Difficulty rating: 0 SOBs
Airplane food (when you get any) usually isn't something you really want to eat. However, one of the snacks on Delta flights caught my fancy: Biscoff cookies. These thin, crunchy cookies have a great spicy cinnamon flavor with a hint of almonds. I wanted to replicate these at home because they are expensive and difficult to find (and Delta severely limits how many one can consume on the plane). Thanks to the Biscoff website, I found out that these cookies are called speculoos in Belgium and speculaas in the Netherlands. According to the Joy of Baking website,
Speculaas are a traditional biscuit (cookie) that are enjoyed on the Feast of St. Nicholas (also known as Sinterklaas). For those unfamiliar with this celebration, it takes place on December 6th to commemorate the death of St. Nicholas of Myra. Now, St. Nicholas was a man of great generosity especially to those less fortunate and his love of children is reflected in the tradition of Dutch children putting out their clogs (shoes) on the eve of December 5th so St. Nicholas can fill them with candy and presents.
This recipe comes from a wonderful book called 'Windmills in my Oven' by Gaitri Pagrach-Chandra in which she explains both the history and the making of Speculaas. We are told in this book that it is unclear whether the name 'Speculaas' comes from 'speculum' or 'speculator'. As the author tells us there is merit for both; as 'speculum' "means mirror and the biscuit you get from the mould is the mirror image of the mould itself." and that 'speculator' means "'he who sees all', in this case St. Nicholas of Myra". Either way, Speculaas have been made for centuries and at one time both the mould itself and the biscuit were painstakingly made by hand.
I was delighted to find a Speculaas recipe in Sweet Miniatures, but hadn't made it until now because I kept forgetting to buy sliced almonds. Once I did get some, I forgot why I needed them. Finally I put two and two together and made this recipe.
In her recipe, Flo Braker says you can either use the traditional wooden molds or roll out the dough and cut out shapes. Since I had no molds, I decided to do the latter. The dough came together very easily. It is a bit unusual because you mix the flour and butter together until crumbly, then add water just until a dough forms. You roll out the dough on waxed paper, using no flour, and let it firm up in the fridge for a couple of hours.
The next step contained my only beef with the recipe. Flo directs you to line a baking sheet with parchment and cover it with sliced almonds. You then cut out shapes from the chilled dough and press the cookies onto the almonds on the baking sheet. I could see the potential for a lot of wasted almonds. I decided to put down enough almonds for one cookie, press that cookie onto them, and repeat. It's a little more work but less wasteful, and I was pleased with the results.
The cookies turned out great, but they were a tad peppery. This was the only speculaas recipe I ran across that included black pepper and cayenne, and I found them a bit sharp. Next time I will bump up the cinnamon and nutmeg and cut back on the pepper. They were a big hit at work though.