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
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.