Thursday, 19 June 2014

Speculaas - Dutch spiced cookies

 When I was offered a sample of speculaas spice mix, from Steven Dotsch, director of The Speculaas Spice Company, I jumped at the chance to try it, as speculaas have been on my 'to do' baking list for ages. These spiced Dutch cookies are closely associated with Christmas baking, but that didn't stop me  trying out the spice straight away. The Speculaas Spice Company has only recently launched it's spice mix on the market, and Steven was inspired to start the company because he missed the homemade biscuits from his childhood in Amsterdam. You can read Steven's story, and get hold of his spice mix, from the company's website.

The spice mix he eventually brought to the market is based on his grandmother's recipe and contains a blend of nine spices including high grade cinnamon, cloves and ginger. The other six are being kept a secret, but we can have a good guess at what they might be from the spice mix recipe that Dan Lepard publishes alongside the recipe I used for Speculaas cookies. Dan's spice mix comes from a Dutch friend, and I guess most Dutch bakers would have their own special blend of spices. Whatever the other spices are in the Vandotsch mix, besides the cinnamon, cloves and ginger, they come together in a very subtle way to produce something that is almost indescribably unique. From the smell, I can recognise the cloves, but the flavour isn't really like any of the main constituents - it's almost as if a new spice has been found!

I chose Dan's recipe, not just because I respect his skills as a baker, but because I'm lazy. Nearly all the recipes I found rolled out the cookie dough and cut it to shape, or pressed  the dough into special moulds. As I'm not a Dutch housewife, I don't have any moulds, and rolling and cutting didn't appeal to me. Dan's recipe chilled the dough in a rectangular mould, then cut thin slices from the block of dough, a method I've used before for some similar biscuits - caramel almond thins. This method does produce more rustic looking cookies, but that's not something that bothers me.

This recipe is unusual in another respect - it adds finely crushed cream cracker crumbs to the dough to increase the density and crispness. I followed the recipe exactly, and chilled the dough overnight, as that was most convenient for me. I guess the dough would need chilling for at least three hours if you wanted to make the recipe in one day! When it came to slicing the dough I got  over 30 cookies from half the block, so froze the other half for future use. The cookies spread a little during baking, so mustn't be placed too close together.

As I can't describe the flavour of the spice mix, all I can say is that these biscuits were delicious. They were very crisp (something I didn't achieve with the caramel almond thins) and the spices gave the measure of lasting heat, in the mouth, that you'd expect from the use of cinnamon and ginger. The only thing I disliked was the pale specks of cracker crumbs showing in the cookies, but that is easily remedied by finer crushing next time!

Disclaimer - although I was sent a 15g sample of Vandotsch speculaas spice mix, I was not asked to give a positive review. Any opinion expressed is my own!


Baking Addict said...

I made speculoos cupcakes recently and they were delicious so I can imagine how tasty these are. I am intrigued by the addition of crushed cream cracker crumbs - I will have to try that next time. Love the method that you've chosen too - low faff works for me :)

snowy said...

I love Speculaas biscuits, and have just finished the spice mix a Dutch friend sent me, so it's great to know where I can buy some online. Your biscuits look good - love the rustic look.

celia said...

Looks great, Suelle! :)

celia said...

Looks great, Suelle! :)

Divinity said...

Nice post, fully informative thanks for sharing

Choclette said...

I really must try making these biscuits, they look really good and I like the rustic look. We really liked the flavour of this spice mix.