Sint Maarten Wafels

November 11th is an important date in Holland. For children, it marks St. Maarten's day, the day kids venture out in the evening carrying small candles in paper lanterns to sing songs at neighbors' doors and get candy or fruit in return. For the grownups, "the eleventh of the eleventh" at 11:11am initiates the beginning of the famous Carnaval season. It is the day that the new Prince Carnaval is elected, who in turn announces his "adjudant" or helper, and the "Raad van Elf", the eleven organizers who will be tasked with setting up parties, parades and ofcourse, determine the theme of this year's carnaval. The number 11 has, since old times, been the number for fools and simpletons.

But back to St. Maarten, one of the most recognizable saints in Catholicism. For him November 11 wasn't such a good day, as that is the day he was buried. On his way to somewhere, St Maarten saw a poor beggar by the side of the road who needed protection from the cold. St. Maarten cut his coat in two and gave the man one half. That night, in his dreams, he had a vision of Jesus wearing half of his cape. The next day, the cape was miraculously restored.

The beginnings of this ritual were originally pagan (carrying lit candles or "holy" fire around the neighborhood at dark was part of a fertility ritual that was a widespread custom in Western Europe at the time) or traditionally religious in nature (on November 11, the reading of the Bible is verse 11:33 of the book of Luke, ""No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.").

Either way, it was a begging fest, much needed during the lacking winter months, and definitely a festivity for the poor, as one song indicates:

Hier woont een rijk man,
Here lives a rich man
Die ons wat geven kan.
Give us something sure he can
Geef een appel of een peer:
Give an apple or a pear
We komen ’t hele jaar niet meer.
We won't come around for another year

As with many things, these festivities usually find place in the southern, mostly Catholic, region of the country. The kids in the northern regions, however, have caught on to this free candy thing and now, too, stroll the dark nights. After having collected enough candy the kids gather with their parents at the town square where a huge bonfire is lit to celebrate the end of the evening. Most paper lanterns end up in the bonfire, and children are handed hot chocolate and waffles to warm up.

Whether you're out and about this evening, or staying home, these yeast waffles are tasty and, because of the egg whites, surprisingly light.

St Maarten Wafels
2 cups flour
2 cups milk, warm
2 teaspoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/2 stick (60 gr.) butter
2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or 1 sachet vanilla sugar)

Mix the flour and the milk into a batter, and fold in the yeast. (Alternatively, you can also sprinkle the yeast on the milk and let it proof, then mix it in with the flour). Let proof for ten minutes, then stir the batter once or twice, and add the sugar and salt. Stir again. Split the two eggs. Beat the egg yolks and stir them into the batter. Cover and let the batter sit for thirty minutes in a warm spot. In the meantime, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and melt the butter. Let the butter cool, but do not let it solidify.

When the batter is showing signs of yeast activity (the batter will show bubbles, like in the picture above), carefully stir in the melted butter, holding one tablespoon back for the waffle iron. Add the vanilla extract and the brandy to the batter. Fold in the egg whites carefully, to lighten and thin the batter. You are now ready to bake!

Heat the waffle iron, lightly grease it if necessary and bake waffles golden. Sprinkle with some powdered sugar and serve warm. Makes about 12 waffles.

Happy St. Maarten!


  1. Very interesting story for such a simple recipe. I do not know which I like better, the story or the recipe!!! I'll play it safe and choose both!! Very well done.

  2. Hans from CuraçaoJuly 31, 2012 at 5:58 AM

    "Sinte Maarte hat un gait, di was al zun tande kwait, was ie swart of was ie wit, nu hep ie un kunsgebit!" - one of the favourite songs the children of the Zaanstreek used to sing when collecting their candies. Translation: St Martin had a goat, that lost all of its teeth, was he (=the goat) black or white, now he's got dentures!

  3. I love your blog: always wanted to know a little more of dutch culture and cuisine.
    Keep up with this great job! Your top italian fan


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