Sunday, January 27, 2013

January Daring Bakers Challenge: Gevulde 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!

I'm super excited about this month's challenge!  I have been wanting to make speculaas (cookies) for an eternity, but I keep forgetting to buy a mold.  The blend of spices used in these pastries is intoxicating: cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom and a touch of white pepper.  Spicy, spicy, spicy!  And this recipe doesn't require the mold.  Actually, all along I thought "speculaas" described the cookie, but it actually describes the blend of spices used in the cookie, as well as other desserts like this one!

The spice blend: cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, cardamom and white pepper

Francijn tells us a little history of the speculaas spices that I'm happy to share with you.  Until the 1800s, cloves, mace and nutmeg were exclusively found on the Maluku Islands, in the East Indian Archipelago. That's why these islands are called “The Spice Islands."  In order to make a fortune in Europe through the spice trade, a monopoly on European trade was needed.  Since the 1500s, the Portuguese had the monopoly on spices.  The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands joined forces with Dutch East India around 1600 in order to attempt to take over the monopoly.  The Dutch got rich through the trade and flourished, economically, artistically and scientifically, into the 17th century.  After these spices became commonly available, baker's guilds began to make secret spice mixtures.  One that survived through time is "speculaaskruiden" (speculaas spice).  Speculaaskruiden contains at least cinnamon (about half), cloves, mace, and ginger, and sometimes pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seed or nutmeg.

Although the heritage of these times are still noticeable in many Dutch cities to this day, the wealth must be considered in light of the war, violence and oppressive forces used to defend the trade.  After World War II, Dutch India became independent from the Netherlands and the spice trade (along with tobacco, opium, sugar and tea) no longer contributed to their economy.

I chose to make the spice mixture myself, both because I had the individual spices and because I wanted to be able to adjust the mix to my own preferences.  My mixture contains cinnamon, cloves, mace, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg and white pepper.

Almond Paste
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. 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.

I had leftover frangipane, which is a softer, creamier almond paste, made with the above ingredients, as well as some butter and a touch of flour.  I decided to use this instead of the almond paste.

Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose 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

To make the dough, combine the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. (I used my food processor.)  Cut the butter in dices and add.  Knead until smooth.  (I pulsed the butter into the mixture and, since I didn't have quite enough, I did add a little milk to moisten the dough.)  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for two hours.

Once the dough is chilled, cut it in half and roll each half to fit your pan (either an 8" x 10" pan or a 10" round pan).  Whisk one egg as an egg wash.  Spray the pan and fit the first half into it, pressing in with your fingers.  Smear 1/3 of the egg on top, then spread the almond paste on top.  Smear another 1/3 of the egg on top, then cover with the 2nd half of your dough.  Smear the final 1/3 of the egg on top and decorate with raw almonds if you'd like.  Bake for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F.

The "ready-to-bake" gevulde speculaas
Although the dessert turned out beautifully (and delicious too!), I will say that the modifications I made by using milk (instead of quite enough butter) made the dough very wet, definitely too wet to roll out and form into the pan.  I ended up having to heavily flour my rolling space and, once I'd incorporated all of that flour into my dough, I added even more and still the dough was sticking to the board.  When I make this again, I'll use the full amount of butter and, if I do have to add some milk for moisture, will be careful to only add a very small quantity. 

I brought the gevulde speculaas to a friend's house for dessert, but it was also amazing with coffee the next morning.  This is a keeper for sure...


The Betz Family said...

This cake was so yummy! Nice job on the challenge!

Francijn said...

I like your speculaas, Heidi! It looks exactly like it should. Well done!