You know what the Dutch national sport is? Speed skating!
Less than 2 weeks have passed since my post in which I complained about the parody on winter we were having and all has changed: it’s freezing so much that many channels and lakes are frozen.
The whole nation is getting awfully excited because this could just mean an Elfstedentocht can be organized. If you have not heard about Elfstedentocht: it is the world’s longest speed skating competition (200 km) along 11 (Elf) historic towns (steden) in the province of Friesland in the northern part of te Netherlands.
Because the competition is immensely popular, each year many more people apply for a starting permit than the ice could possibly carry. Out of them, about 16 000 lucky ones are drawn. And then they need to get even luckier for the ice to freeze into the required 15 cm depth.
Last time that happened was in 1997 – about half a year before I ever met my Dutch husband and found out that such a competition existed.
But by now, I have lived here long enough to know that Elfstedentocht is a big deal. As soon as it starts freezing at all, the speculations about a possibility of a new Elfstedentocht overtake the media. The weatherforcast includes a special section on the situation in Friesland and the thickness of the ice there. About a week ago, all boat traffic was banned along the route to allow the ice to form.
I like skating, but am a little less keen on it when it’s minus ten degrees. So I guess I will stay inside today when my husband takes the children skating and make them hot chocolate when they get back. Hot chocolate with gingerbread chocolate cookies, preferably. Because the cinnamon-ginger-cloves-nutmeg flavour goes so well with the weather and the fresh ginger gives them a welcome sharpness. The great thing about these spices is that they make the dough taste sweet even before you add any sugar. Which allowed me to cut the sugar (yeah, again) without making them taste inferior in any way. I thought that the dark chocolate and the sharpness of fresh ginger would make them less popular with kids. But that does not seem to be the case…
p.s. When I showed the picture of the cookies to my husband and let him read my post, he commented how nice it was that I used a cookie tin with a skating couple for the picture. Eh… actually I had not noticed before he pointed it out – a happy coincidence.
Gingerbread chocolate cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart: Martha’s Entertaining
makes about 2 dozen
200 g (1 ½ cups) all-purpose flour
1 ¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
115 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
50 g (1/3 cup) dark brown sugar
2 tbsp unsulfured molasses
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ tsp boiling water
200 g (7 ounces) best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, cut into 0,5 cm (¼ inch) chunks
4 tbsp granulated sugar
Sift flour, spices and cocoa into a medium bowl. In another bowl, beat butter and fresh ginger until lightened. Add brown sugar, beat until combined. Add molasses and beat again.
In a small bowl, dissolve baking soda in the boiling water. Beat half of flour mixture into butter mixture. Beat in baking soda mixture, then add remaining flour. Mix in chocolate chunks. Flatten the dough and wrap in plastic or put in an air-tight container. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius (325 degrees F). Roll dough into 4 cm (1 1/2-inch) balls, then roll balls in granulated sugar. Place them 5 cm (2 inch) apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until surfaces just begin to crack, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating halfway through. Let cool on sheets on a wire rack 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to rack and cool completely. Cookies can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature up to 5 days.