St. Nicholas

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Traditional St. Nicholas Spice Cookies

Sinterklaas enjoying Speculaas
Postcard, Netherlands
St Nicholas Center Collection
Speculaas Koekjes (Dutch Spice Cookies)
Speculatius (German Spice Cookies) 
St. Nikolaus Speculatius (Kris Kringle) Cookies (German Spice Cookies)
Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernuts)
Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernut Cookies)
Pfeffernuesse (German Peppernuts)
Ciastka Miodowe (Polish Honey Cakes)
Janina's Piernik (Polish Honey Spice Cakes)
Luzern Lebkuchen (Swiss Bar Cookies)
Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cookies
Saint Nicholas Icon Cookies (molded with artos bread seal)
Gluten-free Speculoos (molded or stamped)
Vegan Speculaas for Nativity Lent (molded, stamped or cut-out)

Other Traditional St. Nicholas Cookies Updated!
Other St. Nicholas Cookies Updated!

Speculaas Koekjes (Dutch Spice Cookies)

Thirteen-year-old Lisa Jaarsma of Pella, Iowa, says, "I brought these cookies to the Marion County fair, where I received a top ribbon for them. From there they went to the Iowa State Fair where I received a blue ribbon and the special Meredith Award for them." Lisa adapted this recipe from one used by the first settlers of Pella. Lisa's father Ralph owns Pella's Jaarsma Bakery which features many traditional Dutch pastries. These cookies are usually formed in wooden cookie board molds, traditionally in the shape of St. Nicholas, they're often called "St. Nick" cookies.

18th Century Mold
St. Nicholas Cookie from 18th Century Mold
Historic Hudson Valley
2 cups brown sugar
1 ½ cups butter or hard margarine
3 ½–4+ cups flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp salt, scant
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon ginger

Cream butter and sugar. Add remaining ingredients and mix, adding enough flour to form a very stiff dough. Press well-chilled dough into cookie boards (flour mold well, press dough in with fingers, level it off, then turn the board over and bang one end on the counter so the cookie drops out).* Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350º F. for 10 to 12 minutes. Store in sealed container to retain crispness.

*To use with Rycraft Cookie Stamp: wipe stamp lightly with oil to help prevent sticking. Form dough into 1-inch balls, (roll in granulated sugar), place on ungreased cookie sheet, and stamp immediately. If design disappears, add more flour to dough. If dough begins to stick, brush particles from stamp and treat again with oil.

*Or shape into cylinder of desired size and chill thoroughly in covered container. Slice and bake as above. Makes six dozen this way.

Sources for St. Nicholas cookie boards and stamps

Adapted from Dutch Touches: Recipes and Traditions, compiled by Carol Van Klompenburg and Dorothy Crum, Penfield Press, 1966.
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Speculatius (German Spice Cookies)

Here is a recipe for a traditional Nicholas cookie that comes out of the Rhineland. The cookie is called "Speculatius" which means "image." In Europe, the "image" is the mirror-image of a Nicholas which had been pressed into a wooden mold and then turned out on a sheet to bake in the oven. As we don't have these molds, we roll out dough and use a cardboard pattern (about 7-inches tall) of a gingerbread bishop to cut around for the basic shape and everyone further decorates it as the imagination dictates.

The St Nicholas Center Shop has St Nicholas cookie cutters

Mix in order:

Speculatius
 
1 cup shortening
2 cups white sugar
4 eggs whole
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons cloves

Turn out onto a floured board. Knead in about one cup additional flour or as much as you need until dough is no longer sticky and is easy to handle.

Put into a plastic bag and refrigerate until chilled and stiff. Then you are ready to roll out and cut the cookies. Cut off a manageable piece and keep the rest cool until you are ready for more.

Austrian Cookie
Austrian Cookie
St Nicholas Center Collection

For many little cut-out shapes, roll out the dough thinly. Thin cookies are tastiest.

For the larger, decorated St. Nicholas cookies, roll the dough to about ¼ inch thickness. Cut out cookie around paper pattern. Place on greased baking sheet.Then get inspired. Use scrappy bits of dough to decorate your Nicholas. For a beard press a little dough through a sieve or a garlic press. Use little balls of dough for eyes or buttons.

The same dough lends itself to all sorts of shapes and symbols and is useful for making "St. Nicholas awards" to certain people on this special occasion.

Bake at 350º F. until golden-brown. These keep forever in tins in the freezer or for two–three weeks on the shelf.

Excerpt from To Dance With God: Family Ritual and Community Celebration by Gertrud Mueller Nelson, pp. 90,91. Copyright © 1986 Paulist Press. Used with permission. This comprehensive resource for family celebration has background on St. Nicholas and ideas for creating plays from St. Nicholas legends. It is a classic. Purchase from amazon.com, amazon.ca or amazon.uk.

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St Nikolaus Cookie

St. Nikolaus Speculatius cookie, German cutter

St. Nikolaus Speculatius (Kris Kringle) Cookies (German Spice Cookies)

Here is another variation of the European spice cookies so popular for St. Nicholas Day—this one has sour cream and finely chopped walnuts. This recipe is also given by Maria Trapp, of the Trapp Family Singers, in Around the Year with the Trapp Family. Makes a tasty thin, crisp cookie.

1 cup butter
1 cup shortening
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
½ cup dairy sour cream
4½ cups sifted all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Cream shortening and sugar; blend in sour cream. Mix and sift dry ingredients; add slowly to creamed mixture. (Do not use electric mixer if dough is too stiff.) Stir in walnuts. Divide into 4 portions; wrap each portion in aluminum foil; chill several hours or overnight. Work with one portion of dough at a time, leaving the others in the refrigerator. Roll out very thin, cut with St. Nicholas cutters. Bake at 350º for 10 minutes. (Roll scraps into a ball; refrigerate briefly before re-rolling.) Frost and decorate as desired.

From The Cook's Blessings: A unique cookbook based on the social and religious traditions of the Catholic world and including recipes and menus for holidays, holy days, and special occasions by Demetria Taylor, Random House (copyright © The Catholic Digest), 1965. Permission pending.

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Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernuts)

Pepernoten
Pepernoten

In Holland St. Nicholas visits the children on December 5 accompanied by his faithful helper "Black Peter." He, or a black gloved hand, distributes the peppernoten to the children by throwing them through the door before the arrival of St. Nicholas.

2½ cups (300 g) flour
1½ teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup (75 g) brown sugar
1 egg yolk
4 tablespoons water
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
pinch of salt
¼ teaspoon anise seeds optional

Knead all ingredients into a soft ball. Butter two baking sheets. Form about 50 marble-sized balls. Place them on the two sheets, so that they are the same distance from each other. Flatten each ball slightly.

Bake at 350º F. (175º C) 20 minutes or until done. The cookies will be very hard, but they will get softer as they get older.

Makes about 50 peppernuts.

From Cooking with the Saints: An Illustrated Treasury of Authentic Recipes Old and Modern by Ernst Schuegraf. Copyright © 2001 Ignatius Press. Used by permission.

A beautiful collection with a bit of background and recipes related to seventy-three saints.
Purchase from amazon.com, amazon.ca or amazon.uk.

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Pepernoten (Dutch Peppernut Cookies)

These are the cookies tossed in the door on Sinterklaas Eve

2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white pepper
Dash cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
2 tablespoons finely cut citron
2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup confectioner's sugar
2 eggs separated (beat egg whites stiffly)
Powdered sugar

Mix flour, soda, salt, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, orange rind, citron, and lemon rind. Cream butter and sugar. Beat egg yolks well and add to butter and sugar mixture, beating until creamy. Stir in gradually the flour mixture. Combine with stiffly beaten egg whites and gently blend all ingredients. Refrigerate dough refrigerated 1 hour and let stand overnight at room temperature. Roll out dough about ½-inch thick and cut into small circles. Place on buttered cookie sheet and bake about 20 minutes at 300º. Immediately as taking out of the oven, sprinkle cookies with powdered sugar.

From Festive Recipes and Festival Menus by Sula Benet, Abelard-Schuman, 1970, p. 83.

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German Peppernuts
German Peppernuts  

Pfeffernuesse (German Peppernuts)

For the Feast of St. Nicholas

COOKIES

1 ½ cups honey
¼ cup shortening
1 egg
4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground allspice
¾ teaspoon ground cardamon seed
¼ teaspoon pepper (optional)
¼ teaspoon ground anise seed

FROSTING

2 unbeaten egg whites, for safety's sake use pasturized egg whites
1 tablespoon strained honey
¼ teaspoon ground cardamon seed
2 cups confectioners' sugar
½ teaspoon ground anise seed

ONE (Cookies)
Heat honey (do not boil) in saucepan large enough to mix entire dough. Add shortening. Cool. Beat in egg. Sift remaining ingredients together, gradually stirring into honey mixture. Reserve 35 minutes to stiffen. Shape into 1-inch balls. Bake on lightly greased baking sheets 13–15 minutes at 350º.

TWO (Frosting)
Combine egg whites, honey, spices in 1-quart mixing bowl. Add confectioners' sugar, gradually. Place 12 to 14 Pfeffernuesse at a time in a smaller bowl with 2 tablespoons of icing. Stir Pfeffernuesse to coat all sides. Repeat. Place to cool on wire rack. Store in tightly closed container. Yield, 6–7 dozen

From The Catholic Cook Book: Traditional Feast and Fast Day Recipes by William I. Kaufman. The Citadel Press, 1965.

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Ciastka Miodowe (Polish Honey Cakes)

Ciastka Miodowe
Ciastka Miodowe

In Poland if there is a red sunset on Saint Nicholas' Day, it is because the angels are busily baking the Saint's Honey Cakes.

½ cup honey
½ cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmet
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ginger
50 blanched almond halves

Warm the honey slightly and combine with the sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Sift the flour with the soda and spices and stir into the honey batter thoroughly. Let the dough rest overnight. Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness; cut out with a round cooky cutter. Brush with the slightly beaten white of an egg, press half a blanched almond into each cooky and bake at 375º F., for about fifteen minutes.

From Feast Day Cookbook by Kaherine Burton & Helmut Ripperger, David McKay Company, 1951

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Janina's Piernik (Polish Honey Spice Cakes)

St. Nicholas Honeycake Pattern
St. Nicholas Honeycake Pattern
For larger pattern, click picture

Our shop has cutters for these cookies

Imagine baking this piernik on a day when fasting and abstinence was the order of the day just as it had been for many days before, and for more to come. The tantalizing aroma of its baking was so tempting that it was indeed a punishment not even to be able to lick the spoon or the bowl! Grandmother was there! She sat fingering her rosary watching every move one might make.

5 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

Melt one tablespoon sugar in large skillet and allow to caramelize. Pour in one fourth cup water, allow to boil. Add rest of sugar. When sugar has dissolved, add honey and spices. Allow to come to boil. Let cool. Sift flour. Put aside one cup with which to flour the board. Add to the caramelized sugar, butter, the eggs, flour, baking soda and cream of tartar. Knead very well, adding more flour to make elastic dough. Refrigerate dough for thirty minutes. Roll out on floured board and make favorite cut outs. Bake at 350º for 15 minutes.

From Treasured Polish Christmas Customs and Traditions, The Polanie Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 1972.

To make St. Nicholas honey cakes, cut the pattern out of posterboard. Put it on the dough and press into place. Carefully cut out the shape with a sharp knife. Or use a cutter from our shop. Decorate (as shown on the pattern) with decorator's icing. Pattern from Christmas Ornaments . . . Polish Style by Lawrence G. Kozlowski, 1988.

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Ukrainian Christmas Honey Cookies

These Ukrainian Christmas cookies are a perennial favorite. They may be cut into rounds, stars, or crescents. Often they are hung on the lower branches of the Christmas tree as treats for the younger children.

Byzantine bishop cookie cutters are available in our shop

4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 extra large eggs
1 cup honey
2 tablespoons chopped orange peelv 1 egg beaten with a little water for glaze
20 blanched almonds (without skin) (optional)
Coarse sugar crystals or decorating frosting

Sift together flour, spices, confectioners sugar, and baking powder. Add eggs, honey, and orange peel; mix to make a stiff dough. On a floured work surface, roll out dough about ¼+ inch thick. Cut shapes with cookie cutter, place on non-stick baking sheet, and brush with glaze. If not decorating with frosting, a ½ almond may be placed in the middle of each cookie, then sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake in preheated 350º oven until done, about 15 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in tightly covered tins.

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Gluten-free Speculoos

Cookies may be made in a mold, stamped with a cookie stamp, or rolled and cut-out with cookie cutters. They are gluten-free and egg-free.

3 cups Gluten-free flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon allspice, optional
¼ teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) salted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons water

Sift together flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside. Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add almond extract. Add dry ingredients and mix until blended, dough will be crumbly. Add water to make dough workable. If too soft, shape into log, wrap in plastic and chill (as the dough has butter, if it chills too long it will become rock hard and need to warm to soften).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees, grease cookie sheets.
Flour mold well and tap to remove extra flour. Take a piece of dough and work it into the mold with your fingers. If the mold is deep enough, excess dough may be removed with a knife, cutting down the length of the mold. If the mold is quite shallow, just cut off any dough that mounds up too high. With your fingers lightly pull dough inward slightly from the design edges. Turn the mold over and bang one end on wax paper to release the cookie. Carefully transfer cookie to baking sheet with a metal spatula. Flour mold before shaping each cookie.

Or, use a cookie stamp to make cookies.
Bake for 12 minutes.

Adapted from No Gluten, No Problem.

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Vegan Speculaas for Nativity Lent

Lemon zest makes these cookies extra special. Dough may be molded, stamped or rolled and cut-out. Be careful not to bake too long, though crisp is tastier than soft.

Molded cookie

Stamped cookies Vegan Speculaas, molded and stamped
1 cup non dairy margarine, such as Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs equivalent, such as Ener-G Egg Replacer, following instructions
3 tablespoons water (in addition to egg replacer liquid) Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350º. Cream margarine and sugar until fluffy. Stir in egg replacer, water and lemon zest. Mix dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture. If dough is too soft to work, chill briefly. I found it easier to work without chilling.

If using a cookie board mold: Throughly flour mold, bang upside down to remove excess flour. Work dough into mold, keeping thickness even. Make sure dough doesn't extend past edge, carefully push dough edges toward cookie so it will release easily. Over waxed paper, firmly bang one end of mold on surface. Dough should release. With a thin metal spatula, transfer to lightly greased baking sheet.

To make cut-out cookies: roll dough 1/8–1/4-inch thick (this is easiest to do on a floured pastry cloth with a rolling pin cover). Place cut-outs on lightly greased baking sheet.

Bake molded cookies 12–15 minutes, until lightly browned. Stamped cookies 10–12 minutes. Cut-out cookies, time depends on thickness. Cool on rack.

Adapted from Festal Celebrations' Gallery.

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Dandoy St. Nicolas Speculoos booklet, with recipe

LINKS

Recipe for Speculaas and Springerle cookies with tips for using HOBI Picture Cookie Molds by Gene Wilson

An interesting site with recipes (including Taai Taai from the Netherlands and many other hard-to-find recipes for molded cookies from other countries) as well as information about wooden cookie and cake molds—with many beautiful pictures of cookie boards.

For lots of information on the history of spiced gingerbread cookies and Christmas, and recipes

St. Nicholas cookie cutters are available in our shop


Baking with Cookie Molds: Secrets and Recipes for Making Amazing Handcrafted Cookies for Your Christmas, Holiday, Wedding, Party, Swap, Exchange, or Everyday Treat by Anne L. Watson, Shepard Publications, 2010.

After having difficulty making molded cookies, the author developed techniques to help others achieve success using cookie molds. History of molded cookies and much information on mold types is included, along with the discovery that adjusting recipes to use one-half liquid sweeterner like honey makes molding easier. The book is divided into three "classes"—the first introductory class gives instruction for preparing molds, a simple recipe and common molds. The second includes other kinds of molds, many recipes from a variety of places and traditions. The last advanced section tells how to make cookie sandwiches, back cookies with chocolate, and more. The book has the answer to nearly every cookie molding question.

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More recipes and information from Anne Watson

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