For most children in The Netherlands, the most important day during December is today, December 5th, when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them their presents. St. Nicholas' day is on the 6th December, but in The Netherlands, the major celebrations are held on the 5th of December.
It all starts on the second Saturday of November when Sinterklaas travels to a city or town in The Netherlands. Dutch tradition says that St. Nicholas lives in Madrid, Spain and every year he chooses a different harbour to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. When Sinterklaas comes ashore from the steam boat, all of the local church bells ring in celebration. Sinterklaas, dressed in his red robes, leads a procession through the town, riding a white horse. Every town in The Netherlands has a few Sinterklaas helpers, dressed the same as Sinterklaas who help give the presents out.
The evening of December 5th is called "St. Nicholas’ Eve" or „Sinterklaasavond“. Sinterklaas parties are often held on St. Nicholas' Eve with many special treats and sweets. One type of cookie that is eaten at the parties are Dutch Spice Nuts or „Kruidnoten“ (my recipe can be found here), with lots of warm spices. In order to celebrate Sinterklass in style, I am posting a recipe for a „Speculaas Apple Tart“ today, combining the elements of the famous Dutch Speculaas cookies, the almond paste (amandelspijs) and apples - enjoy!
Speculaas-Apple-Tart for Sinterklass
- 200 g self-raising flour (if you cannot get self-rising flour, you can mix the flour with 1 ½ tsp baking instead)
- 150 g dark brown sugar (such as the Dutch donkerbruine basterdsuiker or Billington's unrefined dark Muscovado sugar)
- 1 ½ tbsps speculaaskruiden or Speculaas Spice Mix (my recipe can be found here and here)
- a pinch of fine sea salt
- 150 g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- 3 medium winter baking apples (preferably a local variety)
- 250 g amandelspijs or Almond Paste (my recipe can be found here)
- 15 g slithered almonds
- 3 tbsps. clear apple jelly (preferably homemade)
- a baking pan or tart pan with removable bottom 24 cm (9.5 inches)
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, speculaas spice mix and the salt.
- Add the butter to the flour mixture – if you think that your dough does not hold together well, you can add one or two tablespoons of cold water.
- Wrap your dough in food wrap and place in the fridge for a good hour.
- Prepare your baking pan – butter and flour and shake out the excess flour. If you prefer, you can line the bottom of your baking pan with parchment paper.
- Take the dough out ot the fridge and roll out on a well-floured work surface.
- Fit the dough into your prepared baking pan.
- Pre-heat your oven to 175 °C (345°F).
- Peel the apples, cut in quarters and core and cut each quarter into thin slices.
- Line the dough with the amandelspijs (almond paste) and place the apple slices on top.
- Bake the tart for 40 to 45 minutes.
- Transfer to a cooling rack and heat the apple jelly. Brush the apple jelly over the tart and top with slithered almonds.
- Enjoy warm or at room temperature – if wrapped well, tart keeps for a day or two.
Whether you are celebrating Sinterclaas today or not, you should really give this Speculaas-Apple-Tart a try – it is sensational. It combines such wonderful flavors as the Speculaas spices, the almond paste and wonderful winter apples in the most delicious of ways – you could not ask for a better way to celebrate the arrival of St.Nicholas!
Een fijne sinterklaas!
Please make sure to drop by again tomorrow when we will open our sixth special surprise in my virtual Advent Calendar! You will be in for another treat!