Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daring Bakers - Speculaas!

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!

Since nothing is ever open on campus on Sundays anyway, I decided to find a cafe in town settle down and do some reading in. Y'know, cup of tea, some Charles Dickens, typical day in my classy, classy life.  I hopped off the bus and wandered into Fixx (they make beautiful latte art, by the way),  reveling in the rare opportunity to have the sun shine so bright I had to squint. 

Apologies for the bad phone pictures.

 The day was so full of possibility! The whole city was at my disposal. But then...the cloudless sky mysteriously disappeared and down came the rain. I hunched over, hands in my pockets. It was bound to pass soon. But it just came harder. And harder. I ran, looking desperately for shelter. Anywhere would do. I finally spotted a SPAR and burst inside. One of the guys working there looked at me with pity and handed me some paper towels, but they weren't enough to even dry my sleeve. I squeezed my hair out on the floormat, ordered a steamer from their coffee stand, and sat down with a stack of napkins, trying in vain to dry myself out


The rain finally let up enough for me to escape to the bus stop and finally get home, but I learned to never go out in Dublin without being prepared for any sort of weather. Thanks to the workers at SPAR for being so kind to me. I love Irish people.

This was one of the last recipes I made before I left the US for my extended stay in Ireland. I loved that it was unique and new to me but still easy enough to pull off in a short amount of time. Homemade almond paste is sandwiched between layers of spicy speculaas. Nom. I hope I can get creative enough to participate in the next challenge even though I don't have an oven. When there's a will, there's a way


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
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts

A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
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.

Recipe Almond Paste
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.

7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows (totally didn't do this, oops!). 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 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 paste unbaked. 

Recipe Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) 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.

1. Grease the pan (I used a 9x9).
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.


  1. i love how cakey yours looks! hope you get the play next month too! i always eagerly wait for the challenge to be announced on the first!

    1. Thanks! No idea why they turned out that way. Also, cause I didn't use skinless almonds and I used light brown sugar, you can't even tell there are different components, haha

  2. Delicious! Enjoy your time in Ireland


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