|Courtesy of Sint.nl|
Children that have been naugthy will be put in the, now empty, gift bag and taken to Madrid in Spain, where Sinterklaas lives the rest of the year. What happens to them there is unknown. Many a smart alec will try to trump Sint and say that he'll be glad to go to Spain: the weather is nice year round and he wouldn't have to share a room with his sister.
I honestly don't know why we believed such drivel as children: any kid will at one point in time wonder how the horse gets up on the roof, much less stay there, how Black Pete can climb down the gas furnace, get all your stuff and then make it back up again without leaving any kind of charred evidence, why Sinterklaas bothers to travel all the way from Madrid on a steamboat and doesn't take an airplane like everybody else (and even more, how does he do it, since there is no direct waterway connected to the ocean from there) and why Sinterklaas looks and sounds so much like Uncle Steve. It must be because, eventually, we figured out that the adults amuse themselves so much with the anticipation, the hiding of the presents and the playing of Sinterklaas, that as a child, you don't have the heart to tell 'm that they're insulting your intelligence. You''ll play along as long as you get what you asked for. And you know you will, because it's been weeks since you found the wrapped gifts hidden away in the hall closet and you've undone one corner of each package to see what you were getting. Score!
In the meantime, grandma and granda sit back on the couch, drink a cup of hot chocolate or something stronger, and help themselves to another slice of gevulde speculaas. It's the traditional baked good for these festive days and although it is pretty much available year round, it still seems to trigger that Sinterklaas-feeling around this time of year.
For the dough
2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
1 stick and 2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons milk
1 egg yolk
For the filling*
1 cup of almonds, whole
1 cup of powdered sugar, packed
1 egg, separated
1 tablespoon of almond flavoring
Pour two cups of boiling water over the almonds and let them sit for about fifteen minutes. Rinse the nuts with cold water, and slip off the brown skin. Save twelve half almonds for decorating. Put the almonds in a blender and pulse several times until they have a wet sand consistency, that should take only a few pulses. Place the almond meal in a bowl, stir in the sugar, the egg white and the almond extract. You should have a creamy, spreadable consistency. If not, add in a little bit of the yolk (beat it first) at a time until you do. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Mix the flour, the speculaas spices, the sugar and salt. Cut in the butter with two knives until the butter is reduced to pebbles and the flour feels like wet sand. Add the milk and the egg yolk and knead the dough until it comes together. Pat into ball, wrap in plastic film and refrigerate for several hours, preferably overnight.
Brush with the remaining egg yolk, place the 12 almond halves on the pie and bake at 325F for about 35 minutes until done. Let it cool before taking it out of the spring form, then carefully slice into 12 pieces and serve.