The “pepernoot” is a small biscuit with a long history. It was originally linked to The Sinterklaas festival, which has been celebrated in the Netherlands since 1600. Peppernuts were still made from dough scraps from the relatively cheap gingerbread. Many people think that pepernoten and “kruidnootjes” are the same. This is not the case. The difference is in the structure and size of the cookie. The old Dutch peppernuts are large and are made from rye flour and anise.
The kruidnoot as we know it today originated in the seventeenth century. The kruidnoot is smaller, harder and has a deeper and sharper flavor than the peppernut. In addition, it has the shape of a half sphere. The kruidnoot is made from wheat flour and gingerbread spices. These are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger powder, cardamom and white pepper.
Cookie, candy or nut?
The peppernut dates from the time when the Dutch East India Company (VOC) got all kinds of spices from the Dutch East Indies. For the sake of convenience, people often called all spices “pepper”, including cinnamon and nutmeg. Pepper was therefore a collective name for everything that came from the East.
The word “nut” from gingerbread also comes from that time. In addition to herbs, nuts were also often transported. And the shape of the peppernut is a bit like that of almonds or other nuts. But the similarity is also in the way you eat real nuts and peppernuts. It is simply impossible to take only one, you’ll always grab a few at a time.
The peppernuts we eat today are mainly kruidnootjes and not pepernoten. However, the kruidnootjes are popularly still called peppernut.
The oldest known recipe for peppernuts is from the 16th century and describes peppernuts as:
“A kind of biscuit, baked from flour mixed with honey, sugar or syrup, larded with pepper and other seasonings”.
ThIS new, affluent Utrecht kitchen maid from 1771, talks about peppernuts with candied peel and African tail pepper. The real pepper disappeared from the ingredient list for the confectionery in the 18th century.
Scatter, no matter
Traditionally, peppernuts were scattered around the room, especially for the children. The origin of the scattering refers to the symbolism of fertility; a farmer who scatters seeds on his fields. This scattering is similar to throwing rice at a wedding or confetti at a party. Nowadays it is more common to hand over the peppernuts and let’s be honest, at least that is a lot easier and more hygienic.
In the past, peppernuts were mixed with coins, nowadays with candy. The scattering of coins comes from an old legend where Saint Nicholas met three young girls whose father could not afford the dowry. He forced his daughters into prostitution. Sint-Nicolaas then threw them a handful of coins, with which they could still pay their dowry.
In addition to the traditional Dutch cookies, there are now many over 30, tasty and sometimes strange variations devised to give our peppernuts an extra flavor. Visit the shops or the webshop of Peppernuts Amsterdam.
Taaipop. A what?
Taaitaai, and specifically a Taaipop, are typical Dutch cakes with origins in the Philippines, recognizable by its specific shape. Taaitaai is very similar in taste to gingerbread; however, it also has an anise flavor. This cookie is not brittle like gingerbread, but literally “chewy”.
Did you know that people in love used to make gingerbread dolls for their loved one around the beginning of December? If the other accepted the gingerbread man, you knew that the love was mutual. If you gave a girl a taaipop, the opposite was meant. This gesture was considered a form of mockery that was absolutely not appreciated by all!
Everything changes, even the Sinterklaas party. You used to have a complete Sinterklaas market on the Dam Square in Amsterdam. During much of the capital’s history, this event was the main part of the public celebration. The “Sinter Niclaesmarckt” lasted from the afternoon of December 5 until the late hours of December 6. They mainly sold delicacies, so probably our gingerbread cookies too ;). Plays were staged and boys and girls hosted and sang. Strict Calvinist regents regularly banned the “Roman” market after 1578, but with little result. The market did not really disappear until 1836, when the Dam was redeveloped again. Time for a revival?