Blog Checking Lines: 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!
Speculaas come in many shapes and sizes and ones I was most familiar with before this challenge were the crispy store-bought pressed windmill and the biscoff airline cookies. I had no idea that there was a softer almond-paste-stuffed version until now, but the idea instantly appealed to me as a lover of both almond paste and spice cake. This challenge was composed of 3 different challenge elements – make our own spice mix, make our own almond paste and make the stuffed speculaas. None of these steps were hard and the resulting dessert is worth the time to make from scratch. It’s hard to describe the flavor – it’s reminiscent of American spice cake or a gingerbread cookie without the dark molasses component and the almond paste is not as almond-y or sweet as the store bought kind. The dessert is very rich with butter and a bit crumbly, so small pieces are very satisfying. It’s also beautiful – decorated with blanched almonds really dresses it up and the decoration can be simple or elaborate.
The first step in the challenge was to make the spice mix. The mandatory spices are cinnamon, ground cloves, mace and ginger. Optional spices are white pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise and nutmeg. I chose to add cardamom, anise and nutmeg since I had those on hand.
- Take at least 1 or 2 tsp. of ground cloves, 12 or 1 tsp of mace and 1/2 or 1 tsp. of ginger.
- Add to taste 1/2 or 1 tsp. of white pepper, 1/2 or 1 tsp. of cardamom, 1/2 or 1 tsp. f coriander, 1/2 or 1 tsp. of anise, and 1 or 2 tsp. of nutmeg.
- Measure of weight the amount of spices you have now and add an equal amount of cinnamon.
The second step is to make the almond paste. This is best done the day before so the flavors have a chance to develop.
- 7/8 cup (125g/4.5 oz) raw almonds (or 1 1/3 cups or equal weight of ground almonds)
- 5/8 cup (125g/4.5oz) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- If the raw almonds still have their skins, remove them as follows: Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.
- Grind the almonds for one to two minutes in a food processor until their are very fine. Skip this step if using ground almonds.
- Add the sugar and grind for another one to two minutes. The mixture needs to be very fine.
- Add the egg and mix until combined.
- Stir in the lemon zest by hand.
- Store in the refrigerator until needed. The flavor gets better with time, but the paste should not be stored for too long because of the raw egg.
- 1 3/4 cups (250g/9oz) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 3/4 cup (150g/5 1/3 oz) brown sugar, packed
- pinch of salt
- 2 tbsp. (15g/ 1/2oz) speculaas spices
- 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks, 175g/6oz) cold unsalted butter, cut in cubes
- milk as needed
- Put the flour baking powder, sugar, alt and spices in the food processor.
- Add the butter and pulse until fully combined and a ball forms. It may be necessary to add a tablespoon or two of milk to get the dough to come together into a smooth ball.
- Wrap in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The dough can be made up to a few days in advance but will need a little time at room temperature to be pliable enough to roll out.
- Speculaas dough
- almond paste
- whole almonds without skins for decoration
- large egg
- Line and/or grease a shallow baking pan, 8×10 or 10 inch round.
- Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4
- Divide the dough into two portions.
- Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface until they are exactly as ig as the baking pan. (I found it easier to press the dough into the pan. I lined a matching pan with plastic wrap and pressed out a shape for the top and the bottom I pressed directly into the greased pan)
- Put one of the layers it he pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
- Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon of cold water.
- Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
- Spread the almond paste on top of the dough in the pan.
- Smear the next 1/3 of egg over the almond paste.
- Put the second layer of dough over the almond paste and press down lightly.
- Smear the remaining 1/3 egg over the top.
- Decorate the pastry with the raw almonds.
- Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
- Let cool completely i the pan, then cut into portions.