The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Rudolph's antlers: Pepernoten versus Kruidnoten

freerk's picture

Rudolph's antlers: Pepernoten versus Kruidnoten

Rudolph's antlers; Pepernoten versus kruidnoten

Each year, here up North,
a man comes forth from Spain.
Train nor plane he uses;
a boat is what he chooses,
as well as a white horse,
and (to make matters worse)
travels together with guys
(I tell you no lies)
who paint their faces…

The Dutch embrace it all
and make their way to the mall
to shop till they drop
and return home with many a gift,
that plenty a spirit will lift.

Does this tradition ring a bell?
Well, maybe if you hear his name
your X-masses will never be the same;

Sinterklaas is what he's called...

Please don't be too appalled
Dear Santa and elves
When you see yourselves
reflected in this feast
that is politically incorrect to say the least.

For Sinterklaas - indeed- is the reason why
A guy who goes "ho ho" stops by
on your shores; his boat is now a sled,
the horse became reindeer with noses red.
All devoid of that annoyed
"black Pete", made obsolete by elves
who can show themselves
without any accidental tourist dropping jaws
'cause they see their Santa Claus
fretting in such an anachronistic setting.

Here in the old world, tradition reigns
and black Pete, alas, remains...
However racist it may seem;
rest assured the theme
at the root of all of this, is equal
and Santa is just a better sequel
to a storm of giving and sharing,
so let that be your bearing!
Give and share, share and give,
and live a full life void of strife!

Rudolph's antlers

There are many traditional baking goods associated with Sinterklaas. Butter fondant, chocolate letters, chocolate fondant frogs and mice (nobody seems to know where they came from) and pepernoten. There are three varieties of them floating around, going from rather chewy and lebkuchen-like, to crunchy and easy to eat. The traditional pepernoot is right in the middle and made with harshorn salt (yes, we use Rudolf's antlers to make cookies). This is the king of all rising agents when it comes to strength.

Since baking with hartshorn salt involves a chemical reaction to cause your kitchen to smell like ammonia for about a minute during the bake, many people are a bit wary to use it. Rest assured that there is no harm done; open your kitchen window to get rid of this volatile gas even faster. No traces of it will be left in the pepernoten. For those interested in trying it; King Arthur sells Hartshorn salt as "baker's ammonia" on their site.

Here's the video recipe.

Traditional Pepernoten (big batch)

1 kg. all purpose flour
500 gr. honey
300 gr. sugar
3 eggs
15 gr. hartshorn salt
1½ ts cinnamon
¾ ts cloves
1 ts white pepper
pinch of:
all spice
100 gr. confectioners sugar
a little water.


Warm the honey on a low heat together with the sugar, the eggs, hartshorn salt and all the spices, untill the sugar has melted. Mix well. Sift through the flour in parts and mix well until the stiff dough comes together (be careful not to wreck your KitchenAid on this dough!).

Preheat the oven to 190° C and grease two sheet pans. Form 2 cm balls out of the dough, place them on the sheet pan, keeping enough space between them (at least 1 cm). Bake the pepernoten for about 15- 20 minutes in the middle rack of your oven until golden brown.

Right after baking let them cool on a rack. Bring some confectioners sugar diluted in a little water to the boil, mix until smooth and brush the pepernoten with it to give them a nice finish.

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whosinthekitchen's picture

Happy Holidays! (and Baking)

Freerk, I love your BreadLab, videos and all.

The video for the pepernoten is a great help.  My first batch formed cookies a bit smaller than a vanilla wafer we get here in the states.  When I delivered them this morning, my firend, Jack, commented, " The ones I had as a kid are round." That's when I understood he meant round as in sphere which yours are almost.

Hartshorn!  I have some in my spice cabinet!

I hoped to make my second trial recipe today but alas, interuptions whittled away at my time. Tio of the list for tomorrow!

Thanks for pinging in.  Good to hear from you and best of luck with your Bread Lab venture.


freerk's picture

Good that I picked up the thread! And it sounds like I can be of some help here, that's always nice :-)

Thanks for your compliments regarding BreadLab. I'm happily trotting along for now, creating content and attracting some attention, and that is going quite well. Locally this has  resulted in some nice contacts, and the "business plan" is coming together.

The hartshorn salt is perfect for a tough dough like pepernoten. When mastered well, you will end up with a crunchy to chewy (depending on your taste) cookie  with an extra boost the hartshorn manages to give off when it is activated.

Keep me posted on what is happening with those pepernoten/pfeffernusse! ;-)



Janetcook's picture


Loved the poem :-)

Love your video...

These are tempting...

Take Care,


freerk's picture

Always glad to tempt a fellow baker! Thank you for your kind words Janet. Just give in!


EvaB's picture

in the small batch recipe in the video (which was hard to catch and I had to replay the video half a dozen times) it says Speculas spice I take it this is a mixed spice, do you have the ingredients or can I just use cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg to make it. I am not a clove fan, so usually leave out that, but if it should be in the mix, do say so!


freerk's picture

Hey Eva,


Sorry to hear I had you hitting the replay button!

Here is a mixing formula for speculaas spice mix

30 g cinnamon
10 g cloves
10 g nutmeg
5 g white pepper
5 g aniseed
5 g corianderseed

If you leave out the cloves, it could very well be substituted for ginger, although I would not put 10 gr. in there, probably more like 5 to keep a "speculaas-like" balance in the taste. Half cloves half ginger perhaps?

EvaB's picture

Oh I didn't mind replaying the video several times, but the problem was I'd get so caught up in the video I'd miss half of the next ingredient! But it certainly looks simple enough either dough, so will try some.

And thank you for the spice mix, I certainly will try it with the cloves first, and see if I can find a speculas recipe to use it in, probably have one in the stacks of printed off recipes around here, as I know the name sounds very familiar and I looked for cookie recipes a year or so ago. I'm pretty sure the recipe had a mix for the spices but it wasn't as many as your mix, so maybe yours will be better, since I'm pretty sure it also has less cloves than the mix I remember. Because I was thinking they should just call it clove cookies!

freerk's picture

I'm not a big fan of cloves myself, but never really am bothered with it in the speculaas mix :-) hope you will like it as well :-)

EvaB's picture

overpowering the rest of the dish, but things like clove flavoured candy (makes me feel ill just to think about it) which was always, always in the Christmas candy mix and I always got one, or things that only have cloves and an overabundance of them just make me shudder.

I actually got a punch recipe the other day that had a bit of cloves in it, and it wasn't bad, and in fact would have had more, it was a taste in the store thing, and they had little booklets of recipes (of course you are supposed to use the stores products for the recipes) so it was a nice blend of spices.

In things like cake or cookies I really do prefer to have nutmeg, but its all what you grow up with I think. I had a very sensitive palate when I was a kid and many things I wouldn't eat then I don't mind now, but clove candies are not one. I can eat cinnamon (which was right up there with cloves) but the strong clove candy is not something I can eat. My dear husband loves whole clove studded ham and eats the cloves (shudderign wildly here) I don't mind the bit of clove taste in the ham, but eat a whole clove UGH!!!

proth5's picture

culture involves a guy call the Bellsnickle (many spellings) who is not exactly the image ot the jolly old elf we conjure drinking a Coca Cola by the fireplace... Part of the long hard run to the solstice involves the baking of cookies with another odd leavening ingredient - salts of tartar - or potassium carbonate - which used to be available in every drugstore, but is now very difficult to obtain.  They aren't the same without it.

Interesting how these odd ingredients persist in the baking traditions of the Northen Europeans.  I think of this from time to time.

And just about three months left to go until Europain  - Looks like Team Netherlands is baking on Tuesday.  See you there!


freerk's picture

The Bellsnickle!

He tries to look friendly....

Would cream of tartar be the same stuff? I've come across some recipes for lebkuchen like cookies that uses a mix of baking powder and cream of tartar.

I think the reason why those strong rising agents persist here is that the baking goods they are used for are still going very strong with the public (every Dutch eats 500 gr. of pepernoten per year, basically in the last two months of the year) . And they do a very effective albeit stinky job!

The industry uses hartshorn salt like never before, and here, as well, it is difficult to obtain for home bakers. I was  amazed to learn that King Arthur Flour has it in stock! I needed to turn this city upside down and ended up buying it at.... an artists supply store, can you imagine.

I'm really looking forward to Europain! See you there indeed.


proth5's picture

is not nearly the same thing - it is acidic while salts of tartar are alkaline.  Wish it was the same, though.  I'd tell the story of what I did to get salts of tartar - but not in writing.... :>)

freerk's picture

You will have to tell me the story in March then, and I'll just need to be patient :-) Knowing how they (used to) get the hartshorn, my imagination will have ample time to run wild on wondering what other poor animal's extremities can be abused for the sake of our homely baking!

ww's picture

did you make that poem up? how funny:)

and how i wish i could reach out and grab a handful of those rudolf's antlers. I love the Scandinavian spiced biscuits/bread. Speculoos (do you know they have that in a spread?) and biscotti being my two favourite things with coffee.

Thanks for the recipe freerk. Now i have your pretty Reine Mother/MIL bread, your cinnamon buns and this on my list! (altho this one will have to wait for the eventual day when i can get hold of those intriguing salts).

freerk's picture

Yes, I have the speculoos spread right here in the cupboard. Since not too long ago, they have decided it is time to make chocolate speculoos sprinkles as well. I tried those, but they were a bit chemical... which was a pity 'cause I like anything speculoos, really :-) You could try to replace the hartshorn with good old trusted baking powder or baking soda, I hear reports that it works with this heavy dough as well, although my guess is they will come out slightly less crunchy and airy.

And yes, I rhymed the whole thing, because the tradition of Sinterklaas involves making poems that go with your gift.

have a great weekend