Today is the feast of St. Nicholas and we are celebrating with Speculaas cookies, a spiced shortcrust cookie traditional to the Netherlands. Speculaas are usually cut using intricate wooden cookie molds with images of animals, plants, people, windmills and the bishop of Myra, St. Nicholas – although simple shapes decorated with almonds are also popular. Almost identical versions of this cookie are also enjoyed in Belgium (Speculoos) and Germany (Spekulatius).
The spice mix used is particular to this cookie and includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, white pepper, ginger, and cardamom. In the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany, you can buy this spice mix pre-mixed, but I have included a recipe below for those that don’t have access to the store-bought spice mix.
For the dough:
200g all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1.5 tablespoons Speculaas spice mix (see below)
pinch of salt
100g light brown sugar
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 tablespoon water
50g sliced almonds
For the topping:
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g sliced almonds
Note: To make spice mix, combine 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1/2 tsp cloves, 1/4 tsp white pepper, 1/4 tsp ground ginger, and 1/4 tsp cardamom. This will make slightly more than the recipe calls for.
- Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and either knead together with your hands or pulse in a food processor until a smooth dough is formed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Roll out onto a lightly floured surface about 1/4 inch thick. Cut shapes and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Brush with egg and sprinkle with almonds.
- Bake at 375F/190C for 5-10 minutes for small cookies, or 15-18 minutes for large cookies. Keep a close eye on them as they bake. These burn quickly and taste awful when baked too long. Don’t let them get brown – they are done when lighly golden.