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! Knowing absolutely nothing about gevulde speculaas, I had a lot to learn. I’ve never eaten it nor have I ever made it so I was thankful when Francijn who happens to be a Dutch baker, told us a little about the history of Speculaas spices.
She said that “until 1800 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.” To make one’s fortune in Europe through the spice trade, one needed a monopoly on the European trade. Since 1500 the Portuguese owned that monopoly. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands, too, wanted to get rich from the spice trade, and established the Dutch East India Company around 1600, to join forces. Since 1660 the monopoly on spice trade was firmly in Dutch hands. In the Dutch Golden Age, roughly the 17th century, the republic got rich through this trade.
When spices became commonly available in the 17th century, bakers’ guilds began to make their secret spice mixtures. A mixture that gloriously survived the ages is “speculaaskruiden” (speculaas spices). Speculaaskruiden contain at least cinnamon, cloves, mace and ginger, and these spices to taste: pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise seeds and nutmeg. The smell of speculaaskruiden is overwhelming, especially when you take the trouble to mix them yourself. The deliciously warm and woody aroma is a perfect fit for the chilly Dutch winter months.From the golden age onward, this spice mixture was used to bake a crisp, buttery biscuit: speculaas. For centuries it remained a luxury item, baked only in the holiday season, and often given as a present. Sometimes bakers made the dough three months in advance so that the flavor would permeate the dough.”
Making this speculass stuffed with almond paste was an easy project that wasn’t very time-consuming either, with the exception of some chilling time. This cake is fragrant and flavorful. As it was baking, my home was permeated with the most amazing, warm spicy scent thanks to such a lovely mixture of spices. I loved having a taste of Dutch tradition in my own kitchen, baked by my own hands.
One Year Ago: Buttermilk Biscuits
A traditional Dutch spice cake filled with almond paste.
- 1 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon mace
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon anise
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ground cinnamon *See instructions
- 1 1/3 cup ground almonds
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons speculaas spices
- 3/4 cup unsalted butter
- whole almonds without skins for decoration
- 1 large egg
- In a small bowl, whisk together cloves, mace, ginger, white pepper, cardamom, coriander, anise and nutmeg. Weigh or measure the spices at this point. Add an equal amount of ground cinnamon. Whisk together. Set aside.
- In a food processor, pulse the ground almonds and granulated sugar for 1-2 minutes. Add the egg and lemon zest. Process until quite smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in refrigerator.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and spices.
- Cut the butter into pieces and add to the flour mixture. Knead until a smooth dough forms. If too dry, add a bit of milk.
- Split the dough into two pieces. Form two disks. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Spray a 10-inch round baking pan or an 8x10-inch baking pan with nonstick baking spray. Set aside.
- Mix the egg with 1 teaspoon of water.
- Roll each dough disk out to the size of your baking dish on a lightly floured surface. Fit one disk into the bottom of the baking dish.
- Spread 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
- Spread the almond paste over the dough and press down lightly.
- Spread 1/3 of the egg over the almond paste.
- Place the second dough layer on top of the almond paste and smooth as much as possible, pushing down lightly.
- Spread the last 1/3 egg mixture over the top and decorate with almonds.
- Bake for 40 minutes in preheated oven.
- Cool completely on a wire rack.
Recipe from Francjin Brouer