For the month of April, Sawsan from Chef in disguise challenged us to spice things up by making our own spice blends from scratch. She then challenged us to make something with it.
Well, it took me all of 10 seconds to decide which spice blend I wanted to make. In fact, it was a no-brainer. Speculaas spices… What the heck is that, you ask? Well, let me tell you. Speculaas spices are a very particular set of spices – most notably cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, clove, mace, white pepper and anise – that are used to bake… you guessed it… speculaas or, more specifically, Gevulde Speculaas.
Speculaas, for those of you yet to discover this delectable Dutch treat, is a very spicy, crisp, short-crust biscuit often shaped into iconic Dutch objects such as windmills. It’s traditionally served during the Dutch festival of Sinterklass, though these days it’s available all year round and is a common treat to have with your daily cup of coffee. My Dutch-born Dad has enjoyed a couple of speculaas biscuits with his morning coffee every day for more years than I can remember!
But, if you’re wondering, I didn’t make speculaas biscuits with my speculaas spices; instead, I’ve been itching to make its rather more glamorous big brother – Gevulde Speculaas (or filled speculaas). I found a great recipe for it on my go-to site for authentic Dutch recipes – The Dutch Table, and launched right in.
So, how did it go? Well, take a gander at the photo below and you’ll see just how gorgeous a thing it is – a strip of melt-in-your-mouth almond paste sandwiched between two luscious layers of spicy speculaas. Bite through the crisp exterior and you find a softer, more cake-like interior, after which you’ll sink into the sweet almond paste beneath… holy flippin’ moly. I have one word for ya… make that two… utterly divine. Go and enjoy!
- 1 Blender
For the dough
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 2 tbsp speculaas spices*
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- Pinch of salt
- 1 stick & 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1 egg yolk
For the almond paste
- 1 cup of almonds (whole)
- 1 cup powdered sugar (packed)
- 1 egg,separated
- 1 tbsp almond extract
- Zest of a lemon or orange (optional)
- For the dough: Mix the flour, the speculaas spices, the sugar and salt. Cut in the butter with two knives (I processed in a food processor) until the mixture has the consistency of wet sand. Add the milk and egg yolk and knead the dough until it comes together. Pat into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and store in refrigerator for several hours, preferably overnight.
- For the almond paste: Pour two cups of boiling water over the almonds and let them sit for about 15 minutes. Rinse the nuts with cold water and slip off the skin (it will come off easily). Save 12 almonds for decorating.
- Put the remaining almonds in a blender and pulse a few times until the mixture has a wet sand consistency. Place the almond meal in a bowl – stir in the sugar, the egg white, almond extract (and lemon or orange zest if using). It should have a spreadable creamy consistency. If it doesn’t, add in a little of the egg yolk (beat it first) until it does. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Assembly: Divide the dough into two pieces (one a little larger than the other). Grease a 9″ pie plate or springform pan. Roll out the larger piece of dough and cover the pie plate base and sides. Spread the almond paste over the dough. Roll out the remaining piece of dough and cover the filling, sealing the edges. Brush with the egg yolk, place the 12 almonds around the edge of the cake and bake at 165C (325F) for about 35 minutes, or until golden brown and puffed. Let the cake cool completely before cutting into 12 slices.
- 1 heaped tablespoon ground cinnamon
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/8 teaspoon mace (I couldn’t source any, so left it out)
- 1/8 teaspoon white ground pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon ground anise (I couldn’t source any, so simply ground my own star anise, which has similar flavouring)