Holland, Germany and Belgium all have very similar versions of this spiced biscuit, which is made for St Nicholas’ feast in early December. Fragrant with lovely spices and rich molasses, these biscuits can be stamped with an intricate design or cut into simple circles or squares.
250 grams butter
1 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups plain flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon sea salt
They are delicious on their own, or one of my particular favourites is sandwiching a big scoop of vanilla ice cream between two for dessert. Allow enough time for the dough to sit overnight and you’ll be rewarded with a mellow, spicy treat. They keep fresh for up to a week in an airtight container.
Preheat oven to 175˚C.
Beat the butter and sugar until pale and creamy. Add the egg, mixing well, then beat in the molasses and vanilla.
Sift the flour, baking powder and spices together and add to the butter mixture in three lots, combining well after each addition.
Separate into two pieces, flatten and wrap well in plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight to allow the spices to flavour the dough.
Working with one piece at a time, and keeping the second piece in the refrigerator, roll out on a well-floured board to 3½ mm thick. Working quickly, cut with a biscuit press or cutter to create the design of your choice. The dough is very hard to work with if allowed to become soft.
Place the biscuits on a lined baking tray and chill until firm again. Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden.
Cool before removing from the tray. Makes approximately 5 dozen biscuits depending on the size of your cutters.
We have iced some of the biscuits with white royal icing. Pre-made royal icing can be found in the baking section of supermarkets and food stores.