Thursday, December 3, 2009

We made it: Speculaas

Suzie from Munch+Nibble and I are taking part in the "We made it" project, where we choose a food magazine each month and cook as much as we can from it. It's an attempt to actually use the magazines we subscribe to, rather than just bookmarking them.

This month's magazine is Gourmet Traveller and the first dish I made was from the "Classic Dish" section: speculaas. This is a thin and crispy spiced biscuit from Europe. According to GT writer Emma Knowles, the Dutch and German versions of speculaas are heavily spiced, with cardamom and ground white pepper added to the mix. Emma also added star anise and mace to her interpretation.

I have a simplified speculaas recipe from Miranda Sharp that appeared in Epicure a few years ago and it makes a very moreish biscuit. But the spice mix in this GT version sounded more robust and interesting, with cardamom, cloves, star anise, white peppercorns, mace, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg all featuring. Rather than using ground spices, you grind up the cardamom, cloves, star anise, peppercorns and mace yourself. I made it the old-fashioned way, using a mortar and pestle, and it does produce an intense spice mix with an almost medicinal smell. However, letting the dough rest overnight softens the harsh edges of the strong spices and mellows them into an aromatic biscuit. The aroma while baking is heavenly. As Emma notes, it's a good thing that the recipe makes a lot of biscuits, as it is almost impossible to stop at just one.

The verdict: An intense, addictive biscuit that would find favour at any time of year but is particularly welcome at this time of year; aromatic spices feature heavily in Christmas baking. While this is an easy biscuit to make, it does involve some labour and you need to allow time for the dough to rest (at least eight hours, but preferably overnight), as well as chilling the cut biscuits before making them. So while I thoroughly enjoyed this biscuit, it is not something you can whip up in a hurry. My simplified speculaas recipe is better if you're in a hurry; but the intense spices in this version make it a winner.

Recipe by Emma Knowles, p 38, Gourmet Traveller, December 2009

500g plain flour, sieved
2 tsp baking powder
220g butter, softened
250g dark brown sugar
2 Tb milk
Speculaas spice
8 green cardamom pods
8 cloves
5 star anise
1 tsp white peppercorns
1 piece of mace
2 Tb ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp finely grated nutmeg

1. For speculaas spice, finely grind cardamom, cloves, star anise, peppercorns and mace in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle. Transfer to a large bowl, add cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, stir, add to flour and baking powder and set aside.

2. Beat butter, sugar and a pinch of salt in an electric mixer until creamy (3-4 minutes). Add milk, beat to combine, then add flour mixture and mix until just combined. Form mixture into a dough with your hands on a word surface (add extra milk if the mixture is too dry), shape into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate to rest (eight hours to overnight).

3. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Roll pastry on a lightly floured surface to 5mm thick, then refrigerate until firm (30 minutes). Cut into desired shapes and place on trays lined with baking paper. Chill until firm (20 minutes), then bake in batches until light brown and crisp (10-12 minutes). Cool for 5 minutes on trays, then transfer to wire racks and cool completely. Speculaas will keep, stored in an airtight container, for 1 week.


Suzie said...

Your speculaas look great. I was umming and ahhing about whether or not to try them, but have decided to make them for afternoon tea with a great aunt next week. Can't wait!

Lucky Girl said...

that looks quite nice, and i know what you mean about ordering mags and then never "using" them - it's a good idea - look forward to seeing more.