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10 Dutch Holiday Treats

Sweeten Up Sinterklaas, Christmas and New Year's with these Traditional Sweets


The feast days in the Netherlands are dominated by sweet treats and cookies that contain ingredients like spices, white flour, dried fruit, almonds and sugar. In days gone by, these goodies used to be extremely expensive, which is why their use was reserved for special holidays and parties. Nowadays, of course, we tend to eat speculaas year-round, but there are still some treats, like kruidnoten, advocaat and bischopswijn that are only enjoyed during the festive season. Here are 10 of our favorite festive recipes (in no particular order):

1. Advocaat

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

Advocaat is a creamy yellow liqueur made from a rich blend of egg yolks, sugar, brandy and a touch of vanilla. The Netherlands exports this drink to over 50 countries, but, shhhh, it’s really easy to make your own at home.

2. Appelbeignets

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
These fritters are like a cross between apple pie and donuts: the outside golden brown and crispy, and the apple on the inside just cooked, while still retaining some bite. They are traditionally served at New Year's Eve celebrations in the Netherlands, just before all those New Year's diet resolutions kick in. So tuck in while you have a chance.

3. Banketstaaf

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
The 'banketstaaf' is a traditional Dutch pastry, served at Christmas time. Flaky puff pastry, decorated with cheery glace cherries, encases a soft, flavorful almond paste center.

4. Bischopswijn (Bishop's Wine)

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
Sinterklaas favorite, Bishop's wine, a medley of red wine, oranges, lemon and spices, will warm you up after a bracing walk on a cold December day.

5. Jan Hagel Cookies

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
These cookies with their hint of cinnamon, almond slivers and candied sugar are traditionally eaten at Christmas time in Holland. They can be cut into squares, rectangles or diamond shapes, but I actually really like cutting them into fingers to serve with ice cream, mousse or sabayon, or in fact, with a good old cuppa coffee.

6. Kerstkransjes (Christmas Wreath Cookies)

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
These Dutch Kerstfeest (Christmas) cookies, called 'kerstkransjes' in Dutch, are used to decorate the Christmas tree. However, if you think they are just pretty to look at, you are in for a treat. They taste fantastic too.

7. Kerststol (Dutch Christmas Bread)

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
This recipe for fruited bread with a sweet almond paste center is a real winner for the holidays. I have updated the traditional recipe, using cranberries and orange liqueur instead of the usual raisins, currants and brandy. But please feel free to stick to the traditional version.

8. Kruidnoten (Ginger Nuts)

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

The little sister of speculaas, kruidnoten are tiny rounded cookies eaten at Sinterklaas. They're spiced with ginger, cinnamon, white pepper, cardamom, cloves and nutmeg. New varieties include chocolate-covered kruidnoten, truffle kruidnoten and yoghurt kruidnoten.

9. Old-Fashioned Oliebollen (Dutch Donuts)

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht
Traditional 'oliebollen' have often been called the precursor of the donut, that favorite anytime-anywhere snack of the American masses, and it seems very probable that early Dutch settlers took this tradition over to the New World. In Holland, however, they are pretty much a seasonal treat to celebrate the Dutch New Year

10. Spicy Speculaas Cookies

Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

These delicious Dutch cinnamon-ginger cookies are traditionally eaten at Sinterklaas. Because commercial versions are often windmill shaped, they are also known as Windmill Cookies abroad, but these cookies actually come in a variety of shapes, such as figurines, angels and animals. Filled varieties, such as the speculaasstaaf and gevulde speculaas cookies, are also very popular.

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