Getting ready for Christmas and the holiday season I thought I would try out another cookie, from the low countries, Belgium and The Netherlands(and elsewhere too I suspect). Speculaas are a crunchy cookie that are usually made with the dough being pressed into moulds to create a shape. They are eaten on St Nicholas Eve and Day, which is around December 5th and 6th. They are spiced cookies with four main spices cinnamon, nutmeg(or mace) ginger and cloves. But other spices are very common, added to that standard set. It is possible to buy a speculaas spice mix but for mine I mixed my own combination, using suggestions from various recipes that I read. I also read that cinnamon is usually about 50% of the total amount of spice, so I made sure that was the case with mine.
So as well as the four standard spices I used coriander, cardamom, mace and white pepper, as well as a little salt.
The aroma from mixing the spices was phenomenal and made me wonder whether I had actually made too strong a combination. But when they were baked the flavour was fantastic, very subtle, maybe I could have used just a little more ginger, but other than that the cookies were really great.
I made a large amount of dough and have frozen half of it so that I can make the cookies again specifically for Christmas. This bake today was more to check that the cookies would turn out fine with my recipe and that the flavour would be fine.
Ingredients:(for a double batch as I froze half of it):
Although I include all the spices I used if you want to use just the standard ones that is fine, just use the larger amounts I include below:
For the cookies:
- 380g plain flour
- 100g ground almonds (mine were finely ground)
- 225g softened unsalted butter
- 300g light brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4-6 tbsp milk
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (1 tsp if only using standard spices)
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves )1 tsp if only using standard spices)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander, if desired
- 1/2tsp ground cardamom, if desired
- 1/4 tsp ground mace, if desired
- 1/4 tsp white pepper, if desired
- 100g icing sugar
- 2 to 3 tsp water, with a little lemon juice if you like.
- Mix all the spices and the salt together in a small bowl.
- Place the vanilla extract butter and sugar in a large bowl and beat until they are creamy and all combined.
- Add the spices, baking powder and almonds to the flour and mix to combine
- Add the flour mixture to the butter and stir until you have a stiff dough, adding just enough of the milk to make that happen. Use a hand to help the mixture come together until you have a dough.
- Shape the dough into a thick sausage and, if you wish to freeze some, cut in two and wrap half in plastic wrap and place in the freezer.
- Cut the remaining dough in two and form each part into discs, then wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for two hours.
- Lightly flour the work surface and roll out one disc of dough to a thickness of about 5mm, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch.
- Cut out shapes using cookie cutters of choice and place on a baking tray line with parchment paper.
- Repeat the process with the second disc.
- Chill in the fridge again while you preheat the oven to 165C/145C Fan/330F.
- Place the cookies in the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until they have changed colour and are just beginning to darken at the edges. The longer you bake them the more crunchy they will be.
- Remove from the and cool on a wire rack.
- Mix two teaspoons of water into the icing sugar and mix to a stiff paste.
- Add more water until the mixture is a thick piping consistency.
- Then drizzle or pipe the icing, in zig-zags over the cookies and allow to set.