It snowed yesterday and today. There is something so gezellig about a good snow fall when you're safe at home, something that makes me want to curl up on the couch, grab a book and let the day be the day. Quite a while ago, a reader asked me about a recipe for korstjes. It was mentioned in a book she was reading to her grandchildren, and wondered if I had heard of that particular treat. At the time, I had not but filed it away on the to-do list, and ordered the same book, just in case. 

Fast forward to this year. I was poking around the Albert Heijn grocery store in the north of Holland, when my eye fell on a curious package in the bakery section. "Korstjes" it said, and at first I didn't make the connection. "Korstjes?", I thought, "who wants to buy korstjes?" thinking of the crusts you cut off sandwiches, but when I held the package in my hand I realized I was looking at something much more appetizing, and remembered the request of my reader. Of course they landed in my basket, and am I glad they did! They visually appear to be korstjes, crusts, as they look like they were cut off from something bigger, hence the name, but the flavor and texture is much more akin to taai-taai: a chewy, flavorful spiced type of honey cake. Perfect for this time of the year! 

When I came home, I immediately dug out the book to see where these korstjes are mentioned. The book is called "A Day on Skates" by Hilda van Stockum. I've posted the details on the Dutch Reading page under Children's Books. but here's the part where the korstjes come in. Read for yourself!

"As time went on more and more people came out on the ice, and here and there tents were being erected. Some of these tents had benches in front of them on which tired skaters could rest. There was also the smell of delicious hot cocoa and wafers, with one man calling from a tent door:

"Hot milk and cold cake:
 Sit down to partake."

"Yes, yes, let's," cried Afke. She was hungry, and besides her legs were getting shaky. Some of the boys and girls now complained that their skates were coming loose, so Teacher picked out a nice clean-looking tent and ordered them all to stop. This they did gladly, with a great scraping of skates, and falling onto the wooden benches, they looked at the food on the table with hungry eyes. A fat lady served them, smiling good-naturedly as she lifted the lid from a kettle of steaming cocoa. Everyone got a big cupful and a korstje, which is a little spicy Dutch cake, especially beloved by skaters. They munched, and warmed their hands on the hot cups, while Teacher lit his pipe and puffed away. "

Call it a sign, but with today's snow, the book and the korstjes, I decided it was high time to dig out a recipe, make myself a cup of hot chocolate and curl up on that couch! The dough needs to rest a day, so plan ahead.

1/3 cup and 1 tablespoon water (80 ml), divided
1 cup honey (300 grms)
2 1/2 cup rye flour (350 grms)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (3 grms)
2  heaping tablespoons ground anise (15 grms)
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)
1 scant tablespoon baking powder (12 grms)
1 small egg, beaten

Put three tablespoons of water aside, and heat up the rest with the honey in a small pan. In the meantime, put the dough hooks on the mixer, or prepare to use your muscles. Best to use a plastic scraper to mix the dough together. 

Mix the warm honey with the flour and the salt, until it comes together into a smooth dough. The dough is going to be pretty tough, so don't let the mixer run too long and strain the motor. Let it cool until it's comfortable to handle, then roll it into a sausage shape, wrap with clingfilm and let it rest for a day at room temperature.

The next day, break the dough into small pieces, put it back in the bowl of the mixer and use the dough hooks to mix in the anise, the rest of the water and the baking powder, until everything has come together. If necessary to make it into a pliable dough, you may need to add a tablespoon of water, but you're looking for something that has the consistency of putty, so don't overwater. This is a tough dough.

Dust the counter with a little bit of flour and roll the dough out into a square, approximately 10 x 10 inches (25 x 25 cm), and about 3/8th inch high (10mm). Cut the dough into three equal strips, and then make marks on the strips every inch or so, but don't cut all the way through the dough. 

Brush the dough with the beaten egg and bake on a silicone mat on, or a parchment covered, baking sheet in a 400F/200C oven in about 15 minutes, or until they're nicely browned. 

After they've cooled, you can break each of the pieces off into individual servings. 

Makes approximately 28 - 30 korstjes. Recipe adapted from Cees Holtkamp's book "Koekje".

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