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Beschuit met muisjes is a Dutch sweet traditionally eaten by family and friends to celebrate the birth of a baby. In English the name means "rusks with little mice." Beschuit, the rusk, is a unique Dutch circular crispbread. The muisjes, or mice, are tiny colored balls made by covering anise seed in a colored sugar-coating. To make beschuit met muisjes, crispbread is spread with butter or margarine, then thickly sprinkled with either pink and white muisjes to celebrate the birth of a girl, or blue and white for that of a boy.
The custom of serving beschuit met muisjes to celebrate births probably dates to the late 1800s. When the custom began, the tiny balls were only available in white. By the early 20th century pink had been introduced and it became customary to mix pink and white for the birth of a girl. Later blue became available.
Beschuit is a type of circular bread that is baked, sliced, then baked again. This drives almost all moisture out of the slices, making them crisp and crunchy. They were first made as provisions for ships in the days when food storage was a problem. The early kinds was very hard and dry and could only be eaten after being soaked. In the 1700s a more palatable version began to be made, using yeast, eggs and butter to yield a softer, better tasting beschuit which could be easily eaten.
The addition of eggs and butter made these new breads a luxury item, well suited for use in celebrations. Beschuit are now a staple of Dutch breakfasts and are frequently eaten as snacks. They are often served topped with hagelslag, or candy sprinkles, which come in many flavors.
The candy coated anise seed sprinkles used for beschuit met muisjes are a special kind of hagelslag. They may have been called muisjes because the shape of anise seed made them look a bit like mice. Many believe that anise seed sprinkles came into use for celebrating a newborn because anise was supposed to help a new mother produce more milk.
The ingredients for beschuit met muisjes are readily available in Dutch grocery stores and can be purchased from specialty retailers in other countries. The white and pink, or white and blue, varieties come pre-mixed. Special orange muisjes have been used nation-wide to celebrate the birth of a new member of the Dutch royal family. Orange is the Dutch national color, in honor of the royal family, the House of Orange.
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