and marzipan and make a paste using a passe-vite. Stir to combine.
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