My grandmother was born and raised near Sittard in the south of Limburg–one of the three southern provinces of the Netherlands and home to the pastry known as Nonnevot. Although she later married my grandfather and lived the rest of her life in the Eindhoven area in the province of North-Brabant, she took the tradition of making Nonnevotten with her and it become a family tradition to make them for the New Year celebration. My dad carried on the tradition when he moved out, and I started making them 13 years ago when I moved out myself. In this post we will talk about this Limburgian pastry that has been part of my New Years celebration for as long as I can remember.

A nonnevot is a type of doughnut and can be considered a deep-fried bread dough in the shape of a knot. My grandmother’s recipe was so generic, that it was near impossible to reproduce. She probably remembered all the details by heart, because there were no quantities mentioned in her handwritten copy. I have interpreted my dad’s version and I have converted it to weight-based measures over volume-based measures for better accuracy and reproducibility.

Ingredients

My dad’s version of the recipe for 40 nonnevotten is listed in the table below.

QuantityUnitIngredient
1000gwheat flour
90gfresh baker’s yeast
500mlwhole milk
80gbleached brown sugar (witte basterdsuiker)
100gsoft butter
1table spoonsalt
2bagsvanilla sugar
Dad’s 2013 version of the recipe for nonnevotten for 40 pieces.

To convert this to weight based measures I used the following conversion factors. For the milk I used a density of 1.04 g/ml. Vanilla sugar comes in bags of 8 g in the Netherlands, and I used 21 g/table spoon for the conversion of the salt. It is important to note that in the Netherland a standard ‘eetlepel’ or table spoon contains 15 g of salt. The table spoon I have at home, holds 21 g/spoon. Using the latter, you arrive at 2.1 % (baker’s percentage) while with the former you get 1.5 % (baker’s percentage). According to Robert van Beckhoven, 1.5% of salt is the legal maximum for bread, and the baking minimum to make tasty bread. The past three years I have used 2.1% without any problems. Because fresh yeast is a fickle lover, I settled on using the more reliable dried baker’s yeast. To convert from fresh to dried product, I use 1 g of dried yeast for every 3 g of fresh yeast.

QuantityUnitbaker’s-%Ingredient
500g100wheat flour
15g3dried baker’s yeast
260g52whole milk
40g8bleached brown sugar
50g10dairy butter at room temperature
10.5g2.1salt
8g1.6vanilla sugar
My 2019 interpretation of the recipe for 20 pieces.

Instructions

Follow these steps to make nonnevotten based on my interpretation:

  1. Combine the dry ingredients: flour, dried yeast, salt, brown sugar, vanilla sugar.
  2. Warm the milk to lukewarm (see note below for details).
  3. Add the milk to the dry ingredients and mix until it forms a cohesive dough.
  4. Add the butter in lumps and mix it into the dough.
  5. Knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. You can confirm that you have reached the right consistency when you can succesfully perform a ‘windowpane test’ (see note below for details).
  6. Allow the dough to rise and double in size. This will take approximately 1 hour.
  7. Preheat the frying pan to 180 C.
  8. Knead through, roll out and cut it into 20 strings.
  9. Knot each string and give it a second rise of 10 – 20 minutes before frying.
  10. Fry each nonnevot for 1 – 1.5 minute/side until golden brown.
  11. Eat with powered sugar topping. Enjoy!

Aside: A word on temperatures

It has become a running gag in my family that I always work precise and control parameters that other’s don’t. When it comes to baking though, knowing and controlling the temperatures of the ingredients is important as it may severely impact the process and the final results.

During the rise, a dough needs to be warm enough so that the correct biochemistry occurs and the yeast can feast on the sugars and produce gases that make the dough rise. It must, however, not be too warm, for then the yeast starts making excessive amounts of gas and alcohols. Most doughs work well when the dough has a temperature of 26 C. To make sure that the dough has this temperature, we can use this rule of thumb that I found in Robert van Beckhoven’s book:

Tw = 2 TdTf,

in which Tw is the temperature of the liquids, Td is the target temperature for the dough and Tf is the temperature of the flour. When the flour is at room temperature of 20 C, the liquids need to be 32 C to reach a final temperature of 26 C. This rule-of-thumb assumes that the liquids add up to 50 % (baker’s), which is a proper approximation for many doughs. This estimation works really well in practice.

Aside: A word on the windowpane test

The windowpane test is a standard baker’s trick to check if the dough has sufficient gluten development. Every now and then, stop kneading your dough. Pluck of a bit of dough and stretch it slowly into a thin, translucent membrane (or “windowpane”). If the dough doesn’t tear, the gluten have developed sufficiently and you can stop kneading. The nonnevotten dough, is fairly enriched with fats though. This inhibits the formation of the gluten. Reaching the stage that the windowpane test passes may take a long time of kneading, or you may feel that it is just not really getting quite there. That is okay.

Aside: A word on flour

I use bread flour for making these nonnevotten with 11 – 14 % of protein. All-purpose flour will have a gluten content towards the low-end of this range at 9.5 – 11 % protein. Do not use cake flour that has a lower protein content as low as 6 %.

Things to try

In the future I will do some experiments with 15 g/table spoon measure for salt to test what the effects are. I expect a more aerated dough with a blander taste.

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