It’s that time of year again to eat too many pepernoten, inhale speculaas cookies and gain a pound in chocolate: yup, Sinterklaas is in the country! I’ve been seeing the most delicious Sinterklaas bakes by fellow bloggers on Instagram (I swear I spend too much time on Instagram these days, I’m addicted..), amongst which a speculaas cream tart topped with traditional Sinterklaas treats (“strooigoed”) by Rutger Bakt, the first winner of Dutch Bake Off. I was thoroughly inspired and decided to bake my own version!
Speculaas spices, which are used in the pastry cream, are most delicious, a bit similar to pumpkin spice or mixed spice but slightly different. You can make your own blend, for example following this recipe. There are many variations to be found though, so find out which one suits your taste best! I find speculaas goes really well with chocolate, so I used cocoa powder in my pastry dough, but you can also use a vanilla version of the dough if preferred.
Strewn on top of this tart are traditional Sinterklaas treats, also known as “strooigoed” (throwing treats). Throwing, because Sinterklaas’s helpers, his “Petes”, are known to throw them at children when visiting schools or community centers. Yup, kids eat it off floors! I suppose it’s good for their immune systems, but I’m sure Americans would freak out over it. Don’t worry, no one ever died from eating a pepernoot off the floor 😉 You can bake your own pepernoten and cover them in chocolate, or buy sweets online or even at a specialty Dutch store. When you don’t feel like doing all that, the tart is delicious without the “strooigoed” as well and will give you sufficient cozy Saint Nicholas Eve feels. Best served with a steaming mug of hot chocolate!
Recipe Saint Nicholas Speculaas Tart
Tools: 35×11 cm tart tin (or tin with equivalent dimensions – you might have to do a bit of math!), baking beans, baking parchment, rolling pin, pastry brush, piping bag
Pâte Sucrée au Chocolat (Pastry Dough):
90 grams icing sugar
25 grams unsweetened cocoa powder
120 grams soft unsalted butter
2 grams salt
30 grams almond flour
210 grams plain or pastry flour
75 grams white chocolate, chopped
Speculaas Pastry Cream:
400 ml full-fat milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract or 1/2 seeds of a vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
100 grams castor sugar
40 grams flour
2 teaspoons speculaas spices
Sinterklaas treats/candy to taste
1. To make the pastry dough, sift icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl. Add butter, salt and almond flour and mix until well combined on low speed. Add egg, mix until incorporated. Add flour and knead or mix until just incorporated. Wrap dough in clingfilm and leave to chill for at least 1 hour.
2. In the meanwhile, make the pastry cream. Pour 375ml of the milk and the vanilla extract or seeds in a saucepan. In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients. Bring milk to a boil, pour into the other ingredients while continuously whisking. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and bring to a boil while whisking. Leave to cook for about 1 minute, then take off the heat and cover the top of the cream with clingfilm. Leave to cool.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/355F.
4. Grease the tart tin. Roll the chilled dough out into a rectangle large than the tin. You’ll have a bit of leftover pastry which you can use to make chocolate cookies or to make some smaller tarts, so don’t roll the pastry too thick. Cut the overhanging pastry away. Chill the pastry base for at least 30 minutes. Prick the bottom of the case all over with a fork. Line the base with baking parchment and fill with baking beans. Bake for 20 minutes, then take the baking beans and parchment out and bake for another 20-25 minutes. Leave to cool.
5. Melt 75 grams white chocolate au bain marie. Use a pastry brush to brush the whole pastry shell with white chocolate. This will keep the shell from going soggy. Leave to set (you can do this in the fridge.
6. Fill a piping bag with large round nozzle with the pastry cream. Stir the pastry cream first if it has gone very firm). Pipe the cream into the pastry shell. Top with Sinterklaas treats and candy. Best served on the same day. Enjoy!