Food & Drink Magazine

Speculaas-Daring Bakers

By Ritu @ritzchocs

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”  - Helen Keller
Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
Speculaas-Daring Bakers

Little history about the Speculaas and spice mix goes like this...When spices had become commonly available in the 17th century, bakers' guilds began to make their secret spice mixtures. A mixture that gloriously survived the ages is “speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices). Speculaaskruiden contain at least cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and these spices to taste: pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg.

The smell of speculaaskruiden is overwhelming, especially when you take the trouble to mix them yourself. The deliciously warm and woody aroma is a perfect fit for the chilly Dutch winter months. From the golden age onward, this spice mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a present. Sometimes bakers made the dough three months in advance so that the flavor would permeate the dough. Ever since the 15th century, the 6th of December has been celebrated as the name day of St. Nicholas, combined with an exchange of gifts on the evening before. But in the age of the Dutch East India Company St. Nicholas became associated with speculaas. And that is not so strange, as St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors as well as many bakers' guilds. In the course of time many recipes using speculaas spices have been created. Speculaasjes (“speculaas cookies / windmill cookies”) which are shaped using a wooden mold, speculaasbrokken (“speculaas chunks”), kruidnoten (“spiced nuts / miniature spiced cookies”), gevulde speculaas (“speculaas stuffed with almond paste”). And that is not the end of it: speculaas spices can be used in custards, cakes, muffins, bread toppings, cheesecake crusts and so on. Speculaas-Daring Bakers

Gevulde speculaas or stuffed speculaas is not hard to make, is delicious, beautiful and very traditional Dutch Pastry.

The idea was to enjoy full flavor while making these speculaas over a few days. I loved the robust flavors of the spice mix and mildly citrus flavor in the almond paste.

Speculaas-Daring Bakers

Speculaas Spice Mix
 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.

Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.  Almond Paste 125 gm almonds
125 gms sugar
50 ml Lemon juice  Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins. Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor.Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the lemon juice or an egg and  combine it .Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. The flavor gets better as days pass by.  Speculaas Dough 250 gm   flour
1tsp         baking powder
150 gms  brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch     salt
2 tbsp      Speculaas spices
175 gm    butter

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.Cut the butter in dices and add.Knead until smooth.Add a little milk if the dough is too dry.Wrap in cling foil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

Assembling and Baking of Speculaas Speculaas dough

Almond paste

Whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
Shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch (20x26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm) Preheat the oven to 180°C.Grease the pan.
Divide the dough into two portions. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom. Smear the almond paste on the dough in the pan. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan. Decorate the pastry with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, it can be stored for a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

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