Speculaas

You may be surprised to hear this but: Santa Claus is not real! You see, he’s a mere copy of the real thing, which is Sinterklaas. Sinterklaas was here first! Sinterklaas who lives in Spain, in a huge house with his white horse Amerigo and his helpers, Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters). He arrives in the Netherlands on a steamboat from Spain (this year it was on 11th November) in order to celebrate his birthday on 5th December by giving presents to everyone else. Primarily children who have been “sweet”. Those who have not, he puts in a sack and takes with him to Spain.


There are a couple of sweets connected to the feast of Sinterklaas, namely “pepernoten” and “speculaas” and they are so popular that the shops start stocking them around September. This is frowned upon by the purists, who find that the time to eat these is during the couple of weeks Sinterklaas spends in the Netherlands. Not wanting to offend anybody, we waited for the arrival of the good saint before we pulled out our seasoned speculaas mold and started grinding spices.

The speculaas cookies are a simple mix of butter, sugar and flour and the thing that sets them apart are the spices. Cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom and white pepper – spices that the Dutch ships brought to Europe from the Far East in the old days.
The cookies are traditionally shaped by pressing dough into carved wooden molds. The cookie than becomes a mirror image of the mold, hence the probable origin of the name: speculum is Latin for mirror.

Speculaas spice mix from the Weekend bakery
This is the recipe I used as a blueprint. Or maybe, I should rather say “as inspiration”. Since I don’t have any scales that would enable me to measure “1,5 g”, I eyeballed the quantities. And also added a bit of coriander and a tiny piece of star anise. I’d encourage you to do the same, include your favourite spices, play around a little, this is no exact science and the mixes are almost always good.

6.5 g cinnamon
2 g ground cloves
1.5 g grated nutmeg
1 g ground white pepper
2 g aniseed powder
1 g ginger powder
1/2 g cardamom powder

For another speculaas spice recipe and a lovely speculaas almond pie see here.

Speculaas
Makes about 30 cookies
Adopted, only slightly, from Vreni de Jong: “Wat eten we vandaag?
This is the recipe I’ve used for several years and it produces a very authentic tasting speculaas. But the colour is a lot paler than the shop-bought variety, which is why I added a tablespoon of cocoa. Next time I would use even more, probably 2 tbsp. The recipe did not explain how to use the traditional mould (see picture), so I made up my own “method”. Alternatively, you can just roll out the dough and cut different shapes with cookie cutters.

150 g butter, room temperature
125 g brown sugar, dissolved with
2 tbsp boiling water
300 g unbleached flour
1 heaped tbsp speculaas spice mix
1 to 2 tbsp cocoa powder, optional

In a medium bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Add flour, spices and the cocoa powder, if using. Mix thoroughly. Flatten the dough slightly and store covered in the refrigerator until needed, at least overnight to allow the spices to flavour the dough. Take out of the refrigerator about 30 min before you want to shape the cookies. Roll out the dough, about 3 mm thick. Cut it into rectangles, roughly the size of the shapes on the mould. Press a rectangle of dough into the mould using your thumbs and then run the rolling-pin over it. Using a small knife, loosen the edge of the cookie and carefully take it out. Put the cookies on a baking sheet. If the dough sticks to the mold, you can dust the mold with cornstarch or rice flour. Bake about 12 min at 160 degrees Celsius.

 

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20 comments for “Speculaas

  1. Caitriona
    14/06/2014 at 19:26

    Hoi Vera!

    May I ask how you clean and season your speculaas mold?

    Leuke blog!

    • vera@gtc
      15/06/2014 at 19:52

      Hoi Caitriona, dank je wel! I am sorry to say, I don’t really have any wisdom to share on this: my molds were second hand and well used already. I just wash them with water and soap and let them dry well. I dust the dough with flour when rolling out and never really had problems with it sticking to the molds. i hope this helps a bit!

  2. 27/11/2011 at 15:03

    Hi there, my dutch heritage sees me making these delicious cookies every December, though mine are never this pretty because I don’t have the mold! Now I know what to ask for in my stocking. Thank you for the beautiful post.

    • vera@gtc
      27/11/2011 at 16:03

      You’re welcome, good luck with your next batch of speculaas!

  3. 23/11/2011 at 07:02

    Dankjewel :)

  4. 21/11/2011 at 11:02

    I’m an American living in The Nertherlands and speculaas are my favorite cookies here! infact Im about to have coffee with a few cookies :) Where did you buy your mold for the cookies? I have searched high and low for those but have been unable to find them!

  5. 21/11/2011 at 08:22

    Hello!! I love those cookies and I would like to know where can I buy those molds. Thanks!!!

  6. 21/11/2011 at 04:29

    Aardappelmeel bestuiven in de vorm en de koekjes komen er gemakkelijk uit, krijgen ook een glans.

    • vera@gtc
      21/11/2011 at 09:44

      Dank je wel voor de tip! Ik heb geen problemen met de koekjes eruit te halen, waarschijnlijk omdat mijn vorm al oud is en door gebruik goed “geïmpregneerd”. Maar met een nieuwe vorm is bestuiven handig, ik zal het bij het recept aanvullen.

  7. Jo
    21/11/2011 at 00:52

    Hi there,

    I’d like to introduce to you a new website http://www.foodepix.com that we have
    just recently launched. Foodepix is a photo gallery of delicious and mouth
    watering food.

    We’ve seen your blog and we love your pictures and recipes. We would love
    to invite you to register with foodepix.com and upload your images.

    Hope to see you there. :)

    Thanks.

  8. 20/11/2011 at 22:54

    How I love this! I think I’ll try your recipe. Excellent!
    Wonderful blog. I’ll be following you. I like your principles.

    • vera@gtc
      21/11/2011 at 10:03

      Thank you! Many more cookie recipes to come in the build up to Christmas!

  9. 20/11/2011 at 20:10

    My Dutch grandmother always had these cookies when I was growing up. I’ve always been curious to try and make them. This was a fun post to read, I will definitely try these.

    • vera@gtc
      20/11/2011 at 20:20

      Thank you! Cooking is so often connected to childhood memories, isn’t it?

  10. 20/11/2011 at 20:07

    Ik was verbaasd toen ik speculaas las op Foodgawker! haha Er zijn daar volgens mij niet zoveel Nederlandse food bloggers die in Engels bloggen.

    Je hebt een leuke blog en leuke foto’s! :)

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