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 included making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
One of the best things about taking part in the monthly Daring Bakers' challenges is that I get to try dishes I've never tried before (or in this case, never even heard of before). I was excited, if a little daunted at the thought of having to make my own spice mix, and then almond paste, and then dough AND THEN, finally, the pastry.
But once I read through the recipe a couple of times, I realised that despite the long(ish) list of ingredients, Gevulde Speculaas (a Dutch spice cookie with almond paste) isn't terribly difficult to make. In fact, as I went about the recipe (last minute, as usual, yesterday morning!), I found myself having quite a bit of fun. You can get Francijn's recipe in PDF format here.
The first step was making the spice mix. The Speculaas spice mix is a combination of NINE (ground) spices: clove, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, anise, mace, white pepper, coriander and nutmeg. The combination startled me a little as I never thought of coriander or white pepper as typical ingredients for a sweet pastry.
With the spices on hand, I went about making the dough for the Speculaas next as the dough has to chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before it can be rolled. Ingredients for the dough: all purpose flour, brown sugar, Speculaas spice mix, baking powder, salt and butter. Mix all the dry ingredients in with the flour, add the butter and knead until a soft dough emerges.
Francijn suggests adding a little milk if the dough is dry but I thought mine was soft and moist enough. The dough cracked a little while baking so on hindsight, perhaps I should have added a wee bit of milk. Or perhaps I should have stuck to the traditional way of shaping the Speculaas: by sandwiching the almond paste between two sheets of dough. Instead, I chose to roll the dough around the paste like a log. Oh well.
Once the dough is ready, wrap it in cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
While waiting, I made the almond paste.
With my brand new immersion blender, this paste took less than a couple of minutes to make. I love my new blender! The ingredients are ground almonds, white sugar, lemon zest (which I didn't have and therefore omitted - eeks!) and an egg to bind everything together.
Now to put everything together.
Remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften a little on the counter so that it is easier to roll. According to Francijn's recipe, the dough should be divided in two and each one rolled into a rectangle. The paste is then spread out on top of one dough sheet before the second is laid on top of the paste, a.k.a like a Speculaas sandwich.
I decided to be different.
FIrst, roll the dough into one large rectangle.
Brush the dough with egg wash.
With the long side of the rectangle facing you, place the paste (which I shaped into a log) along the long side closest to you, leaving about a 2 cm border. (refer to the collage above).
Brush some egg over the top of the log of almond paste.
Gently roll the pastry to cover the paste. Cut off any extra dough and save for later.
Turn the Speculaas roll so that the seam faces down. Brush the top with egg wash and top with crushed or chopped almonds.
Bake in a pre heated oven (180C) for about 30 - 40 mins.
I couldn't wait to eat the baked Speculaas. The pastry was a little crumbly when I took it out of the oven but once it cooled down, it firmed up and didn't crumble when I bit into it.
Yumm! I love this pastry. The almond paste was a little sweet for me but the dough itself was yummy.
Speaking of dough, with the excess dough (which I cut off after rolling it over the paste), I made some cookies.
Spice cookies! Yumm. I loved them. I think these may be a regular in my repertoire of cookies! Thanks Francijn!