St. Nicholas Special

St. Nicholas Special

Following my article about St. Nicholas, I am presenting you one of my St. Nicholas Specials. This year special are the Dutch gingerbread cookies - called Speculaas. Upon my boy’s request I have also produced the St. Nicholas Special - ‘Gevulde Speculaas’.

The base of all this beauty is a simple gingerbread spice - the more flavour, the better. Anise, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cardamom, nutmeg, etc. You can either buy a favourite mix and add some of your own to highlight the flavour. You can also create your very own spice mix and use it for any kind of treat, whatever mood you are in for.

This recipe, as some more Dutch cakes I make, is special by its dough consistency. I use here lukewarm milk instead of eggs.

Please note that any of such kind of cookie dough is the best to store in a closed box, in a dark and cold place. Speculaas cookies have a bit more crunch than normal gingerbread. However, you can always add an apple skin and piece of a bread to make sure they stay good (and a bit softer) for longer time.

The filled Speculaas, Gevulde Speculaas in Dutch, is the upgraded cookie dough with a stunning marzipan layer in the middle. Speculaas dough creates indeed a magical smell around your whole kitchen.

You can use special shapes, cutters, molds or stamps of your liking. I am going to present my favourites, of course.

These cookies are made for kids. You can offer Speculaas Cookies and Pepernoten from the age of 2 as they consist of lots of different spice. Gevulde Speculaas is suitable for kids from the age of 3, because of a possible egg white intolerance.

Total Time: 1 hour + 1 hour of chilling The Dough

Shopping List

The Speculaas Dough (Speculaas Cookies and Pepernoten):

500g of plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon of baking powder, sifted
A pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon of cinnamon and ground ginger
½ teaspoon of ground cloves, ground cardamom seeds and anise
A pinch of nutmeg
150g of cane sugar
150g of caster superfine sugar
250g of butter, soft in cubes
80ml of lukewarm milk

The Filling (Gevulde Speculaas):

1 cup of ground almonds, sifted
1 cup of icing sugar, sifted
1+1 whole eggs, separated
A pinch of lemon zest
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Whole almonds to decorate

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Instructions

The Speculaas Dough

In a large mixing bowl place the flour with the baking powder, salt, spices (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, anise and nutmeg) and sugar.
Give it a gentle stir with a spatula and add the whole butter.
Start kneading a dough with hands.
Accordingly to the consistency, pour in a lukewarm milk (I used approximately 80ml).

Continue kneading until all the butter is incorporated well and you get a beautiful brown bowl piece of dough. Wrap in some cling foil and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Gevulde Speculaas

Meanwhile, prepare The Filling.
As per My Easy Almond Croissants Recipe, prepare the marzipan.
In a blender place the sifted almonds and sugar (1:1).
One teaspoon of vanilla extract and pinch of lemon zest in.
Add 1 egg yolk and 1 lightly whisked egg white, a half of each at a time.
Blend until processed well.
By now, you should have a very tough marzipan texture. Taste.

Next, you need to get a texture that will be easy to work with. Therefore, separate another egg and whisk the egg white to snow peaks.
Mold a marzipan into a small mixing bowl and start adding the egg yolk and snow, one third at a time. The consistency should be a bit moist. I didn’t use the whole egg entirely. Therefore, save a bit of the mixture (egg yolk + egg white snow) for the brushing.

Next, preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

As with any other gingerbread cookie dough, you need to work fast. Otherwise the dough may get too butterish, a little difficult to work with. Take half of the dough out from the fridge (this amount you need for Gevulde Speculaas).
Between two cling foils roll out the dough to a rectangular shape. Mold it into a lightly greased baking tray lined with a baking paper (I used 20x30cm). Cut the excessive edges of a dough and save them for later.
By using a spatula, layer the cake with The Filling.
Between two cling foils roll out the other part of a dough to a rectangular shape. Gently place it on The Filling. Cut the excessive edges and save them for later.

Decorate the cake with whole almonds and brush it with the remaining egg mixture.
Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until a wooden skewer comes clean from the middle.

Speculaas Cookies

Meanwhile, you can process the remaining half of the dough. Line baking trays with a baking paper (I used 3 medium trays of 25x35 cm for the cookies in total).

Always take a piece of dough and roll it out between two cling foils.
Create shapes of your liking. Angels, trees, stars and small figures. There are no limits to your imagination.
I also used a rectangular shape to create a kind of shortbread cookie. I pressed the top with a meat mallet to create the extra effect.

Pepernoten

There is always a lot of remaining dough. However, Speculaas dough is very easy in this matter. You can create little sweets like in the Netherlands - very popular among kids.
They are called Pepernoten - pepper nuts.

Break a small piece of the dough and create a small bowl. Then, flatten it for a bit and place onto baking tray. The smaller, the better and the more of them. Just enjoy and include your little ones. The extra help is always welcome.

Notes

Once the cake is ready, take it out and place the cookies in. Bake them for about 10 minutes.
Take them out and let them cool down a bit. Store them in a closed box in a dark and cold place. Do not forget to add a piece of apple skin and bread inside.

The only important rule is to take out the cake 'Gevulde Speculaas' from the baking tray, right after you take it from the oven. Once it is cooled down, it may stick to the sides of your baking form.

However, nothing is impossible. If it gets too stuck like mine, place the tray in bigger one filled with hot boiling water. Just give it a few minutes and the cake will ease out beautifully. Use a palette knife to ease it and a sharp knife to slice the cake. Always soak the knife in the hot water. It goes much easier and it creates fewer crumbs.

Nevertheless, the cake is incredibly tasty and soft within. Enjoy!

Makes 1 cake (20x30cm) and 3 baking trays (25x35cm) of festive cookies.

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