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Taai taai tales

December 18, 2011
Apologies for picture quality. Sometime between now and January I will try to get my hands on a halfway-decent camera.

Delicious cookies. Clearly not doll-shaped, but you can pretend, if you like.

Gather ’round, children, and listen to a Very Special Christmas Story. Allow me to set the scene: it is December, in the year two thousand and eight, and snow blankets the lawns and trees and university buildings, and in a tiny apartment a few blocks away from campus, Ariel was readying herself to go home for the holidays. She had hardly been home all semester and though her roommate was a wonderful cook and their apartment was quite cozy, she nonetheless missed her family.

On the bus back to Guelph, Ariel was getting pretty psyched, especially in regards to the Dutch holiday cookies and cakes that had always been a part of her childhood Christmasses. Kruidnoten, oliebollen, taai taai popjes, speculaas, kanotjes, and boeterkoek are just a few examples of the lekkerbekjes to be found (the terms lacking hypertext means I ran into some critical Wiki failure, sorry).

Imagine Ariel’s surprise when, after one day at home, she was incapacitated by wave after wave of abdominal pain. Ariel’s gift from Santa that year was gluten intolerance! Merry Christmas! Wasn’t that heartwarming?

So all this is leading up to my venture into baking taai taai popjes… gluten-free taai taai cookies, which are little chewy cookies shaped like dolls associated with December 6, St Nicholas’s day. A daunting task, to be sure, since a quick internet sweep did not reveal any recipes whatsoever, so I borrowed one from my roommate’s family stash and went Dr Frankenstein on it to some pretty spectacular results!

Note: I halved the original recipe and used a few substitutes for flour (…obviously), and I have a few suggestions for tweaking it near the bottom, but the recipe as I did it reads thus:

1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tbsp anise seed
1 + 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup sweet rice/mochi flour
3/8 tsp xanthan gum

First, mix the sugar, honey, anise and water together in a small pot and bring to a boil on the stove. Simmer it for 1-2 minutes before cooling it down – the best way to do this is to just stick the pot in the sink with cold water surrounding it.

Check that pro-grade swirly action going on right there.

While the liquids cool, mix together the flour, baking soda, and xanthan gum. Be careful with the xanthan – too much and it’ll be way too gummy. I measured juuuust shy of a full spoon when I measured that stuff out. Grease a cookie sheet while you’re waiting for the stuff to cool; I used a 10×8 and it fit pretty well.

The original recipe says to "pour" the batter on to the sheet. My batter involved a lot more forceful scraping action.

Once the liquids are cooled down, pour them into the flour (or vice versa; I don’t think it really matters) and get your mix on, making sure there are no lumps – it should be surprisingly easy. If it’s not, I cannot help you, but I’m sure that whatever comes out of your oven will also be tasty, if not quite what this recipe is aiming for. Spread the dough on the cookie sheet, and then pop that sucker in the oven at 375 degrees. After 5 minutes, turn it down to 325 degrees. After 15 minutes, turn it down to 300 degrees. After five more minutes, get it out of there!

My cookies turned out a little crispy around the edges; I probably should’ve taken them out after a minute at 300 if I wanted them to be perfect, but I refuse to be brought down by this, because they are AMAZING oh my goodness.

An entire cookie sheet full of yum.

Things I would change include the anise seed – I’d halve the amount that I put in, and see how that does (and possibly use extract instead of the actual seed). I love the taste of anise as much as any Dutchwoman, but it’s slightly overpowering in these cookies (an example of the hazards of borrowing recipes from other people is that you’re not quite sure if “T” stands for “teaspoon” or “tablespoon”). I’d probably add a bit of nutmeg (and… cinnamon?! Yes, yes indeed) just to see what that tastes like. Oh, and reduce the oven time by several minutes, but I said that already.

My verdict is that they taste amazing AND they have the dry, chewy texture of true taai taai (the word translates to a rough equivalent of “tough” or “chew” – popjes means dollies, and now you know, and knowing is half the battle). I will definitely be revisiting this recipe in the future, especially since it’s super simple, and doesn’t require me to run all over town for hard-to-find ingredients.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. February 3, 2015 4:51 pm

    My taai taai flopped so i am trying yours… I have some good gf recipes on my blog applewood recipes – also a dutch canadian, gluten free family

    • February 3, 2015 8:41 pm

      I will check it out! Thanks for sharing – I hope these work for you 🙂


  1. Apple & Cinnamon Muffins « Gluten Free on a Dime
  2. Taai Taai Pancakes (Anise + Almond) « Gluten Free on a Dime

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