It's not until you bite into a suikerwafel for the first time that you realize that not all waffles are equal. Some shine, some just eh...waffle, I guess. The batter-type waffles that we serve during St. Maarten's have their own charm; they're fluffy, tender and can be outfitted with the most exciting bursts of flavor: sweetened whipped cream, fresh fruit, gooey chocolate name it.

But it's the suikerwafel, or sugar waffle, that sets itself apart from all other waffles. The dough is yeast-based and vanilla-infused, and creates a beautiful chewy, heavy pastry. Within all that golden goodness, the waffle holds delicious pockets of crumbly pearl sugar. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a WAFFLE!

These pastries were originally known as Luikse Wafels, waffles from Liège (Belgium), but have no similarity to the Belgian waffles as we know them in the United States, except for its easily recognizable grid pattern. Whereas those Belgian waffles are consumed for breakfast, with syrup or whipped cream and fresh fruit, these sugar waffles are eaten as a snack, a pastry or as a quick pick-me-up with a cup of coffee, but hardly ever as a breakfast item. Now...I'm not saying that's not a good idea!

Look at that sugar!
Just like the stroopwafels vendors in Holland, you can find small food trucks throughout the various cities in Belgium that sell these suikerwafels. They (the waffles) made their way to Holland and are now a standard fare in the cookie aisle and on street markets, but are also sold at the oliebollenkramen during the wintertime. The last several years suikerwafels seem to play a much more prominent role than before, a welcome addition to our already quite extensive cookie and pastry selection!

3 1/2 cups of flour, divided
2 heaping teaspoons of active dry yeast
3/4 cup of milk, warm
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons of vanilla flavoring (or 1 sachet vanilla sugar)
3 eggs
2 sticks of butter, room temperature
1 cup of Belgian pearl sugar*

Put three cups of flour in a bowl, saving the half cup for later. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, set it aside for a couple of minutes to proof. Add the salt to the flour. Pour in the yeasty milk, add the vanilla and stir until the dough comes together. Now add an egg and keep stirring (I let the mixer do the work!). When the dough has absorbed the first egg, add the second one, and repeat the process with the third.

When you can no longer tell the egg from the dough, carefully mix in the soft butter, bit by bit. If the dough has a hard time coming together, add one tablespoon of flour to help everything blend.

When the dough has come together (it will be slightly sticky), pull it out of the bowl, and knead it for a few minutes on the counter (you may need to dust your hands and the counter with a bit of flour to avoid it sticking!), then mix in the sugar. When all has come together beautifully, roll the dough into a log, cover it and let it rest for five minutes.

Cut the dough into 2 oz pieces (or 50 grams), and roll them into balls. Place them on a floured baking sheet or cutting board, and cover. Let them rise until puffy and tender, a good thirty minutes at room temperature.

In the meantime, heat your Belgian waffle iron. It should not need any greasing as there is plenty of butter in the dough, but you know your waffle iron best! Place a ball of dough on the griddle, push down the lid and bake until they're done.  I happen to have a two rectangles kind of waffle maker. If you have a round one that breaks the waffle into four sections, measure your dough out to 6 oz so that it'll make four smaller waffles at once.

Place a dough ball in the middle of the iron, push down the lid and bake as usual. Depending on the waffle iron, this can take anywhere from two to 5 minutes. Be careful, as the melted sugar is extremely hot and can cause severe burns. Let the waffles cool on a rack before eating, and cool the waffle maker (the machine, not you!) before cleaning. The burnt sugar is best wiped off with a damp cloth.

Makes approximately 24 waffles.

*If you can't find Belgian pearl sugar in the store, take the equivalent amount in sugar cubes, put them in a towel and give them a couple of good whacks with your rolling pin. Same thing!

Zeeuwse Bolus

"Come and eat poop? What an invitation!" my friend Naomi joyfully exclaims when I ask her and my friend Ann to come over for coffee and a Zeeuwse bolus. This Dutch baked delicacy from the SouthWestern province of Zeeland is colloquially called "turd", as the shape reminds one of eh...well....a lump of excrement, pardon my Dutch. Of course the pastry's name stems from the Latin word for ball, referring in this case to a ball of dough, and the nomenclature was adapted afterwards to describe the eh...other stuff. Unappetizing, for sure, but don't let that put you off this delectable treat!

Bolussen are traditional for various regions, mostly Amsterdam (a ginger bolus) and Zeeland (the cinnamon bolus). These Dutch bolussen were originally baked by Sephardic Jewish bakers in Holland and date back to the first half of the seventeenth century.

Since 1998, on the Tuesday of the twelfth week of the year, Zeeland holds baking competitions for their kind of bolus, and professional bakers strive for the famous Bolusbaker of the Year Award.

Bolussen are best consumed slightly warm and are a great substitute for cinnamon rolls or sticky buns. They are sticky and gooey but their tender texture makes up for the heavy sugar. Some eat their bolus with a thick layer of butter on the bottom (flat) side of the bolus. I have tried it, and I can't say I blame them! Especially salted butter seems to really match the sweetness of the bun.

Zeeuwse bolussen
Ready to rise
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of powdered milk
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 1/4 cup of milk, warm
1 tablespoon of active dry yeast
6 tablespoons of butter, melted and at room temperature

For the sugar
2 cups of the darkest brown sugar you can find
1 heaping teaspoon of cinnamon, ground

Mix the flour, salt, powdered milk and sugar together. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and add to the dry mixture. Knead the dough for a good couple of minutes, then drizzle in the melted butter. Continue to knead for fifteen minutes, then place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for fifteen minutes in a warm spot.

Punch down the dough carefully and divide into 2oz pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Mix the brown sugar with the cinnamon and roll each ball through the sugary mix. Place the dough balls back into the bowl, cover and rise for another fifteen to thirty minutes.

Take each dough ball and carefully roll out to a rope, about 7 to 8 inches long. Roll each rope through more sugar and cinnamon, until fully covered. Pinch one end of the rope between your thumb and index finger and with the other hand roll the rope around your index finger in a circular fashion. Tuck the end of the rope underneath the bolus and place them on a sheet of parchment paper or on a silicon mat on a baking sheet. Leave about an inch and a half or two between the rolls. Sprinkle the rolls with more sugar. Cover and rise for at least an hour or until doubled in size.

Sprinkle the rest of the sugar on top of the rolls. Preheat the oven to 450F and bake the rolls puffy and done in seven to eight minutes. The sugar tends to burn rather quickly so keep an eye on the rolls. They will be gooey and sticky (so let them cool for a minute before you pick them up), and they will smell up your house something divine.

Enjoy with a good cup of coffee either by themselves or with a nice layer of butter spread on the flat side of the bolus.


Beauty lies in simplicity. One of the many things I've learned on this quest to map the Dutch kitchen is that, quite often, the best dishes are the ones with just a few ingredients. Less is more, so to say.

I've mentioned before that the Dutch have an incredible cookie culture. The grocery stores stock shelves of the most amazing combinations, shapes, ingredients and flavors. Coffee and tea are consumed throughout the day and, preferably, in combination with a cookie. Or two. Because that's so gezellig.

Coconut macaroons, or kokosmakronen, are found in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some are small and high, others piped in a circle and flat. Some are yellow (depending on whether you include the egg yolk), others plain white, but the flavor and texture is always moist, coconutty and sweet. Kokosmakronen are usually baked on circles of edible potato starch paper, that I have not yet been able to locate, but they bake equally well on parchment paper or on a silicone mat. Make sure you keep the temperature low enough that the bottom of the cookies does not burn or get too toasted. Burnt coconut will leave a bitter taste and spoil the overall flavor of the cookie.

When you bake kokosmakronen, the smell of coconut will permeate the air and all, except for those who abhor this fibrous drupe, will wait with coffee in hand until the long, agonizing wait until you pull these golden beauties from the oven, is over. And that would be all of fifteen minutes, so go figure....The key is to wait until the cookies have cooled down sufficiently to allow the flavor to come forward. Better ofcourse is to eat them the next day, when the cookies have achieved that typical chewiness.

2 egg whites
3/4 cup of sugar
1 1/2 cup of shredded coconut
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons of self-rising flour

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, then slowly add in the sugar. Keep beating until the sugar has dissolved. Pinch some egg white between your fingers and rub them together. A little bit of grain is fine, but you want most of the sugar gone. Carefully fold in the coconut and the pinch of salt, then fold in the flour.

Heat the oven to 300F. Place small heaps of dough on a silicone mat or parchment paper, place it on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for approximately fifteen minutes or until golden. The cookies will still be a little bit soft in the center but will set after you remove them from the oven.

Makes about twenty small cookies.


Bapao, or ba pao, is a steamed bun with a savory or sweet filling. Originally from China, it made its way into the Dutch kitchen via the cuisine of Indonesia, a former colony of the Netherlands. The savory filling is traditionally made with ground beef and is flavored with Chinese five spice powder (fennel, anise, ginger, cinnamon and cloves) and sweet soy sauce.

The bun is best enjoyed warm, with a sweet chili dipping sauce. You can buy these Indonesian gems in snackbars, at the grocery store or at the city markets. Look for a small white trailer that sells Vietnamese loempias, i.e. egg rolls, and you're bound to find they also sell ba pao. The fillings can be beef, chicken or vegetarian (usually some sort of tofu mixture).

It's an easy snack to make and once steamed, cooled and properly wrapped, it will hold for several weeks in the freezer. All you need to do is pop it in the microwave for a couple of minutes (wrapped ofcourse!) and your snack is ready! Because of the sweet dough and the savory filling, it is a favorite with both kids and adults.

1 lb of ground beef
1 green onion
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of five spice powder*
2 tablespoons of sweet soy sauce**
1 teaspoon of salt

For the dough
4 cups of self-rising flour
1 1/2 cup of milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1 teaspoon of salt

Parchment paper
Tea towel

Cut the parchment paper into 3x3 inch squares. Brown the beef in a skillet and pour off some of the fat, if there is a lot. Mince the white part and 2/3s of the green of the green onion and stir, together with the minced garlic, into the meat. Sauté until the garlic is translucent, then stir in the spices and the soy sauce. Taste and adjust salt if needed.

Put the steamer on the stove and bring the water to a boil. Tie a tea towel around the lid to avoid any water dripping from the lid onto the dough.

Knead a dough with the flour, the milk, the sugar and the salt, and cut into 2.5oz pieces. Flatten each ball into a circle, not too thin, and add a heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture in the middle. Wrap the dough around it, pinch it shut and place the bapao, seam side down, onto a square of parchment paper.

When they are all done, lift the lid on the steamer, place the bapao on the perforated pan. Leave plenty of space between buns as they will rise and expand considerably. Replace the lid and steam the bapao for about fifteen minutes. Carefully lift the lid and keep it straight as tilting it may cause condensation to drip on the buns. This will ruin the fluffy dough, so be careful!

Remove the buns carefully, let them cool a little and enjoy them with a sweet chili sauce dipping. Makes approximately 10-12 bapao.

I was rather conservative with the filling,
but you may want to fill this puppy up,
the dough will hold it!

* Five Spice Powder is easily found in regular grocery stores, in the Asian food section. If you cannot find it, try this recipe.

** The Indonesian sweet soy sauce is called Ketjap Manis. Not easy to come by in the United States but if you replace it with regular soy sauce, add a 2 teaspoons of sugar to the meat and carefully adjust the salt, as regular soy sauce is rather salty.


Three Kings Day, or Epiphany, is traditionally celebrated on January 6th. It's supposedly the day that the three Magi, Balthasar, Melchior and Caspar, guided by a star, presented their gifts to Christ in the manger.

Driekoningen is not a very traditional or widespread holiday in the Netherlands anymore but it used to be one of the most celebrated ones, akin to Sinterklaas. The famous painter Jan Steen reflected this festive holiday in numerous works: scenes of blissful family gatherings with food and drink, music and singing. The city of Tilburg still organizes Driekoningen celebrations every year. The celebration was added to the Unesco Intangible Cultural Heritage list in 2012.

Jan Steen, Driekoningenfeest (1662),
Oil on canvas, 131 x 164.5 cm.,
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
 Captain Alonso Vazquez noted the tradition in his writings of 1614, " On the day of Three Kings, and the night before, they (i.e. the Dutch) crown someone in their household as king, by luck, and they obey him and serve him as such, and when he drinks they encourage him and praise him in loud voices, and from Christmas Eve to Three Kings, a period which they call Thirteen Evenings, they place in remembrance  thirteen burning candles, of white wax, on the window sill, in a single line behind the curtains, to remember the thirteen nights from Christmas to Three Kings, and each night they will get together and party and get drunk." Well, that's lovely. No wonder the Calvinistic movement in the 17th and 18th century forbade to host or participate in such festivities. No fun! 

Another source, a 1935 issue of a monthly magazine for housewives, references the old tradition, already rare by then, that the bread was cut in thirds by the man of the house: one third for the church, one third for the neighbor who was not able to purchase this costly bread, and one third for his own household.

Nowadays, pockets of predominantly Catholic areas such as North Brabant and Limburg do still celebrate it, albeit in a more moderate form. Children will dress up as magi and will, illuminated by a burning star-shaped lantern, go door-to-door and sing songs in hope to rake in the candy.

On the eve of Driekoningen, January 5th, or early morning on the 6th, Driekoningenbrood is served. It's a sweet bread, flavored with almond paste and lemon zest, that holds a small surprise: hidden in the bread are three uncooked beans. Two are white beans and one is dark, to represent the three Magi. Whomever gets the slice with the dark bean will be "king" for a day, being allowed to set the pace for the day, or at least decide what's going to be for dinner. If a parent or adult gets the king's bean, they are expected to treat the rest of the family - double joy! 

4 cups (600 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon (6 grams) salt
Zest of one lemon
2 teaspoons (15 grams) active dry yeast
3/4 cup (175 ml) milk, warm
1/4 cup (80 grams) almond paste
2 eggs
1 stick (100 grams) butter, melted
2 uncooked white beans
1 uncooked black, red or pinto bean
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Optional: 1/2 cup (75 grams) raisins or mixed peel

Mix the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and proof, then add to the flour mix. Break pea-sized pieces off the almond paste and add with the eggs to the dough. Knead together, then add the melted butter. Knead the dough for a good five to eight minutes or until it's smooth and flexible - add one more tablespoon milk at a time if you feel it's too dry. Set aside in an oiled bowl, covered and let it rise for an hour or until doubled in size.

Carefully punch down the dough, spread raisins over the top if used and knead them in carefully, then shape the dough into a round. From the bottom, stick the three beans in the dough, each at a fair distance from each other. Place the round dough on a baking sheet or in a round baking pan, cover the dough, rise for 45 minutes or about 2/3s in size.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 375F/190C. When the bread is ready to be baked, slash the top of the dough once top to bottom, and once right to left. Then slash each quarter section once more, creating 8 sections. As the bread bakes, the tips of each section will rise up and create the shape of a crown. Bake the bread for about thirty minutes or until done (>185F internal temperature). Note that, because of the high sugar content, the bread may brown prematurely and might acquire a bitter taste: tent the bread with aluminum foil during the last ten to fifteen minutes to avoid any burning.

Brush the bread with melted butter when it comes out of the oven, let it cool and dust richly with powdered sugar. Slice in pieces and serve with hot chocolate and coffee: make sure you check to see if you have the dark bean!

If you prefer to not cut the star shape in the bread, you can also cut out a star or crown shape out of paper and dust the bread with powdered sugar after it's cooled.