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speculaas (also known as speculoos with our neighbours over in Belgium) are traditionally made for the Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) holiday on the 6th of December in the Netherlands (but more and more are enjoyed year-round). They bring back some pretty fantastic memories from my (half-Dutch) childhood and I simply know Christmas is just around the corner once these babies hit the oven.

And trust me, these are proof that there is nothing wrong with keeping it simple. Spices, sugar (I use evaporated cane juice), molasses and butter are their essence. How you balance them, is what makes the difference.

I have actually seen recipes for speculaas with a roughly 2:1 butter-to-flour ratio, but these are more in the 2:1 flour-to-butter one. I’ve tried them both ways, but (luckily in a way) I prefer the later. Also, spices can pretty much be adjusted to taste- but I am giving you my favourite combo.

The one indispensable thing, is that the dough has to be thoroughly chilled before baking. Why? The butter in the dough has to have solidified once again before you can press it into the molds (or roll it into balls), that way it won’t stick and the shapes will come just right.

If no traditional speculaas mold is on hand, don’t worry just break off a chunk of dough, roll it up and flatten it. I am fairly certain your stomach won’t be able to tell the difference.

But if you are (ultra) keen, you can find some beautiful hand-carved speculaas molds over here. (Mine is family-vintage, in case you were wondering).

click through for recipe

180 g (1 1/2 cup) unbleached flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp freshly ground white pepper
85 g (6 TBS) butter, softened
80 g (1/3 cup) evaporated cane juice (or cane sugar)
1 tsp dark molasses
2 TBS whole milk (or almond milk works as well)

Whisk together the flour, spices, baking soda, salt and white pepper. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and the evaporated cane juice with an electric mixer and mix in the molasses. Add half of the flour mixture and rub with your hands to incorporate. Add the milk and the remaining flour mixture and continue to incorporate until it comes together. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). If using a speculaas mold, break off chunks of the dough, press into the (very well!) floured speculaas mold, cut away the excess dough with a very sharp knife and invert the mold to free the dough. (It might take a tap or two).

If not using a speculaas mold, break away the dough, form into balls and flatten.

Place the dough pieces at least 5 cm (2 inches) apart and bake until golden brown, 15-18 mins.

makes about 20

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IMPORTANT NOTE: while I provide measurements in both grams and cups throughout my recipes, I tend to favour weighing the ingredients for greater precision. Measuring by cups depends on too many variables (starting with how you pour the flour) and can be imprecise. I therefore highly suggest following the metric measurements for best results.

a bit more #gnom-gnom:

(amaranth) banana bread
(vegan) cocoa pumpkin loaf
(vegan) ginger 'n apple whole wheat muffins
chocolate pear 'n cardamom rugelach

by Paola in breads 'n biscuits

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  1. December 5, 2012

    Wow, thank you for sharing this. I enjoyed the insight into this tradition :)

  2. December 5, 2012

    I love Speculaas, they’re one of my fav cookies. I ì’ll for sure try to make them at home, with your recipe!
    BTW there’s a Belgian food truck here in NYC that makes waffles topped with some kind of speculaas spread. It’s delicious. You can run a full marathon on one of those but they’re so worth it!

    • Paola #
      December 5, 2012

      I LOVE that spread. It is called speculaaspasta (how original right?!)- but you definitely need to runa marathon afterwards. Although just yesterday I was thinking of how to make it and be actually good for you… one of those things that may never happen though.

  3. December 5, 2012

    These look delicious. My favorite kind of sweet :)

  4. December 5, 2012

    I love the beautiful look of these and learning the tradition behind it!

  5. December 5, 2012

    What gorgeous traditional cookies, I would eat more than a batch :)
    Thanks by the way for subscribing to my blog I hope I live up to all sweet expectations!

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  6. December 6, 2012

    I love your speculaas recipê too! :) Thanks!

  7. December 7, 2012

    Seriously, you MUST do a book and not anything silly like ibook or kindle rubbish – the real printed book. I’d love a copy! x

  8. December 8, 2012

    I’m in Aruba right now reading this, a Dutch island and they love their speculaas here. Thanks for the great recipe – I’ve ALWAYS wanted to try my own!

  9. December 9, 2012

    Speculaas are one of my favorite Christmas cookies, although unfortunatley – I have never made them myself. Oh, btw, I love your mold.
    I found your blog on foodgawker. Great styling and photography. I will definitely be back :-)

  10. December 9, 2012

    Pretty cookies! Learned something new today. Love the molds!

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