Speculaas is a type of Dutch Spice cookie traditionally baked for St Nicholas’ Eve in Belgium (December 6) and the Netherlands (December 5). Spices used in Speculaas are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. Traditional celebrations of Saint Nicholas Day in Northern Europe included gifts left in children’s shoes (this is the origin of our American Christmas stockings). Children receive treats – candies, cookies, apples and nuts.
Now about the origin of the name “Speculaas“… here is something from the WIKI : “There are several interpretations for the origins of the name Speculaas. It may derive from latin speculum, which means mirror, and refer to the fact that the images are cut as a mirrored bas-relief into a wooden stamp which is then used to decorate the Speculaas. Another explanation of the name refers to the Latin word speculator which, among other meanings, could also refer to a bishop or St Nicholas’ epithet “he who sees everything”. Specerij the Dutch word for spice is another possible origin.”
The Speculaas bear different varieties in different parts of Europe: Dutch speculaas are more cake-like, Belgian speculaas are heavily spiced cookies. German speculaas are also cookie-like, but less spiced. Even within Belgium, there is a great deal of variety—the giant ones baked on St. Nicholas Day can be crunchy, light or rockhard or just chewy. The Dutch cookies are often molded in the from of a Windmill & they are also called the Windmill Cookies. In general Molds are used to shape these cookies…shapes associated with the figure of St. Nicholas.
Also made from a similar dough are the “Pepernoten”. These are tiny marble sized ball baked till they are cruncy… below is an excerpt of an article I found on the web:
“Saint Nicholas’ helpers announce his arrival on “Sinterklaasavond” by throwing “pepernoten” (and other sweets) around the room for the children to pick up – the idea is that they should pick up as many of these little round ginger nuts as they can. “Pepernoten” should not be eaten straight from the oven. “ … They are usually baked before the date they are consumed and stored.
Here are the Speculaas. I do not have molds that are typical of the Speculaas, so I have just rolled out the dough & cut them out like regular cookies….I found a lot of recipes on the web, using all the spices above, or more or less, with different variations. These are the softer, spicy cookies. The recipe I used has been adapted from here.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup almond meal ( I ground of whole almonds at home)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- A pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon powdered White Pepper ( I used a little bit more…)
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- A pinch of salt
- 1/3 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1/4 cup White Sugar
- 1 Egg
- 4 drops of almond extract
- Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup shaved almonds
- Sugar to Sprinkle on the Cookies
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, almond flour, baking powder, Spices & Pepper & Salt & set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the almond extract. Beat in the egg and lemon zest combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until combined. Flatten the dough into a round, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least an hour, or overnight.
Prepare the cookie sheet. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F & place the rack in the middle of the oven.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and form into 1 inch balls or use the cookie cutter/mold (if u have any) to make desired shape. Place the balls/shapes of dough on the prepared cookie sheet, spacing about 2-3 inches apart.
(If you are making balls, flatten each ball of dough to 1/4 inch thick). Sprinkle each cookie with sugar & the shaved almonds.
Bake for about 10 – 12 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
The Speculaas were bursting with flavors! They were slightly crunchy on the outside and Light yet Chewy on the inside. All the Flavors of the spices & almond meal blended & came through so well as if I could taste all of them! The taste of pepper added the extra zing! The taste of the spices lingered a long time on the taste buds, even after the cookies were gone. I am definitely going to make these again!
Sending the cookies to Monthly Mingle:World of Spice Cookies hosted by Meeta of What’s for Lunch, Honey?
WISHING EVERY ONE A VERY HAPPY 2009!
Snowflake Chrsitmas Cookies