I am ready for the arrival of Sinterklaas!!!!! At noon I'll be sitting in front of the tv with some tea and a speculaasmuffin, I adjust them with the theme, it is Black Peter!
If you would like to make it....
Speculaas or speculoos is one of the Dutch culinary specialties. It is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms or moulds. They are typically winterfood, and especially associated with the feast of 'Sint Nicolaas' or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. This feast is celebrated on 5 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.
The name seems to derive from the Latin speculum (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of cours images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could recieve a 'vrijer' (male admirer/lover) or 'vrijster' (female admirer/lover). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (maybe they can be compared to the 'gingerbread men') were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.
The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containingrye flour and honey. These biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
In my youth we used to to eat small speculaas biscuits on richly buttered white sandwiches as a special treat.
The dough is easy to prepare, and children will love to help with it.
The amounts for the dough are for the speculaas with almond stuffing. If you just want to bake biscuits, you can easily halve the amounts. If you are allergic to almonds, simply leave them out, and use paste of legumes instead of almond paste.
500 gram (4 1/4 cups) simple white flour
250 gram (1 cup) cold butter
250 gram (1 1/4 cup) sugar
2 eggs, stirred
1/2 decilitre (1/4 cup) cream
salt to taste (don't forget this, and be liberal, otherwise your speculaas will taste bland)
50 to 60 gram (1/4 cup) spices for speculaas
grated skin of 2 untreated lemons
200 gram (2 cups) flaked almonds, broken in to little pieces (optional)
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Preparation in advance
Mix flour with the baking powder and soda and spices (don't forget the salt, otherwise the speculaas will be bland). Add the butter, cut it with two knives to little chunks the size of peanuts. Add almonds and lemon peel, and as much egg and cream as necessary to obtain a firm dough. Place the dough in a bowl, cover, and let it rest, preferably a whole night, in the refrigerator.
With this dough you can make small bisuits, called speculaasjes. To roll the dough out, the dough must be taken out of the refrigerator well in advance, because otherwise it will be too firm to roll out (because of the butter in it). Once the dough is rolled out, you can use either a cookie cutter, or real Dutch wooden speculaas moulds. If you use these, be sure to sprinkle the mould liberally with flour ever time you press fresh dough into it.
Tap the mould upside down on the worktop to free the speculaas dough. Cut the sides to make a neat form, and place the biscuits on a greased baking sheet.
Bake the biscuits in the preheated oven (175dgC/350dgF) until done (about 20 minutes). Let the biscuits cool on a cake rack.
To make Speculaas with almond stuffing, we go on (these are the ones we are eating...not home made, but I could, now reading this yummy receipe.
Ingredients for stuffing
500 gram pure almond paste
1 or 2 eggs
1 to 3 tablespoons rose water
whole peeled and blanched almonds for decoration
Preparation in advance
Stir the eggs with the rosewater. Knead the almond paste with the eggs and rosewater to moisten it. Don't add the liquids all at once, start with half the amount, then add a little at the time until the stuffing is smooth. Like the dough, the almond stuffing has to rest in the refrigerator for at least one day before use.
Divide the dough in two. Roll out one half, and cover a bakingsheet with it. If you have trouble rolling the dough out and transferring it to the baking sheet, just flatten it with your hand to your satisfaction. Spread the moistened almond paste on the dough, but be sure to keep away from the borders of the dough.
Roll our the second portion of dough, drape it over the stuffing, press the sides of both sheets ofdough well together.
With a knife trace a pattern of lozenges, and decorate further with the almonds.
Bake the filled speculaas for 20 to 30 minutes in a preheated oven (175dgC/350dgF).