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.
Let us start with a little history, about the Netherlands and spices, Francijn shared with us:
Until 1800 cloves, mace and nutmeg are
exclusively found on the Maluku Islands, in the East Indian Archipelago. That's
why these islands are called “the spice islands”.
To make one's fortune in Europe through the spice trade, one needed a monopoly
on the European trade. Since 1500 the Portuguese owned that monopoly.
The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, too, wanted to get rich from the
spice trade, and established the Dutch East India Company around 1600, to join
forces. Since 1660 the monopoly on spice trade was firmly in Dutch hands. In
the Dutch Golden Age, roughly the 17th century, the republic got rich through
this trade, and flourished like never before, economically, artistically and
scientifically. In many Dutch cities the heritage of this century is still
visible. Sadly, this wealth must be considered in the light of war and
repression. The Dutch used much violence and oppressed people to establish and
defend their monopoly.
Only after World War II Dutch India became independent from the Netherlands.
Until that moment the trade of spices, coffee, rubber, tobacco, opium, sugar,
indigo and tea from Dutch India contributed significantly to the Dutch economy.
When spices had become commonly available in the 17th century, bakers' guilds
began to make their secret spice mixtures. A mixture that gloriously survived
the ages is “speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices). Speculaaskruiden contain at
least cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and these spices to taste: pepper,
cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg.
The smell of speculaaskruiden is overwhelming, especially when you take the
trouble to mix them yourself. The deliciously warm and woody aroma is a perfect
fit for the chilly Dutch winter months.
From the golden age onward, this spice
mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it
remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a
present. Sometimes bakers made the dough three months in advance so that the
flavor would permeate the dough.
Ever since the 15th century, the 6th of
December has been celebrated as the nameday of St. Nicholas, combined with an
exchange of gifts on the evening before. But in the age of the Dutch East India
Company St. Nicholas became associated with speculaas. And that is not so
strange, as St. Nicholas was the patron saint of sailors as well as many
Recipe Speculaas Spices
Speculaas spices can be bought in a store. But it's more fun to make your own
mixture, so that you can adjust the flavor. Here is a representative recipe
from the extensive Dutch tradition.
Cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
Ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
Mace ½ or 1 part
Ginger ½ or 1 part
White pepper ½ or 1 part
Cardamom ½ or 1 part
Coriander ½ or 1 part
Star anise ½ or 1 part
Nutmeg 1 or 2 parts
A convenient way to mix the spices is as
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1
teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon
of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½
or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount
of spices you have now, and add an equal
amount of cinnamon.
method yields at least 4 and at most 18 teaspoons of spices, so if you
plan to mix just a few spices, use bigger or more spoons to get a reasonable
Take your time to smell the ingredients individually before you decide how much
to add. And remember the proportions, that will make adjustments easier next
Store the spices airtight, dry and dark, they will not spoil for a long time.
As we are going to make stuffed speculaas, we will need almond paste. You can
buy it in a store, but homemade almond paste tastes better.
125g raw almonds or ground almonds
125g granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Grind the almonds for one
or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small
pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine
after this step. Add the egg and let the food processor combine it - if it is
powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers. Store
the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the
flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too
long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the
250g all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
150g brown sugar
A pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
175g unsalted butter
Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
You can choose to make
the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit
the flavor. Freezing is no problem.
baking the Gevulde Speculaas
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8x10
inch (20x26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)
1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly
as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to
fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is
exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to
make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of
the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly,
and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled
completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is
possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.
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