Spectacular Speculaa Cookies
Speculaas are crunchy, lightly browned spice cookies traditionally baked in the Netherlands and Belgium for St. Nicholas Eve. These cookies usually are baked with molds (found in a cookware shop or catalog) to imprint an image. You may recognize them as Dutch Windmill cookies.
If you don’t have cookie molds, don’t worry, you can cut them into rectangles or use cookie cutters. Simply roll out the dough between lightly floured sheets of wax paper to a large rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Trim the edges of the dough evenly. Use a ruler to mark rectangles 2 inches long x 3 inches wide. Transfer the rectangles to the lined baking sheets, leaving 1 inch of space between them. If using cookie cutters, dip them in flour occasionally to keep them from sticking.
Specialty tools: Speculaas molds or cookie cutters. If making bars, you need a ruler.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 9 minutes
Yield: 3-1/2 dozen
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1-1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, preferably freshly ground or grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (1-1/8 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
Zest of 1 large lemon, finely minced or grated
1/2 cup sliced or slivered almonds
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves and toss with the nutmeg, salt, and ground almonds.
Using a mixer, beat the butter in a large mixing bowl until soft and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the superfine sugar and brown sugar and mix together until smooth.
In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg and add to the mixture. Blend in the lemon zest. Stop occasionally and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.
Add the dry ingredients from Step 1 in three to four stages, blending well after each addition.
Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours. Keep one half refrigerated while working with the other half.
Prepare the cookie molds by dusting them with flour. Pinch off large pieces of dough and roll each into a golf-ball-size piece.
Place a ball of dough in the center of the cookie mold and firmly press or roll out the dough into the mold. Then lightly tap the mold on a countertop to release the cookie. Place the cookies on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle a few sliced or slivered almonds on each cookie and press gently so they will stick.
Bake the cookies for 9 to 11 minutes, until the cookies are golden and set.
Remove the cookie sheet from the oven and transfer the cookies to racks to cool. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 months.
Per serving: Calories 80 (From Fat 45); Fat 5g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 12mg; Sodium 25mg; Carbohydrate 8g (Dietary Fiber 1g); Protein 2g.