Ultimate cookie series – 4 – crispy, crunchy pepernoten

Here in the Netherlands it is nearly Sinterklaas again, you might be asking yourselves, Sinterklaas, are you sure you don’t mean Santa Claus? But no, it’s sinterklaas, although I think sinterklaas and santa claus are somewhat related. Sinterklaas is a typical Dutch feast during which Sinterklaas, an old man, brings presents from Spain to all the Dutch kids. Just like with Christmas, there are a lot of food traditions linked to this event. Sinterklaas actually visits the Netherlands on the 5th of December, so after that we still have time enough to enjoy Christmas sweets.

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One of the characteristics sweets are pepernoten, literally translated ‘pepper nuts’. It’s a crunchy, crispy little round cookie. I decided it would be the next ‘victim’ in my route to finding the ultimate cookie! It’s pretty different from the ones I made before. It’s crunchy instead of chewy. Characteristic for these cookies is the spice mix used, I guess it’s similar to a pumpkin spice mix, but we call it ‘speculaas’ spices.

Crispy, crunchy pepernoten
Author:
Ingredients
  • 200g of flour
  • 100g of butter (cut in cubes)
  • 100g of brown sugar (bastersuiker in Dutch)
  • 2 tbsp of milk (30 ml)
  • 1¼ tsp of baking powder
  • 1 tbsp of spice mix (pumpkin spice / speculaas)
Instructions
  1. Knead all ingredients together
  2. Form into little balls
  3. Bake at 160C for 20 minutes

The recipe I used is one that we’ve used since I was a kid and it always makes jummy cookies. It’s from a magazine and I actually stored it on my computer to make sure I wouldn’t loose it. It’s just great to see this recipe still works great!

pepernotenrecept

It’s a very very easy recipe, it’s pretty hard to get this wrong actually. So that’s why I thought it would be a great addition to my ultimate cookie quest. It would be great if I could get something as simple as this recipe as a basis for a whole lot of other cookies.

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The pepernoten, just before they go into the oven, all being rolled out in nice round balls.

Analysis of the cookies

So, of course, since it’s part of my ultimate cookie series, we’ll need some analysis of the cookies.

First of all, the effect of baking powder. You can easily see the difference in size between the uncooked dough and the baked product. This is baking powder in action! You can see the small air bubbles in the cookie. The bubbles are evenly distributed.

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Freshly baked pepernoten!

Second of all, the crunch of the cookie, it’s nice and crispy, not chewy or soft, just like they’re supposed to be. About a week later I decided to make them again, this time I put them in the oven for 25 minutes instead of 20 and they came out even crunchier (and better). Most moisture had evaporated in those extra minutes.

So why do these turn out so different than the chewy cookies? Well, a main difference is that this cookie doesn’t contain any egg and contains a lot more fat (butter). This should give me some indication of where to go to for my ultimate cookie!

Another thing I’m trying to figure out is how to make a good comparison between the cookies. I’ve started an Excel sheet, but it’s not ideal yet. Trying to compare the percentages of flour, fat, liquid ingredients, etc. Let’s optimize my way of working while we go, let’s see where we get!

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Pepernoten, ready to eat!

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