Friese Dumkes

If you're in The Netherlands during the wintertime, and the temperature holds below zero for several nights in a row, you'll notice people starting to get a little nervous. Their eyes will dart from the sky back to the water (virtually impossible to be anywhere in the country and not be near a canal, a lake, a river, a stream or any other body of water) and then back up again. They'll consult newspapers, listen endlessly to the weather updates (even more than usual) and, while wringing their hands, whisper conspiratorially to each other: "Giet it oan?". (Frisian for "Is it going to happen?")

I'm probably exaggerating a little bit, but as soon as the temperature drops, the nation prepares itself for a possible exhilarating event: the Elfstedentocht. The Eleven Cities Tour is a physically challenging skating tour through the province of Friesland: it's 200km (124 miles) of skating on frozen canals, channels and lakes through eleven Frisian cities, starting and ending in the city of Leeuwarden, the province's capital.

The route takes the skater through Sneek, Ulst, Sloten, Stavoren, Hindelopen, Workum, Bolsward, Harlingen, Franeker en Dokkum. Although the cities are always the same, the route will depend on the quality and the thickness of the ice. As a maximum of 15,000 skaters are allowed to participate (and unfortunately, many miss out on the opportunity to join), the thickness of the ice has to be guaranteed all along the route. Often, a last minute break in the ice or a warm night will suspend the whole event until further notice. And that notice can sometimes be ten years later.....Only fifteen tours have been ridden in total. The first one was in 1909, and the last one in 1997.

The toughest of all tours was the one in 1963. On January 18th, fifty years ago today, the thermometer registered  -18C (-1F) with strong winds. From the 15,000 skaters that started that morning only 69 made it to the finishing line, many in deplorable conditions with broken bones and suffering from snow blindess and hypothermia. The tour was won by Reinier Paping, presumably on the nourishment of a bowl of  Brinta he ate for breakfast. The tour became so legendary that a movie was made, called "The Hell of 63".

This year, whispers of "Giet it oan?" are starting to surface again. We'll keep our fingers crossed!!

In the meantime, we're baking a Frisian cookie to get in the spirit. Fryske Dúmkes (Frisian Thumbs) are made with hazelnuts, aniseed, ginger and cinnamon, and receive their name either because their size is initially the size of a children's thumb or because the baker pushes his thumb print into the cookie when it comes out of the oven and is still soft. I chose to bake a slightly larger cookie instead and omitted the thumb print part: those cookies are very hot when they come out of the oven!

Fryske Dúmkes
1 stick butter, room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon aniseed, ground
1 heaping tablespoon whole aniseed
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts*, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon milk
1 cup and 2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 egg, beaten

Cream the butter with the sugar. Add in the spices, the nuts, the salt, the baking powder and the milk, and lastly the flour. Knead into a pliable dough (use a little bit more milk if too dry, add a tiny bit of flour if too wet), wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate. The longer it sits, the better the flavors meld together, but no longer than 4 hours.

Heat the oven to 325F. Roll the dough out and cut into 1 x 2 inch rectangles (or use an oblong cookie cutter, if you wish). Brush with the beaten egg and bake, on a parchment lined baking sheet, lightbrown in 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for a moment (if you want to press your thumb print in the hot cookie, this is a good time as any), then move them with the help of a spatula to a cooling rack.

Makes 20 as in the picture, 40 to 50 if you stay with 1 x 2 rectangles.

* If you can only find whole hazelnuts with skin, do the following: bring 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of baking soda to a boil. Add 1 cup of whole hazelnuts and bring back up to a boil. Simmer for three minutes. Pour off the water, and rub the skin off the nuts with a paper towel. Carefully roast the nuts in a dry skillet on the stove, then chop into small pieces.



  1. I made these tonight and I have to say...the flavor is FANTASTIC! But mine spread alot, flattened a bit and lost their shape. Should the cookies be crunchy, or ever-so-slightly chewy? I had two different textures and I'm not sure if I overbaked the first batch or underbaked the second! Thanks for the great recipes you post. My Dutch husband and I really enjoy them.

    1. Hi Nicole, glad you liked them. I agree, the flavor is wonderful, these cookies did not last long around here. If they spread, you may try to add a little bit more flour, it simply means that there is not enough flour to hold together the large amount of butter. You could also refrigerate the cut out cookies before baking, especially if you have a particularly warm kitchen. I prefer mine crispy so I tend to bake them a little longer and cut down on the baking powder and refrigerate them right up until I bake. Which batch did you prefer, the crunchy ones or the softer ones?

  2. I did refrigerate the dough for about 3 hours and after cutting, I put the sheet trays in the fridge to stay cold while the other pan baked. I'm thinking I forgot to add the additional 2 TBSP of flour, I can't remember doing it-- and that would account for the problem I had. I liked the crunchy batch better, but my husband preferred the chewy ones. So we were both happy this time around! Definitely making them again, since they've all been devoured last night/today.

  3. I just made them and they were fantastic, thank you! I did not roll out the dough after refrigeration. Instead, I formed the dough into a rolled log, refrigerated it for 3 hours, and then just cut slices of the rolled log and placed them on a cookie sheet. Quick and easy. I will be making these again!


I welcome your comments! Please be so considerate as to include a name, as anonymous comments will be deleted. Comments will appear as soon as they are monitored (usually within 24 hours). If you have a direct question, please consider emailing me at nicole at thedutchtable dot com for a faster response, or post on our Facebook page.