The feast day of St Nicholas, the man behind the story of Santa Claus, is the 6th of December (tomorrow) but in Holland, where my mum’s family is from, they celebrate Christmas on the 5th. (That’s today, in case you were still figuring that out.) I wanted to share a recipe for speculaas, a Dutch spiced cookie, but unfortunately I haven’t yet gotten around to making them so you’ll have to wait a little longer.
St Nicholas was brought up in a rich Christian family, in the third century in what is now Turkey. His parents died when he was young and he used his inheritance to help the poor, sick and needy. He devoted his life to God and became Bishop of Myra while still a young man. He was persecuted for his faith and imprisoned.
There are many stories of the generosity and life of St Nick but the one I heard growing up goes like this. There was a poor man who had three daughters. In those days, a dowry was needed if a young woman wanted to get married. The three young ladies had suitors but no money, and so were destined for a life of slavery.
On a cold winters’ night, after the household was asleep, St Nicholas tossed a bag of gold coins in through the window and it landed in the eldest daughter’s stocking, hanging by the fire to dry. The next morning when she woke she was ecstatic to find the money and a way out of poverty for her family. On the next two nights, the same thing happened for her sisters, and they were able to look after their father into his old age. They never found out who their mysterious benefactor was but they forever included him in their prayers.
We don’t all have the resources St Nick had but we all have the capacity for generosity. We all have the ability to do something good for other people, whether we use our time, money or talents. Christmas tends to bring out the good in people, the longing for others to enjoy what we ourselves do. Christmas is for giving.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from Leite’s Culinaria
360 g cake flour
360 g bread flour
2 tsp baking soda
2 1/4 tsp baking powder
2 1/4 tsp kosher salt (2 1/2 tsp if not using kosher)
425 g unsalted butter
425 g brown sugar
340 g white sugar
3 tsp vanilla extract
750 g chocolate, cut in chunks (I used 500 g dark chocolate [70%] and 250 g milk chocolate [35%])
Sift the flours with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter and the sugars until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes on medium speed in an electric mixer, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.
While still on medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl again.
On low speed, gradually add the dry ingredients. Fold in the chocolate chunks (you may need to use your hands/a spatula for this one). Wrap dough in cling wrap and refrigerate at least 24 hours. (You can bake a couple straight away if you really want to 🙂
Preheat oven to 350°Fahrenheit or 180°Celsius. Shape the dough into golf-sized balls and space about an inch and a half apart on the tray (using an ice cream or cookie scoop makes this part easier). Refrigerate the trays again if needed – the dough should be chilled when it goes in the oven – and bake 15-18 minutes.
Cool 5 minutes on the tray and then remove to a cooling rack or your mouth.