Speculaas for Sinterklaas

December 5th, 2007 § 2 comments

Tonight is the night from Sinterklaas,
For you, I have baked some speculaas!

Tonight, all over the Netherlands, everyone is celebrating Sinterklaas, patron saint of all children (Santa’s ‘older brother’). The little ones have put their shoes in front of the chimney awaiting for Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet to fill them with presents, while “older children” write funny poems to each other and exchange small surprises. It’s Pakjesavond.

Sinterklaas celebrations are definitely the most popular tradition in the Netherlands. It took me some time to understand the subtilities around Sinterklaas, yet I love him: when he arrives from spain on his steaming boat with his horse and his Zwarte Piets, he brings colour and warmth (and candy, and presents too… ) into the cold dutch winter. It’s the start of the winter celebrations… It’s time to bake cookies, and think about how you will spoil your loved ones.

My present for you tonight are my very first Speculaas… those spicy, crunchy cookies, shaped in wooden molds, typical in the Netherlands and Belgium, and originally baked for Sinterklaas.

speculaas3

I will definitely be baking more of those: I loved making my own spice mix in my stone mortar (though there is a wide choice of pre-made spice mixes ready for use in every shop),  and the kid in me had so much fun playing with the traditional wooden molds, shaping windmills, sailing boats and other hens and squirrels! 
For the recipe, I inspired myself from my new mouthwatering dutch cookies cookbook Koekjes from the famous dutch bakers Cees Holtkamp and Kees Raat  and from the beautiful speculaasjes from the blog Trifles.


making speculaas

Speculaas
Speculoos

Makes ~50.
prep: 15 min (24 hrs ahead) + 1hr to 1h30 min. 
bake: 20 min to 35 min per batch (count 2 to 3 batches)
 

Ingredients:
~For the speculaas spice mix:
6 pods green cardamom,
6 cloves,
4 star anisseeds,
1/4 tsp white pepper corns (~1g),
1/4 tsp coriander seeds (~1g),
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg (~1g),
1 tsp ground ginger (~2.5 g),
2.5 tsp ground cinnamon (~6g)
.
~
For the dough:
225 g soft butter,
200 g cane sugar,
50 g dark bastard sugar,
50 to 70* g (5 to 7 cl) whipping cream (or buttermilk if you have some),
5 g sea salt,
500 g flour, sieved,
20 g baking powder, sieved,
12g speculaas spice mix, sieved,
flour or rice flour to sprinkle the molds.

For the spices: crush all the seeds and pods thinly in a mortar. Add the cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, mix well, take a deep breath to enjoy the fragrances and reserve.

For the dough**:
Beat the softened butter with the sugar and salt. Pour in the cream or buttermilk and mix again until the dough is shiny and homogeneous. Add the sieved flour, baking powder and the spices and kneed into a sort of shortcrust dough. Pack the dough into a plastic bag and forget it in the fridge for 1 or 2 days so that the fragrances can fully develop.

Now’s the fun part:
If you have (wooden) speculaas molds, sprinkle them with flour or rice flour (make sure you spinkle well otherwise you might end up with your dough sticking to the mold which you definitely don’t want to happen). Then press some dough into the mold, cut off the excess dough with a sharp knife, turn the molds around and tap with more or less energy depending on how well you sprinkled the molds and set the shaped dough on a baking tray covered with baking paper.

speculaas

If you don’t have speculaas molds, you can roll out the dough with a thickness of a few milimeters and cut out square or rectangle shaped cookies (then sprinkle them with chopped almonds if you like). You can also make ‘kruidnootjes’, rolling the dough into little balls, the size of a cherry. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 deg. C for 35 minutes***. Do not worry if the Speculaas do not look golden and if they are not yet hard when you take them out of the oven. They will gain in colour and harden when cooling down. Leave to cool completely on a wire rack and store in air tight cookie tins.

Eet Smakkelijk!****



*  The original recipe mentions 50 g and it’s what I use. However, last time I baked Speculaas, I used flour from the mill, and maybe the absorption is different but the dough was difficult to pack together (the dough sshould be sandy but still) and to shape. In that case, you might want to add a little bit more cream/buttermilk.
**  I’m lazy, so I use my kitchen aid to do all that….
***  After several try outs, here are the cooking times I recommend: When using medium size speculaas molds (about 8cmx5cm), the cookies are usually quite thick (5 to 8 mm), then 35 min is fine; for about 4cmx4cm squares with a thickness of less than 5mm, 20 min. is plenty.
**** Bon appétit!

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