Nancy Leson urges bakers to use freshly ground spices for best effect.
In The Netherlands, speculaas koekjes celebrate the arrival of “Sinterklaas” — that’s Jolly Old St. Nick to you. I found this classic cookie recipe tucked into a collection of ephemera, part of a 1978 correspondence between the late California cookbook author Violet Schafer (whose family lived in Seattle) and Wilma Eppinga, then owner of House of Holland in Seattle Center’s International Bazaar.
Schafer wrote looking for a wooden cookie mold in the shape of a Dutch doll. Eppinga (now a homemaker in Carnation) sent her one, along with a handwritten recipe signed “Happy Baking!”
I happily re-create Eppinga’s crisp, buttery cookies year-round, and urge you to use freshly ground spices for best effect.
— Nancy Leson
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Wilma Eppinga’s Speculaas Koekjes
(Dutch spice cookies)
Makes about 6 dozen
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
3 tablespoons whole milk
3 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon table salt
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
1 ½ teaspoons ground cloves
¾ teaspoon ground (or grated) nutmeg
1 ¼ cups unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup sliced almonds
1. In a small bowl, combine the sugar and milk; stir until smooth.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour with the baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and nutmeg, then add the butter, blending until mixture is like cornmeal.
3. Add the sugar mixture and almonds to the flour mixture and blend thoroughly. Using your hands, shape the dough into a ball, slice it in two and flatten into disks. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled (at least an hour, though the flavors meld better if left overnight).
4. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to ¼ inch thickness and use a (floured) 2- to 3-inch cookie cutter to make shapes. Place on greased cookie sheet (or use parchment or a silicone mat). Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes until browned. Cool on rack to crisp.