It's interesting to see how traditions start out, and how they become engrained in national culture as soon as people run with it. Like this one, for example. On November 29th, many of us celebrate Sint Pannekoek, Saint Pancake. It started out as the brainchild of Jan Kruis, a writer and cartoonist. The story of Saint Pancake first made an appearance in a cartoon episode of the famous Jan, Jans en de kinderen (Jack, Jacky and the Juniors) in 1983, in Libelle magazine. 

Here's how it happened. In the cartoon, Grandpa Gert is staying for dinner, and, while they're cleaning the green beans, granddaughter Catootje confides in him that she doesn't really like beans, but that she loves pancakes. Cunningly, grandpa Gert (Jan's dad) asks Jans what the date is. When she says November 29th, Grandpa proudly proclaims that it's Saint Pancake day! 

According to him, it's an old Rotterdam tradition that they used to celebrate each year when Jan was still a boy at home. Jans exclaims that she loves old traditions and hurries back to the kitchen to start baking a pile of pancakes to surprise her husband. In the meantime, grandpa and Catootje rejoice because the plan succeeded: they are going to have pancakes for dinner instead of green beans! 

Grandpa then explains that, in order to celebrate the tradition correctly, each member of the family places a pancake on their head when the head and exclaims joyfully : "We wish you a happy and blessed Saint Pancake!".

Jan, coming home from work and never having heard from this made-up tradition, wonders if his whole family has gone mad. 

The cartoon has always had a great following, and it wasn't surprising that this new "tradition" was quickly adopted by its fans, and has since become a national movement! People meet up, put the first pancake on their head to wish each other a happy and blessed Saint Pancake day, take pictures and have a grand ole time.  And why not? 

As you know, pancakes are one of our favorite things to eat. Not the American thick fluffy pancakes, but flat, thin pancakes as big as your biggest frying pan, that you can sprinkle with powdered sugar, or smear with butter and jam, or apple syrup, or bake with apple and/or bacon. And we don't have just one pancake celebration day, but two! The other one is on a Friday in March. And of course, we also serve pancakes with split pea soup!

For today, we baked a pannenkoekentaart, a cake made of pancakes, for dessert, and used the remaining batter to bake a small pancake for our head :-). Sweet versions like this one are popular for dessert, filled with jam or fresh fruit. Savory ones can be eaten for dinner warm, where you layer them with caramelized onion, cheese or bacon.

2 cups (250 grams) flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups (500 ml) milk
2 tablespoons (30 grms) butter, melted and room temperature
1 tablespoon (15 gms) butter for the frying pan

For the topping:
Flavored fruit yoghurt (I prefer skyr, if you can find it), fresh fruit.

Mix the flour and half of the milk together, whisking out the lumps. Mix in the eggs, then the rest of the milk, the salt and the melted butter, and give it a good whisk to blend it all together. Cover and set aside for 20 minutes. 

Heat the tablespoon of butter in a non-stick pan at medium heat. Pour in 3/4 cup of batter (depends a bit on the size of your pan, mine is an 8 inch) and swirl the pan so that the batter spreads thinly over the whole bottom of the pan. Bake one side for about 2 minutes, then flip over until both sides are golden. Stack them, as you bake them, on a plate. 

When they've cooled down, place the first pancake on the bottom. Slather a thin layer of fruit yoghurt or skyr and fresh berries in between and top with the next pancake. Repeat. At the top, dress with dollops of yogurt, add the rest of the fruit and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Refrigerate until serving. Slice wedges, like a pie, out of the cake. You can also try Nutella with fresh bananas, cherry yogurt with canned cherries, etc etc. Makes about 14 medium size pancakes: 10 for the cake, and four for your head ;-).

Happy and blessed Saint Pancake Day! 

It's also fun to do this for a kid's party: make plenty of smaller pancakes, lay out a table with different kinds of toppings, and have the kids make their own pancake cake. In that case, five small pancakes per kid should suffice. 


 "Het heerlijk avondje is gekomen" - the delicious evening has arrived - is a sentence that ties directly back to the evening of the 5th of December, the evening where Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, bestows upon the Dutch children carefully selected gifts, as a celebratory culmination of the past year's good behavior, songs sung with dedication in front of the open hearth (or central heating, it matters not) and treats left out for the Pieten and for Sint Nicolaas's horse. 

The deliciousness of the evening initially refers to the sweet joy of receiving gifts, and the anxious expectation that one may not indeed receive the "koek", but the "gard". If you were good, you get "koek", if you were bad, well....the "gard" which is another word for "roe", which is a bundle of twigs meant to sweep the chimney with. Nobody wants any of that, I can assure you!

But the deliciousness has also become an evening of sweets and candies, cookies and cake, and many other delectable things. The Pieten throw hands full of kruidnoten and hard candy, we get chocolate letters and probably eat a slice or two too many of the banketstaaf

These kruidnoten are delicious, crunchy little spiced cookies that you will find in abundance these times of the year. We love to snack on them by the handful (fortunately, they're easy and quick to make!) but also love them in more elaborate desserts. So if you're invited to a potluck, need to whip up something traditional Dutch during the holidays, or just want to do something special for yourself or someone you know, give this kruidnotenbavarois a try! Bavarois is a light and airy dairy treat. If you're not much one for dairy treats, you may want to try the no bake Kruidnoten Arretje's cake instead.


2 Tbsp water

1 envelope Knox gelatin (or 3 leaves)

3 cups heavy whipping cream (720 ml)

1/4 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp regular sugar (85 grms)

2 heaping teaspoons powdered sugar

2 heaping cups kruidnoten (approximately 50)

Put the water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over it (in case you use leaves, submerge them in bowl with cold water). 

Put two cups of heavy cream into a sauce pan, add the regular sugar and warm it up, just below simmering, while stirring to make sure the sugar dissolves. When the gelatin has bloomed, add it to the cream (or squeeze out the water from the gelatin sheets and dissolve the sheets in the cream), and stir until the gelatin has dissolved. Pull from the stove and let cool to room temperature. 

Whip the remaining cream to big, stiff peaks with the powdered sugar, in a big bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use. Rinse out the form you will use, or individual glasses or bowls if you are not planning on inverting it, and place them in the fridge.

While you wait for the cream/gelatin mix to cool down, chop the kruidnoten with a knife into big

Carefully fold the whipped cream into the room temperatue cream/gelatin mix until well distributed, and then fold in the kruidnoten. Remove the mold or the glasses from the fridge, and carefully pour in the contents of your bowl. Cover with cling film, and stick back in the fridge. Will need a good six hours to set up, better overnight. 

If you want to pour out the bavarois, quickly dip the bottom of the mold in hot water, and invert the bavarois onto a plate. Put back in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Decorate with additional kruidnoten or Sinterklaas related treats.

If you use glasses, consider finishing the dessert with a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chopped kruidnoten

Makes about six to eight servings.


There is this sweet memory I have from my early teenage years. Every day, my mom would have a hot pot of Pickwick tea waiting for me when I got home from middle school. The fact that I made it home was a feat in itself: five miles one way, on my bike, with the wind in my face, I had to cycle from the house to a neighboring town, along a dark bicycle path, with tall, looming trees on both sides. It was always dark under those trees, no matter what time of day. Early mornings, and late afternoons when I returned, I always had that darn wind in my face, which made the 5 miles feel more like 10. Every push of the pedal with my stubby little legs was an effort, and all that kept me going was that golden pot of tea on the table, with a small tealight underneath it to keep it warm, and a plate of cookies. Not too many, mind you, just a few to enjoy while I drank my tea and made my homework, but that promise of comfort and warmth kept this 11 year old little girl cycling "through weather and wind", as we say. 

Our household traditions are not unique, of course. About 40% of the Dutch drink on average about 3 cups of tea a day, adding up to well over 25 gallons a year. Not usually with milk, like our British neighbors do, but plain or sweetened with sugar, and usually served in a glass mug. Tea also prefers a different kind of cookie: because of the gentle flavor of the tea, we tend to go for lighter cookies that combine well and don't overwhelm the delicate tea taste. These cookies are not too heavy on the chocolate, or overly spiced or flavored, and are usually called "thee biscuitjes", tea cookies, where biscuit, or biskwie, refers to a hard-baked cookie. And if they dunk well, even better! 

One of our tea cookie favorites are "kaneelbeschuitjes", cinnamon rusks, slender long crisp cookies with a delicious topping of sugar and cinnamon. Originally, the bakeries fabricated these cookies from leftover white bread - we're so frugal! Nowadays, these cookies are made from a sweet yeasted dough that is baked in a shallow, long shape and then sliced, sugared and baked again, in a warm oven. The word "beschuit" is from the Latin "bis coctus" and is related to the Italian word "biscotti" - twice baked.  

I tend to make them the old-fashioned way, with leftover bread. I've found that those so-called Italian loaves are a great resource, but any unsliced white bread with a thin crust that you can find will do. 

Because these Italian loaves are domed, I put a baking sheet and a heavy weight on top for 24 hours, to flatten the loaf down to approximately 1.5 inch (somewhere around 3 1/2 cm) tall. For the Italian loaves that I buy here, in the US, I need a ten pound bag of flour to bring down the weight. Start out with a lower weight for your loaf as it may not need as much, and slowly increase the weight if you notice resistance. If you put too much weight on it from the start, or if the loaf is very fresh, it might just flatten into a pancake and we will not be able to use it for these cinnamon rusks!


1 loaf Italian (or other white) bread, unsliced

3 tablespoons sugar

1.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup milk

Slice the flattened loaf into 1/2 inch slices (approx. 1.5 cm) Reassemble the bread on a baking sheet, balance another baking sheet on top and place the whole thing in the oven on the warm setting, or up to 200F (about 95 to 100C). This will help to start drying out the bread a little bit and set its shape.

Pour the milk in a flat bowl, and mix the sugar and cinnamon in another. Dip each bread slice quickly with one side into the milk and then dip that wet part in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the bread slices on a parchment or silicone lined baking sheet, sugary side up. 

When you've covered all the slices with sugar, put the sheet pan back into the oven for a minimum of 2 hours, but no longer than 4. Depending on how thick you sliced, or how long you dipped the bread, it might take a bit longer to get that typical rusk crunch. 

One regular Italian loaf makes about 15 - 18 kaneelbeschuitjes


One bite of apricot tart wooshes me straight back into my grandma's, oma's, kitchen. We grew up in the south of the Netherlands, in the province called Limburg, where vlaai (pie, or tart) is a regional tradition. All kinds of fruit tarts: cherry, black plum, apple crumble, pear, gooseberry or the so very traditional "butter vlaai"- you name it. During birthdays, holidays, or just regular Sundays it was traditional to have a variety of them laid out for when people came to visit - and my pick was always, always, apricot tart. The sweetness of the jammy fruit, the slight tang at the back of the tongue and the crunch of the sugar on the lattice was for me the perfect combination. Many Sundays I sat at my oma's elbow, pinching off small pieces of tart with my little fork and wrinkling my nose and happily shudder every time the tang hit me. It always made her laugh! 

October 25th is National Vlaai Day, the day to celebrate this fantastic, yet so simple, traditional Limburg pie, and as of 2024, the vlaai has gained official recognition as a protected regional product by the European Union. I've spoken about the history of the vlaai frequently, because to me it is such a great example of how out of little, like our country*, much can be made: the vlaai started its humble beginnings as a piece of leftover bread dough, rolled out flat and baked with a bit of fresh fruit or jam, and eaten while waiting for the bread to finish baking in the oven. 

So what keeps you? If you have flour, yeast, sugar, an egg, a bit of butter and some fresh fruit or preserves around the house, whip up a vlaai or two to enjoy this weekend, or share a "stökske vlaaj" (slice of vlaai) with family and friends, and celebrate with us! 

For the vlaai:
1/3 cup milk and 2 Tbsp (100 ml), lukewarm
1 1/2 teaspoons (5 grams) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cup (250 gr) all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons (30 grams) sugar
1/2 teaspoon (4 grams) salt
1 egg
1/2 stick butter (55 gr), soft at room temperature
2 tablespoons breadcrumbs or panko
1/2 cup (50 grams) sliced almonds

For the filling:
4 cups (750 grams) sliced fresh apricots (or canned and drained)
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon lemon juice (when using fresh fruit only)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm milk, and let it proof while you measure out the rest of the ingredients. Add the flour to a mixing bowl, sprinkle the sugar and salt on top and give it a stir. Now pour in the milk with the yeast and start mixing. As the dough comes together, add in the egg and a bit later the soft butter and let the whole mixture come together while you need it into a soft dough. (You may need to add a tablespoon or two of milk in case the dough turns out to be a bit dry).

Form the dough into a ball, put it in a bowl, cover and let it rise, about a quarter to half its original size.

In the meantime, make the filling. In a bowl, mix the cornstarch with the sugar and toss the apricots in the mixture. Also add in the lemon juice if you use fresh fruit, to keep it from oxidizing. As you can tell from the picture, I forgot and some pieces turned a little brown. It doesn't affect the flavor, it just looks a little "off".

Punch down the dough, and roll it into a circle large enough for an 11 inch (28 inch) shallow pan. Spray or butter the pie pan. Press in the dough, cover with cling film and let it rise a second time, about 20 - 30 minutes, until fluffy. Dock the dough with a fork and prick little holes all over, letting the air out. Spread the breadcrumbs evenly over the dough. Apricots can be quite juicy sometimes and the breadcrumbs will absorb some of that moisture and keep the bottom dry.

In the meantime, heat the oven to 400F/200C. Spoon the apricot slices into the pan. Bake in the hot oven for 25 - 30 minutes. Add the almond slices to a baking sheet and toast them lightly in the cooling oven (keep an eye on it!), or give them a quick toss in a frying pan, just for a bit of color and increased flavor. 

Sprinkle the almonds around the rim of the vlaai right before serving. 

*Almost 20% of the country is man-made, or reclaimed land from the sea.

Zuurkoolstamppot met rookworst (keto version)

Well, folks, over here it's that time of the year where you're eyeing the warm sweaters and the woolen socks. You know that, if you put away all your summer gear and stock your closets with your winter clothes, the weather is going to turn and we'll have a hot weather spell. But you also know that if you don't, the weather will turn the other way and it'll be so cold you're layering three summer dresses and looking for a warm long sleeve cardigan. At least, that's my experience :-) 

Regardless of whether the sun is shining or the rain comes pouring down, once my nose catches a whiff of that autumn scent (chrysantemums, caramel apples, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon pine cones), this girl wants stamppot. And any variety will do, whether it's boerenkool (kale), spruitjes (Brussels sprouts), or hutspot (carrot and onion) - it matters not. All I look forward to is a cozy evening in front of the TV, with my legs pulled up under a warm blankie, watching a good mystery show, and a plate of hot, steaming stamppot on my lap. 

Vending cart at Waterlooplein, A'dam

Stamppot, a one pot dish of mashed vegetables and potatoes, is a staple dish in the Dutch household, and has been for various centuries, although it wasn't always named stamppot (stomped pot) but used to go by the more general name of hutspot (or hussepot, tossed pot). The first reference to the mashed vegetable and potato dish as stamppot does not happen until around 1870, even though similar dishes had been served for many years before that. One of the most famous, and still celebrated every year, mashed one dish pots is the hutspot, a dish the Spanish left behind when chased out of the city of Leiden, in 1574. 

The dish we're making today is a simple zuurkoolstamppot: mashed potatoes with zuurkool, sauerkraut. If you remember, a short while ago we prepared pots and pots of salted and shredded cabbage to make zuurkool). We're serving rookworst with it, a smoked beef sausage - the smoked, juicy meat matches the slightly sour flavor of the zuurkool really well! 

A nineteenth century Dutch cookbook, Aaltje de volmaakte en zuinige keukenmeid, has several zuurkool dishes listed, and they were popular dishes to make: one pot was easier to tend to if you were working the fields or the shop, or had an otherwise busy household. 

Now.... since somebody in our household is keto-ing, I made a keto version with cauliflower, but also included directions for potatoes. I wonder what Aaltje would have to say about that! 

This makes four servings.

Zuurkoolstamppot met rookworst

2 lbs (900 grams) cauliflower florets (or floury potatoes, peeled and cubed)*
2 lbs (900 grams) jar sauerkraut
Freshly ground black pepper
1 smoked sausage
Optional: milk, heavy cream, butter

Chop the cauliflower into small pieces, add enough water to cover, add a teaspoon of salt and set to boil, covered. Alternatively, you can also steam the cauliflower. Drain the sauerkraut and squeeze out as much moisture as you can, making sure to save some liquid. A 2 lbs. jar should leave you with approximately half to 3/4 lbs of sauerkraut. 

Boil on medium heat for about 15 - 20 minutes, or until the cauliflower is cooked soft. Pour off the water and blend the vegetable into a purée until it's smooth. Put it back on the stove and stir several times on low fire, for a good five minutes, to dry the mash out a little bit, as cauliflower tends to be very wet. Make sure it doesn't scorch.

In the meantime, heat the smoked sausage according to instructions (I tend to simmer it in a shallow bottom of water in pan on the stove, but others have been known to take it out of the plastic and microwaving it for 3 minutes). 

Fold the sauerkraut into the purée, make sure it's all mixed in together, and add in some of the sauerkraut liquid, one tablespoon at a time, if needed. You can also add a little butter. Taste and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Slice the sausage or serve whole. A side of good mustard is appreciated! 

* if you use potatoes, just boil until tender, drain and mash with a potato masher, do not use the stick blender! Since potatoes are much drier than cauliflower, dress up your stamppot with a little bit of butter, milk or heavy cream to make it creamier.

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