This is the second time I have baked with Speculaaskruiden in 45 daysand both times its been because someone else prompted me to do so! The first time I baked Speculaas/ Speculoos was because a friend sent me the beautiful wooden windmill shaped moulds that are traditionally used to bake these spiced biscuits. This second time was because it was the challenge of the month down at The Daring Bakers.
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!
It was delicious. You can find the detailed challenge recipe here.
It was delicious. You can find the detailed challenge recipe here.
As we in India know, the Dutch established a presence in India to trade and boost their economy out of textiles/ silks, spices, coffee, rubber, tobacco, tea, precious stones, indigo, opium and saltpetre which was an important ingredient in gunpowder. They did this by eventually driving out the Portuguese who had a monopoly on the pepper and other spice trade in India and then monopolised it from the 1600s till the 1800s when the British took it over. So it isn’t surprising to see a lot of spices that we use in India being used in cooking/ baking in the Netherlands.
Initially, these spices were used only by the very rich because they were expensive, and also for baking during the festivities. In the Netherlands, Christmas is celebrated on the 6th of December as St. Nicholas Day and Speculaas/ Speculoos/ Spekulatius which are crunchy spiced biscuits baked specially for this season. A special spice mix called Speculaaskruiden made with cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg is used in these biscuits. Now the proportion of the spices and the spices themselves would depend different family recipes but they would have cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
Having eaten the famous Lotus brand of Speculoos and become fans of this particular biscuit, and having made some of my own and liked them even better, I knew I had to try this version called Gevulde Speculaas. Gevulde Speculaas is nothing but a sort of Speculaas pie where an almond paste/ filling is baked between two layers of Speculoos dough, so you have a crunchy biscuit exterior that hides a soft nutty middle.
I used my own mix of Speculaaskruiden that I had left over from making Speculoos/ Speculaas and made this egg-free. To make my almond paste, I used milk instead of egg, and a little lime juice. Unfortunately, I added a little more milk than I should have and my paste wasn’t as thick as I would have liked it. So I added a little semolina to dry out my almond paste and also some desiccated coconut, and that’s the recipe you’ll see below. It is not traditional, but it’s what I used and it was good!
I was also a bit lazy and did not skin my almonds (I don’t get skinned ones at the stores here) and ground them skin and all. This is why I have a brown coloured filling in my Gevulde Speculaas, which tastes just as nice but perhaps doesn’t make for great photographs.
The other nice thing about this recipe is that it can be broken into parts and be done ahead. You can make the almond paste and the Speculaas dough a day or two ahead and refrigerate them. The almond paste can be stored a little longer in the freezer. This also improves the flavour from spices.
Eggless Gevulde Speculaas (Dutch Spiced Biscuit Filled With Almond Paste/ Speculaas Pie)
(Adapted from The Daring Bakers Challenge recipe)
For The Almond Paste:
1 1/3 cup ground almond (or 7/8 cup skinned almonds, ground to a powder)*
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 to 4 tsp milk
1/8 cup semolina
1/8 cup desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tsp lime juice
1 tsp lime zest
For the Speculaas Dough:
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar
a pinch salt
150gm butter, chilled and cubed
1/8 to 1/4 cup milk (for the dough, if necessary)
Some skinned and halved almonds to decorate
*To skin the almonds, drop them in boiling water and turn off the heat. After about 5 minutes, drain the water. The skin of the almonds would have loosened. Pinch off the skin and it will slip off the almonds. Air dry the almonds before grinding them. I store my almonds in the freezer and usually grind them straight from the freezer.
Make the almond paste:
To grind the almonds, put them in your grinder jar and run them till they’re coarsely ground. Then add the granulated sugar and grind them till they’re fine.
Then add the lime juice and the milk and run the grinder till its mixed into a smooth paste. Transfer this paste to a bowl and add the semolina, desiccated coconut and lime zest and mix well. You should have a thick paste that will spread when pressed out with a spoon. If you prefer you can have the paste thick so that it can be rolled out. Store this in the fridge (or freezer) till required.
Now make the Speculaas dough:
I used my food processor but you can do this by hand. Put the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in the processor bowl. Pulse a couple of times to mix. Then add the butter cubes and knead till the dough comes together as crumbs. Add as much (or little) of the milk as necessary to have a smooth dough. The dough should not be very soft. Do not over process or overwork the dough.
Divide the dough into two almost equal portions (one portion slightly larger than the other), shape into a smooth ball and then flatten into thick discs. Wrap both discs of dough in cling wrap. Refrigerate them for at least 2 hours and overnight is good too.
Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas:
You can use a rectangular pan (8” by 10”) and you can cut out the Speculaas into neat squares. I used an 8” round fluted tart pan with a removable base.
Take the almond paste out of the fridge/ freezer ahead so that it is soft enough to spread.
Take the dough discs out of the refrigerator and let it soften enough so that it can be rolled out easily. Lightly dust your working surface with flour and roll out the dough. You can roll out the dough between two layers of parchment or plastic wrap as this will make it easier to roll out the dough and transfer it to the pan.
First roll out the slightly larger disc so that it will fit into your baking pan at the bottom and up the sides. Place this into the greased pan and lightly press in to fit. Evenly spread the almond paste on this base, or if it is thicker, roll it out to fit the pan. Roll out the other disc of dough to just fit the top. Place this on the paste and press down gently at the edges using your fingers tips. Decorate with the halved almonds.
Bake the Gevulde Speculaas at 180C (350F) for about 40 minutes till the top feels firm. Cool in the pan completely and gently unmould. Cut and serve with coffee, tea, milk or hot chocolate. This tastes best fresh but you can refrigerate this after wrapping it in clingfilm, but do warm it slightly before serving. This Speculaas is rich and very filling so this recipe should serve 10 to 12.