gevulde speculaas (Dutch spice cookies filled with almond paste)

dutch spice cookies @chef in disguise

Blog-checking lines: 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!

The first thing I check when reading a recipe for the first time is the spice blend that gives it character. There is something I find irresistible about mixing different spices in different proportions, feeling, smelling, tasting to make sure you get the perfect balance. So when this month’s challenge was announced I could not wait to make gevulde speculaas. Gevulde speculaas if you are not familiar with them are Dutch spice cookies filled with almond paste. Not only do these cookies look elegant but they are loaded with flavor. Biting into a slice of gevulde speculaas  you will first get the buttery crust and topping. The texture is like that of a really dense cake or chewy cookie  but the real pleasure is the explosion of warm spices in your mouth. Next comes a change of texture and flavor, a soft almond paste scented with lemon zest providing beautiful contrast to the crust, taking the edge off the spices and providing that perfect balance.

Speculaas spices

“speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices) should always contain cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger. You can also add any or all of these spices to taste: pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg. The smell of speculaaskruiden is enchanting, especially if you take the trouble to mix them yourself. The delicious aroma of that blend of warm spices is perfectly suited for the cold winter months.

The longer you allow the spices time to permeate the dough, the better the out come. It is said that bakers sometimes make the dough up to three months in advance.

From the golden age onward, this spice mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a present. In the course of time many recipes were created using speculaas spices. Speculaasjes (“speculaas  cookies / windmill  cookies”) which are shaped using a wooden mold, speculaasbrokken (“speculaas chunks”), kruidnoten (“spiced nuts / miniature spiced cookies”), gevulde speculaas (“speculaas stuffed with almond paste”). And it does not stop there: speculaas spices can be used in custards, cakes, muffins, bread toppings, cheesecake crusts and so on.

spices @ chef in disguise

Speculaas Spices Recipe

You can buy the speculaas spices but making your own gives you a chance to smell and taste the different ingredients and adjust the proportions to your own taste and liking.The general rule you have to stick to is

Mandatory:

cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount

ground cloves 1 or 2 parts

mace ½ or 1 part

ginger ½ or 1 part

Optional:

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

The spice mix I used was

1  teaspoons of ground cloves,

½ teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of ginger.

1 teaspoon of cardamom

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 teaspoon of anise

Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.

almond2

Almond Paste recipe

You can use store bought almond paste but homemade almond paste tastes better.

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows.

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.)

step1

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

step2

Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Safty notes

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.

To be safe, you could choose one of these options: use egg powder and water to replace the egg (follow instructions with the powder) use 50 ml of an other liquid, like lemon juice (in that case, leave the zest out) add the egg just before you are going to bake the pastry

The paste can also be kept in the freezer.

Speculaas Dough Recipe

Ingredients:

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

Directions:

Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.

Cut the butter into cubes and add to the dry ingredient.

Knead until you get a smooth dough. You may need to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.

step3

Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

If you wish to get more flavor it would be better to keep the dough in the fridge for a couple of days

Chef in disguise:dutch stuffed cookies

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas

Ingredients:

speculaas dough

almond paste

whole almonds without skins for decoration

1 large egg

shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)

Directions:

1. Grease your pan or line it with parchment.

2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4

3. Divide the dough in half into two parts.

4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are the size of your baking pan.

5. Place one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to make sure it fills the bottom.

step4

6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.(I used 1 teaspoon of vinegar with 2 teaspoons of water to avoid eggy smell)

7. Brush 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 gently transfer it to place it over the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)

step5

9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan and to makw sure it adheres to the dough beneath it.

10.Brush the next 1/3 of the egg over it.

11. Place the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.

12. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.

step6

If you choose to cut the speculaas into squares or diamond shapes, score the dough with a knief before baking, that can help you with the decoration

13. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.(You can decorate the speculaas any way you like, you can use the almonds to draw patterns or flowers or trees. This is also the place to allow kids to help)

14. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.

15. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.

gevulde speculaas @chef in disguise

16. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

Notes about making Gevulde speculaas:

You  can choose to make this recipe in one day. But to enjoy the full flavor you should make the dough a few days and allow the spices to permiate the dough. Because of the egg in the almond paste recipe you need to work hygienically and store it in the fridge for no more than 2 days or you can make the paste without the egg and store it in the fridge  and then add the egg right before baking. Another option would be to replace the egg with another liquid like lemon juice or use powdered eggs (the ones you mix with water to reconstitute)

dutch1

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:

Speculaas spices: store them airtight, dry and dark, and they will not spoil for a long time. Almond paste: keep it in the refrigerator. Some people keep it there for months, but if it contains raw egg, I recommend not more than a few days. Can easily be frozen. Speculaas dough: can be kept in the refrigerator for days, or in the freezer for months. But remember: fresh tastes better.

Stuffed speculaas: if you let it cool completely, you can wrap it in clingfoil and keep it a few days at room temperature. And again: freezing is possible, but fresh is better

Thank you Francijn for a wonderful challenge.

You may also like

Armenian spice cake

Spice tea “Chai” concentrate

Mum’s persian cookies

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63 Comments

  1. Seriously impressed Sawsan. May I say: Dat ziet er heerlijk uit (that looks delicious)!
    I’ve made gewoon speculaas (normal speculaas) many times, but confess to never having made gevulde. Looks like there was a lot of effort involved, but it was well worth it! Congratulations. Lekker lekker lekker (yum yum yum).
    PS. Absolutely love the second photo, of the spices.

    Reply
  2. kouky

     /  January 27, 2013

    Amaizing gevulde spéculoos and so beautifull présentation!! bravo Sawsen!!

    Reply
  3. What a lovely treat to serve with a pot of tea. And what a gorgeous tea service including the gold tea pot. So elegant with the lace underneath.

    Reply
  4. What a beautifully written recipe and pretty pictures. I’ve eaten speculaas many time in the Netherlands with my in-laws, and this is a recipe with which to impress! ;-) You have lovely and interesting recipes all the time, by the way.

    Reply
  5. what beautiful photographs! This looks like it’s so labor-intensive, but soooo worth it!

    Reply
  6. They look delicious and do seem perfect with a nice cup of tea :)

    Reply
  7. Patricia Marsden

     /  January 27, 2013

    Wow!! How lovely the little squares of scrummy sweetness look!! So pretty and all those different layers. Another one to try along with the savoury spinach triangles. Great recipes. Thank you.

    Reply
  8. Photos are amazing. Great job on the challenge!

    Reply
  9. These cookie-slices look absolutely perfect with incredible tea :D

    Cheers
    CCU

    Reply
  10. We made approximately 4 million speculaas in December at baking school. So. Many. Cookies. I’m loving this layered twist on the classic – and think I’m ready to inhale some more specula as spice mixture…

    Reply
  11. I’m jealous of your pictures hahaha
    good job for the challenge, it looks beautiful !!!

    Reply
  12. prerrnamirchi

     /  January 27, 2013

    your speculaas look like they are right out of a food magazine! great job :)

    Reply
  13. wow.. I have never heard of these.. each little piece of them must pack quite a punch!! so many spices.. it has to taste good!! and its such a winter cookie.. dnt you think??

    Reply
  14. Sawsan, once again you have created a Culinary Masterpiece. What charm I feel when reading your posts……it becomes a symphony of smells, tastes and I can even hear you humming in the background. I do so very, very enjoy your blog.

    Reply
  15. Oh yes, I can smell the cardamom, cinnamon and coriander from my computer screen. These speculaas look gorgeous and I am going to try in my kitchen one of these days.

    Reply
  16. Another beautiful outcome, Sawsan!
    (We keep using your recipe for the spice chai concentrate – that is one of my daughter’s favorite drinks)

    Reply
  17. This is a new cookie to me – I’ve not heard of these. But they look great (gorgeous pictures!). And from reading the recipe, they sound as if they’re delish – lots of amazing flavors and spices in these. Good stuff – thanks.

    Reply
  18. I am not Dutch, but I love Speculaas and I recognise soul food when I see it! This is an amazing recipe! I can’t wait to bake it and will be giving it a go ASAP. So delicious looking and so full of promise! Thank you SO much for sharing this scrumptious creation :)

    Reply
  19. As I told you before: you really have an eye for making artistic photographs. And you did so well on the January Challenge! These two things make an interesting blogger: wonderful pictures and wonderful baking.

    Reply
  20. Wonderful fotos! I was a daring baker for the first time now – it is really a lot of fun.
    I read your blog for some time now and I really love it.
    Greetings from Germany.

    Reply
  21. As usual, your dessert looks delicious and your photography inspires me!

    Reply
  22. Beautiful post and delicious looking gevulde speculaas!! And extra kudos for going all out with your spice mix, starting with whole spices! I bet your whole home smelled amazing!!

    Reply
  23. I’ve never heard of these cookies but your description of the taste made me drool. That almond paste sounds wonderful.

    Reply
  24. Gorgeous!! I love the way you arranged your almonds. Your cake is simply beautiful.

    Reply
  25. Alice

     /  January 27, 2013

    Sawsan, I was so amazed to see your post in my inbox. I am a Canadian of Dutch descent and make gevulde speculaas every Christmas, but to receive the recipe from far away Jordan, extolling the virtues of a tradition from my heritage gives me goosebumps. What a small but beautiful world! I love that we can share across borders and cultures through our love for food! Thank you for making my day!

    Reply
    • Alice, thank YOU for making my day!
      It is indeed a small and a beautiful world. It is always a true pleasure to make something from another culture. Especially something so traditional and one that is associates with sweet memories for so many people.
      Thank you for following my blog and for your sweet comment

      Reply
  26. Oh I wish I had of participated in this months challenge, I would love to be eating this gorgeous Dutch treat now. I can’t imagine how amazing the spices smelled cooking. I love all your gorgeous images too, so beautiful :)

    Reply
  27. As always, this is just sooo pretty!! Great job again :)
    P.S. I moved my blog, dolce-casa to http://www.cherriesontop.blogspot.com. It needed a change, so I hope you’ll like it!

    Reply
  28. I wish I could smell these through the computer! I can just imagine how amazing your kitchen smelled! What a great combination of spices. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe that uses mace. I don’t even know if I’ve ever come across it before. How would you describe it?

    Reply
  29. They’re so beautiful, and your pictures are gorgeous! I completely flaked on this month’s challenge.

    Reply
  30. Wow! So much time and work into those cookies and the photos are just gorgeous!

    Reply
  31. flavorsofthesun

     /  January 28, 2013

    These look so lovely and I can only imagine how great they taste. Great job, Sawsan!

    Reply
  32. I chickenout out from this month’s challenge as I wasnt so sure about spiced cake, but now after visiting yours and few others I am kind of inspired to join in too, haha! Love those dotted almond on the squares, Sawsan, and the lovely cup!

    Reply
  33. These sound great with the cardamom and the almond paste!

    Reply
  34. Looks absolutely wonderful and beautiful pictures!!

    Reply
  35. Sawsan, it is so beautiful! And thanks for the tutorial on a almond paste. I was thinking of it another day when reading through some recipes. Absolutely delicious speculaas! You are very talented chef! :)

    Reply
  36. These look fantastically good and I’m so impressed that you made your own almond paste. I must try that. :)

    Reply
  37. Just lovely, Sawsan! Your photos are mouthwatering – especially because I know exactly how delicious those speculaas are!!

    Reply
  38. I love speculaas, the almond filling is a delicious idea!

    Reply
  39. Another mouthwatering recipe. I have been thinking of making almond paste for a while. Thanks for the tips on the paste.

    Reply
  40. What beautiful looking biscuits and as you have shown, so perfect with a cup of tea. I would love these as I’m fond of spicy things xx

    Reply
  41. That looks beautiful Sawsan:) I enjoyed making them too…the spice is incredible:)

    nina

    http://thefoodielovers.com

    Reply
  42. Your speculaas looks incredibly delicious, and your presentation is breathtaking… I love speculaas but haven’t made homemade speculaas spices yet. Have to try this recipe next time :)

    Reply
  43. Your speculaas looks incredibly delicious, and your presentation is breathtaking… I love speculaas but haven’t made homemade speculaas spices yet. Have to try this recipe next time :)

    Reply
  44. Like you, Sawsan, I drawn to these warm spice treats because they tend to be less sugary sweet. I love the look and you totally nailed this presentation!

    Reply
  45. You are a one amazing photographer. I am swooning over the cakes, and the tea. How lovely. Can I be your neighbor??

    I love this cake, and I am all for spices but that’s no secret. Loved the post.

    Reply
  46. How wonderful that you’ve made these! I think they’re related to a jar of Biscoff I have sitting in my pantry.. it’s fantastic stuff.. totally addicting… just like I’m certain these cookies would be. I love those sort of spices in a cookie!! xx

    Reply
  47. Wow Sawsan, beautifully done. I live in the Netherlands, but never actually made these, and your photos are poetic :)

    Reply
  48. I did love the Speculaas, but with that tea they are calling me! Loved the photos!

    Reply
  49. Nami | Just One Cookbook

     /  January 29, 2013

    What a gorgeous snack! All these detailed steps to make the cookies perfect. Oh I wish I could reach out to grab some. I’m really impressed with all of the baked goods you make. I still want you to be my teacher… I love your tea pot and tea set too!

    Reply
  50. Oh I can see myself eating these with my ice coffee and blogging! I love them- the almond paste is my favorite

    Reply
  51. Almond paste reminds me so much of the cookies that appeared around the holidays of my youth. To this day, I cannot resist it and I’m sure I’d inhale these cookies if I made them. They look so pretty, too, Sawsan, and perfect for a holiday, celebration, or to be served to special friends or visitors. Nicely done!

    Reply
  52. What a beautiful looking dish! Lots of steps, but well worth it, I imagine.

    Reply
  53. These have the looks of an Old World treat Sawsan. So lovely, so beautifully done. Everything from your hands is a work of art. These beautiful cookies no exception! And almond paste is one of my favorite ingredients in a dessert, and with a list of ingredients so short, these have to be heavenly! xo (hoping you’re well and smiling Sawsan!)

    Reply
  54. Delicious, Sawsan! We used to eat speculaas when I was living in Holland, and there was a great little shop around the corner from my house who made the gevulde speculaas like you have here. It’s a lot of effort but judging by how good yours look, I’d say very well worth it!

    Reply
  55. Great looking speculaas Sawsan! Love the photos too as usual. I like spicy cookies and will have to try these. Gorgeous!

    Nazneen

    Reply
  56. tempting recipes since i love almond and cardamon….
    your photograph is awesome even more….

    Reply
  57. Chetana

     /  February 18, 2013

    Hello Sawsan,

    Namaste from an Indian living in UK! I have been silently following your blog and it is amazing! Great work! It is really inspiring for a SAHM like me, how you manage your profession and home life balanced! Kudos to you.

    We are a lacto-ovo vegetarian, but I really do not like the smell of eggs in my baking, so much so that I do not like to eat baked goodies from outside. Can you please guide me if I could make these as eggless?

    -Regards,
    Chetana

    Reply
    • Chetana

       /  February 18, 2013

      Did I forget to mention how great these speculaas looks like?! Awesomeness in one late!!

      Reply
    • Hello Chetana

      Thank you for following my blog and for your kind comment. Believe me it is not easy to try and keep up with work, the kids and the blog but I do my best!
      I too hate the smell of eggs in baked goods, one trick I use and it works every time, add a teaspoon of vinegar to any baked good that has eggs. I added one to the filling and I always add vinegar to the eggs used for gluing layers together or to brush the top.
      Try it out and let me know how it turns out.

      Reply
  58. louise

     /  June 13, 2013

    Thank you so much for the beautiful recipe and photos, and your excellent descriptions. I absolutely love to read each entry of your blog. As a woman who juggled work, children, and family all my working life, I’m tremendously impressed at the enchanting blog you create and maintain. Kudos to you!!!!

    Reply

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