In the Netherlands the 5th of December is one of the most exciting days in the year for kids. On this day Sinterklaas comes by all children and gives them presents. It’s similar to Santa Claus with Christmas, but our Sinterklaas arrives in the country 3 weeks before the 5th of December and leaves after he’s giving all his presents on that day.
Of course, related to that are loads of snacks! Besides chocolates, ‘schuimpjes’ (some sort of soft meringues), pepernoten, marzipan (in all sorts of shapes) one of those snacks is ‘taaitaai’. Literally translated that means ‘tough tough’ and the name is quite right, it’s a pretty tough cookie, hard to bite through. But it’s just soft enough to be eaten properly with a nice anis seed flavour. It’s one of my favorite snacks this time of the year!
I had made pepernoten pretty often, but never tried taaitaai, so I decided to give it a go!
Since I had never made taaitaai (and actually had no idea what would have to go in there), I decided to start with a recipe from ‘De Banketbakker‘. I tried the recipe out twice, with only a few tricks, and it worked out well both times.
- 190g brown sugar
- 130g honey
- 100g water
- 230g flour, all purpose
- 200g rye flour, would not know whether you could replace this with another type, it is pretty specific
- ¼ tsp salt
- 2tsp baking powder, you can be generous with the amount
- 16 anis seeds, grind them down with a mortar, or use pre-grinded anis seed powder
- Bring honey, sugar and 80g of water to the boil.
- Take from the heat and mix in flours and salt. It will become a pretty tough mass.
- Leave to cool down, the recipe says for at least a day, but it also worked for me to leave to for four hours. Leaving it longer will improve moisture absorption by the flour, especially since there is only little moisture available. If you do not let it cool down you will run into ptrouble with your baking powder. It will start working before it actually should.
- Mix in the remaining water, the anis and baking powder. It might be pretty hard to knead this through, that is how it is supposed to be though. If you cannot manage, put the dough mixture in a pan on a low heat and heat it up just slightly. This will make it easier to work.
- Roll out on a flat surface, about 0,5-1 cm thick. Use plenty flour to prevent it from sticking.
- Place on a tray covered with baking paper. Cut into pieces, often taaitaai is made into nice shapes. I found out that placing the pieces very close to each other thus barely moving them after cutting) will make a more tender taaitaai.
- Bake in the oven at 210C for 12 minutes.
Exploring the recipe
You’ll find it’s not that hard to make taaitaai at all. Of course, I wanted to try to understand the recipe a little more. It starts with boiling the water, sugar and honey. I’m not entirely sure why you would have to boil it. One reason is probably to dissolve the sugar. However, since you take it from the heat as soon as it boils, I don’t think you try to evaporate any water.
Mixing the sugar mix with the flour can be done when it’s cold or when it’s hot. I mixed it when it’s hot, but that means that the flour will be gelatinizing and swelling up. I guess this might make it a little harder to mix, but I think that pre-swelling of the flour does help to limit the toughness of the taaitaai slightly.
You will find that the water content of taaitaai is pretty low (about 15%), it’s higher than for pepernoten (a crunchy cookie), but lower than for breads. Furthermore, there’s no fat in taaitaai, whereas fat can normally ‘soften’ things up. This is what makes the taaitaai a little tough and gives it its characteristic bite.
Have fun trying out this recipe, I would greatly recommend it!