Sunday, 24 November 2013
German Spekulatius Cookies
"Spekulatius" Cookies - those are a constant friend of mine during the christmas season and their smell just describes the whole annual december experience perfectly: comfort, contemplation, quality time for the family and myself, calming down after a rushed summer and just enjoying ourselves in community or alone, cuddled up in a blanket with a good book while waiting for Christmas Eve to arrive.
A variety of spices, from almonds, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, anise and nutmeg get incorporated in a crispy, crunchy cookie - a favourite just plain, dipped in some milk or as a stuffing for baked apples - winter perfection!
Those cookies own a history packed with christmas traditions! They originally were baked during the cold season for centuries here in northern europe and are also known as "speculoos" for our dear neighbours in the Netherlands or Belgium. You might have got around this taste combination in form of the nowadays well known "Cookie Butter" (I have to admit I'm full in for this spread as a weekend treat - delicious!) but this is nothing compared to the aromatic cookies which scream christmas for me like nothing else does.
The dough consists of the named spices which came from all over the world during the former times and I just get pictures in my head of kids - all excited for those really exclusive tastes in former times - waiting 'til their mom laid the treats out on a plate. Today it's a whole lot easier for us to just pick the spices up from a nearby supermarket and even if the original recipe calls for wooden pans to shape the cookies you can easily just turn them into cut out ones!
To this just add some flour, butter, sugar and fresh eggs, preferably leave the dough to chill for a night or two and then bake them batch after batch (I tell you, you won't be able to get away with just one, they're all eaten up far too easily!!).
There's a variety of recipes for the Spekulatius Cookies, some with more or less spices and butter, some baked on sliced almonds and some just plain, nearly like basic sugar cookies. In my world, the only "true" Spekulatius Cookie needs to be packed with spices and left for resting for some days to enhance all the flavours (the number of cookies will decrease a little during that time, not that I'm not patient, but they always look sooo tempting ;-)). While the cookies are baking your whole house will slowly be infused with the amazing smell of christmas spices, so throw in a little christmas music and start decorating all the sideboards and doors, while you (impatiently) wait for tasting the outcome.
Then it's time to brew up some hot coffee or get a glass of cold milk, lay a generous amount of Spekulatius Cookies on an individual plate just for you (they're just too good to be shared, hence the recommendation for a doubled or tripled batch, so you're on the "safe side", no matter what...), grab your favourite book and put your feet up on the couch, devouring into comforting spices and heartwarming memories or the books story while forgetting about today's rushed world likely experienced during our daily life.
German Spekulatius Cookies
- inspired by this westphalian family recipe, yields about 30-40 small cookies (4cm diameter)
- spices: one tsp of each: cinnamon, cloves, anise, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander
- 2 and 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup ground almonds
- 1 cup (brown) sugar
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1/8 cup milk
1. Mix the spices in a small bowl.
2. Mix the flour with the almonds, spice mixture, sugar and baking powder in a huge bowl, then add in the egg.
3. Cut in the butter and gradually add in the milk, keep kneading (with your hands) for approximately 3-5 minutes until a slightly sticky yet well mixed dough resembles. Wrap in foil and let rest for at least 30 minutes/preferably overnight in the refrigerator.
4. Knead the dough one more time. Preheat your oven to 175°C.
5. Roll the dough out with a pin on a slightly floured surface, ~ 0.5cm thick and cut out your cookies, you might even want to try stamping them with special stamps. Line a baking tray with parchment paper and assemble your cookies on it, 2-3cm apart from each other. Bake for 8-10 minutes until they can easily be lifted from the paper and are slightly browned on the surface.
6. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container for up to three weeks. Enjoy!