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.
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)