Gevulde (filled) Speculaas
from Jan Downer
Although speculaas is most famously connected with the Dutch celebrating their St. Nicholas’ (as they rightly believe ‘Santa Claus’ is a poor American imitation…), speculaas in several forms and shapes is eaten all year round in the Netherlands, and for fair reason! (which is in the tasting).
200 g Self-rising flour
150 g Butter (cold)
125 g Dark brown Sugar
20 g Speculaas spices*
300 g Almond Paste**
Zest of 1/2 lemon
1 Egg, slightly beaten
6-10 Almonds (blanched)
25 cm (10”) Baking Tin
Make a kind of ‘shortcrust pastry’
Mix and sieve the flour with the speculaas spices and mix in the dark brown sugar with a pinch of salt.
Then add the cold butter, cut in 1 cm (½”) cubes, to the flour mix. With either two smooth table knives, pastry blender or food processor, cut the butter into the flour to very small flakes. Add a small splash of cold water and start, with cold hands, kneading the mix (or, with the machine, give it another spin, then briefly knead by hand). Add a bit more water if the dough does not come together. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for at least an hour. Leaving the dough in the fridge for up to 30 days to ‘mature’ does bring out the true taste of speculaas!
Prepare the filling
With a fork, flake the almond paste. Add the finely grated zest of half a lemon and half of the (mixed & shaken) egg. With the fork mix all and finally briefly knead the mix. Yet again: if you have the time, rest in the fridge overnight to let the flavours develop.
Roll out 3/5 of the dough to about ½ cm thickness and then cut 2-3 cm wider than the baking tin. Transfer the dough flap into the tin. Gently mould the dough into the tin.
Now with a wetted fork, transfer the almond paste into the dough-clad tin. Gently spread the almond paste to an even level.
Roll out the remaining dough to a ½ cm thickness again. Cut to exact the circumference of the top of the tin and transfer to the top of the tin. With a fork, press the rim to seal the two layers of dough.
Cut the rim of the tin clean. Pierce the top layer a couple of times to release steam and decorate with the blanched almonds. Finally, brush the top with remainder of the egg and pop into the oven: about 40 minutes at 175ºC (350º F)/fan 150ºC (300F)/Convection.
At this point it is very likely you will have some dough ‘cut-offs’ left over: roll out to ½ cm for Speculaasjes (cookies) or 1 cm for Brokken (shards). Use a knife or cookie cutter to make desired shapes. Transfer to a baking tray. Once you have taken out the filled speculaas, turn the oven down to 140ºC/fan (285ºF) or 125ºC (260ºF) and bake for 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, leave the filled speculaas to cool down for about 10 minutes before turning out and putting on a cooling rack. Only cut when completely cold.
* The special Speculaas Spices mix (NL: speculaas kruiden) CANNOT be replaced by (british) mixed spice! It contains Cinnamon, Ginger, Cardamom, Mace and up to 5 other spices. The relative amounts in the mixes are company secrets: not unlike Coca Cola. They can be bought in dutch supermarkets, in specialist spice shops, or online. back
** Almond Paste (NL: amandelpijs) is also a continental (un-british) patisserie staple: a much coarser ground almond & sugar mix than marzipan. Also with a slightly higher amount of almonds. Although it can be homemade (with meat grinder or food processor), most Dutch bakers, home- and professional- usually buy it ready-made: supermarket or wholesale. back
From Jan Downer, a Dutch expat living in Lanark, Scotland, who for twenty-plus years has celebrated St. Nicholas Dutch-style with other Dutch expats coming together for a long weekend somewhere in the UK.