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!
Two Christmases ago I made speculaas cookies simply because they were a Dutch cookie. And I fell in love with the spice mixture. I love how all these spices work so well together and none takes over the flavor completely. So when I saw that this was January's challenge, I was in!
This was the perfect recipe to test the waters of being back in the kitchen. You can do it in small steps, which I really appreciated since one of the twins has decided that they like pinching a nerve on the left side of my body and my leg goes numb when I stand too long. It is a recipe that can even be done over the course of a couple days, although I did it it just one.
Speculaas spices can be bought in a store. But it's more fun to make your own mixture, so that you can adjust the flavor. Here is a representative recipe from the extensive Dutch tradition.
Mandatory spices: cinnamon, ground cloves, mace, ginger
Optional spices: white pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise, nutmeg
Take at least 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.
7/8 cup raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups ground almonds)
5/8 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. 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.
1. Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
2. Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
3. Add the egg and lemon zest and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.
1¾ cups all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
¾ cup (1½ stick) unsalted butter
1. Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Cut the butter in dices and add.
2. Knead until smooth. Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
3. Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
whole almonds without skins for decoration 1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch or, round with 10 inch diameter
1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.