Speculaas: Dutch Spice Cookies

One of my all-time favorite cookies are Belgian Biscoff cookies. They are SO GOOD! When my husband picked up this holiday cookie cookbook at the library for me, this recipe immediately caught my eye. These Northern European spice cookies are called Speculaas in the Netherlands, Speculoos in Belgium, and Spekulatius in Germany.

This recipe for Dutch Spice Cookies was adapted from Christmas Cookies: 50 Recipes to Treasure for the Holiday Season by Lisa Zwirn. It was recommended to use a diamond-shaped cookie cutter with fluted edges, but I made Christmas trees for the occasion! (Any other shape would truly make them seasonless.) The dough had an ideal texture and rolled and cut like a dream. 🙂 I am going to make them again for sure- and will (at least) double the recipe next Christmas. I may also have to get the traditional cookie cutter.

Yield: Makes about 50 (2 1/2-inch diameter) cookies

For the Cookie Dough:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice (or cloves) (I used freshly ground allspice)
  • 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp grated lemon zest (I used the zest of 1 lemon)

For the Egg Wash & Topping:

  • 1 egg white whisked with 2 tsp water until frothy
  • sliced almonds, to taste

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice in a medium bowl.
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar in a large bowl until creamy.
  3. Beat in the egg, then the lemon zest.
  4. With the beaters on low-speed, mix in the flour mixture until throughly combined.
  5. Gather the dough in to a ball, then divide it in half.
  6. Shape each half into a disk and wrap separately in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (I refrigerated the dough overnight.)
  7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees on convection. Line 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Working with one disk at a time, roll out the dough  between two sheets of plastic wrap or on a lightly floured surface to a 1/4-inch thickness.
  9. Using a diamond, square, or round cookie cutter measuring about 2 1/2-inches in diameter, cut the dough and arrange on the prepared baking sheets about 1 1/2-inches apart. (I refrigerated the cut dough overnight prior to baking.)
  10. Reroll the scraps and repeat.
  11. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the egg wash over the tops of the cookies.
  12. Press a few almonds onto the center of each cookie.
  13. Bake for 10 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are slightly browned around the edges and the almonds are golden. (The cookies will crisp up as they cool.)
  14. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool.

Note: The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks or frozen for up to 3 months.

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Speculoos

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I am not a fan of packaged cookies- my one exception is Biscoff. I LOVE them! When I saw this bakery version of my favorite spiced shortbread cookie from Belgium, I could barely wait to make them. This recipe is from Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller and Sebastien Rouxel. To be just like Thomas Keller, I followed all of the instructions precisely including his method to roll out the dough. The dough is pounded with a rolling-pin to flatten it during the rolling process in order to prevent cracking- it worked quite well! Because I also wanted to present mine just like Thomas Keller, I sprinkled the cookies with powdered sugar just before serving. 🙂 The dough could also be topped with turbinado sugar prior to baking. (next time!) I cooked some of the cookies until the edges were lightly brown and others a little bit longer. All were delicious, but I preferred the cookies that cooked slightly longer as they were more reminiscent of crispy Biscoff. GREAT!

I am bringing this dessert to Fiesta Friday (#6) over at The Novice Gardener this week- visit to check out the party! A FEAST 🙂

  • 3/4 cup (104 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 1/2 T (74 g) cake flour
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 T (74 g) whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 tsp (1.3 g) baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp (1.3 g) ground cinnamon
  • 3/8 tsp (1.3 g) Kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup (74 g) dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 1/4 tsp (59 g) granulated sugar
  • 1 1/8 tsp (8 g) Clover honey
  • 6.2 oz (177 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • powdered sugar for dusting or turbinado sugar for sprinkling
  1. Place the all-purpose flour in a medium bowl and sift in the cake and whole wheat flours. Break up any lumps of flour remaining in the sieve and add them to the bowl. Sift in the baking soda and cinnamon. Add the salt and whisk together.
  2. Combine both sugars in a bowl and whisk to break up any lumps. Using a fork, stir in the honey.
  3. Place the butter in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Turn to medium-low speed and cream the butter until smooth.
  4. Add the sugar mixture and mix for about 2 minutes, until fluffy. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing on low-speed for 15 to 30 seconds after each, or until just combined. Scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate any dry ingredients that have settled there.
  6. Mound the dough on the work surface and, using the heel of your hand or a pastry scraper, push it together into a 4- by 6-inch block. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or, preferably, overnight.
  7. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 325 degrees. (I used convection.) Line two sheet pans with Silpats or parchment paper.
  8. Unwrap the dough and place it between two pieces of parchment paper or plastic wrap. With a rolling-pin, pound the top of the dough, working from left to right, to begin to flatten it, then turn the dough 90 degrees and repeat. (This will prevent the dough from cracking as it is rolled.) Roll out to just under 1/8 inch thick. If the dough has softened, slide it (in the parchment) onto the back of a sheet pan and refrigerate until firm enough to cut into cookies.
  9. Using a decorative cutter (they would be pretty as snowflakes), cut out the cookies and arrange them on the prepared sheet pans, leaving about 3/4 inch between them. If necessary, push the trimmings together, refrigerate until firm, and reroll. If the dough softens, return it to the refrigerator until the cookies are firm enough to transfer to the sheet pans. (I cut the shapes, stack them with plastic wrap between each layer, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours (or overnight) prior to baking.)
  10. Bake the cookies until golden brown, 13 to 15 minutes, reversing the positions of the pans halfway through baking. Set the pans on a cooling rack and cool for 5 to 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies to the rack to cool completely.
  11. The cookies can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days. Just before serving, sift powdered sugar over the cookies.

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