Dutch Cookies – Speculaas

I did mentioned my all-time-favourite biscuits before, but this time I’d like to praise my NEW favourites – Speculaas, Dutch spiced biscuits. Traditionally served on the eve of the Feast of St Nicholas, in early December. However, we started to nibble on them late in October, on our trip to Holland. I grew up eating  Piparkūkas (Latvian ginger biscuits). I like them a lot, but I find Speculaas to be much lighter, wonderfully spiced and moreish.

These took just a litre bit longer to prepare, compared to my Clove & Hazelnuts Cookies, mainly due to arranging the almond flakes on them. But as a reward for your efforts, you’ll get a good amount of these beauties, depending on the size of your cookie cutters, of course!

Speculaas

SPECULAAS

Ingredients:

100g butter, softened

1 egg

250g plain flour

1 tablespoon cornflour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

flaked almond for decoration (optional)

Method:

Beat the butter and sugar together until creamy, beat in the egg.

Sift together the flour, cornflour, baking powder, cinnamon, gender, nutmeg, cloves and allspice, plus a pinch of salt. Add it to the butter mixture and stir to form a firm dough. Shape it to the large, flat cake shape and place it to the fridge to chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll out the dough between 2 sheets of cling film to approx 2-3 mm thick. Cut into any Christmas shape you like, transfer to the baking sheets, making sure you leave a gap between each shape. Decorate the tops with almonds, if using.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until golden brown. Leave on the trays for another 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Speculaas

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Clove and Hazelnut Cookies

Merry Christmas everyone, wherever you are! I hope your Christmas is wonderful and you are spending a nice time with your family and friends!

Here is one my absolute favourite Christmas biscuits for many years now. What makes it Christmasy is the rather prominent, but not overpowering flavour of clove. You have to love clove to love these cookies. These are wonderful with an after-dinner coffee, or wrapped up and given as a gift.

Clove & Hazelnut cookies

Clove & Hazelnut cookies
CLOVE AND HAZELNUT COOKIES

(Originally from BBC Good Food Magazine)

Ingredients:

250g butter, softened

100g hazelnuts

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

150g icing sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

350g plain flour

Method:

  1. Put the butter, hazelnuts, vanilla extract and 100g of the icing sugar in a food processor, and whizz to a paste. Add 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and the flour, then pulse together until a dough forms.
  2. Heat oven to 180C. Line a couple of baking sheets with baking parchment. Roll the dough into walnut-sized balls and arrange on the baking sheets. Use the folk lightly squeeze each ball. Bake for 15 minutes or until they turn a pale biscuit colour (if they get too brown, they will become dry).
  3. Mix the remaining icing sugar and ground cloves, then sieve a thick layer over the hot biscuits. Leave to cool slightly before eating just warm, or cool.

Gingerbread Biscotti

Happy 2016, everyone! I hope your holiday was merry, festive, and relaxing. For some, the celebration still goes on (Merry Christmas to all of you who celebrate the Orthodox Christmas!). Still in the festive spirit, I’d like to share with you a recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti, which we sampled in our house over the Christmas break. They are not too heavy or hard, perfectly spiced and ideal with a cup of hot chocolate.

Gingerbread Biscotti

GINGERBREAD BISCOTTI

(Recipe came from Smitten Kitchen)

Ingredients:

2 cups plus 2 tablespoons (265 grams) all-purpose flour, plus extra for flouring hands
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
A few grinds of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
100 grams butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1/2 cups toasted, chopped nuts or white or dark chocolate chunks (optional, I also, like the original author of the recipe, kept mine plain)
1 large egg white

Plus for sugar dipping (opional):

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Method:

  1. Heat oven to 175C. Line one large or two small baking sheets (if yours are small you’ll probably prefer using two, as the logs will spread a lot) with parchment paper or a silicon baking mat. In a large bowl, stir together dry ingredients — 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour, baking powder, spices, pepper and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together sugars, butter, 2 large eggs and vanilla. Add wet ingredients along with any optional additions (nuts or chocolate) to dry mixture and stir to combine. It’s going to seem a bit soft and sticky; it’s a-okay.
  2. Divide dough in half. Using floured hands, transfer first half to the prepared baking sheet(s) and form it into a slightly flatted log about 28 cm by 6 1/2 cm, going down one side of a baking sheet intended for two logs, or the center of a baking sheet intended for one log. Repeat with second half of dough. Whisk egg white in a small bowl until a little foamy and loose. Brush over top and sides of each log.
  3. Bake logs until golden brown all over, about 25 minutes. Transfer tray to cooling rack; let cool about 25 minutes, until lukewarm. Gently transfer each log to a cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife and gently sawing motion, cut logs on the diagonal into 1 cm wide slices. If using cinnamon-sugar, stir the two together and dip both cut sides in the mixture.
  4. Arrange slices, a cut side down, on baking sheet(s). Bake for another 10 to 12 minutes, until golden underneath. Turn each biscotti over and bake for a final 6 to 8 minutes, until lightly bronzed all over. Let cool on rack.

Gingerbread Biscotti