In addition to loving Chinese and Taiwanese food, this ABC chef loves desserts. I started out baking in elementary school with my mom and sister, when we would bake cookies from Mrs. Fields’ Cookie cook book. We would use the tinges of the fork to make criss-cross patterns on the peanut butter cookies, and help with each step of the process.
A common ingredient in lots of desserts and cookies is chocolate- chocolate chips, cocoa powder, unsweetened chocolate, nutella, etc. It seems like the baking world has gone nutella-crazy! (aside: my mom was at my apartment in college, and saw a jar of nutella sitting in the pantry. She asked me what it was, looked at the ingredients, and asked me to please throw it away because it was mostly just oil and sugar. It’s true..mothers know best. Read the ingredients list.)
Okay, so maybe people just can’t get enough of chocolate in their desserts. But what if you don’t like chocolate? I’ve been trying to make more desserts that taste good without being crazily fattening. Fat is flavor, so if you make anything with enough butter, chocolate, and cream, it’s probably going to taste good.
So what do these speculoos taste like? Wikipedia says that some version of speculoos have almonds, others do not, and have some spices, while others do not.
I brought some in for my friends at the French bistro I used to stage at, and one said “tastes like Christmas,” and the other one says it reminded him of gingersnaps. To me, it has the texture of a shortbread but slightly nutty because of the almonds, and the taste of something that is more tame than gingersnaps but a bit mysterious. You can be the judge if you make these!
Speculaas / Speculoos
adapted from Carol Walter’s Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets
1/3 cup (42 g) ground almonds- blanched or unblanched is fine
2 1/4 cups (270 g) all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup (150 g) sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2/3 cup (151 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1) Process 1/4 cup (30 g) flour and the almonds in a food processor, until the mixture clumps in your hand when you gather a bit together.
2) Strain the rest of the flour (2 cups) with the baking soda, sugar, and spices onto a clean countertop or surface. Make a well in the middle of the flour and crack the egg into the well. Use a fork to mix the the flour mixture and egg together as much as you can. The ‘dough’ will be pretty dry.
3) Pour the almond mixture from step #1 into a bowl and add the butter. Use your fingers to mix the butter with this almond mixture to form a mass.
4) Make a mound with the flour/egg mixture from step #2, then make a well or hole in the middle. Add the almond/butter mixture into that well. Using your palms, press down with a forward motion to mix together the flour/egg mixture and almond/butter mixture. If you know the ‘fraisage’ method (commonly used for pie crusts), this is it! I find that it’s similar to the motion of kneading..Keep using your palms to smush everything together as evenly as possible.
5) Split the dough in half and form two disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 days.
6) Preheat the oven to 350F.
7) Scoop out 1.5 tsp mounds of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Roll the cookie dough into neat balls if you wish.
8) When you are done portioning out cookies onto a cookie sheet, lay a piece of Silpat (top face down) or parchment paper on top. Use another cookie sheet to flatten the rounds so they become thin disks. Gently peel the parchment paper or Silpat away to reveal nice coins of cookie dough.
9) Sprinkle each round with some salt.
10) Bake at 350F for 10-15 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown.
11) Remove from the oven and cool on cookie sheets, then store in airtight containers.
-I didn’t have a speculoos mold, so I just made them into rounds. They taste the same, right? : )