Whether you believe it’s because the ‘no’ or the ‘ber’ are back in the month, now is the time to make home and stead smell like spicey goodness. When outside it’s dark and stormy, and the garden is put to bed, let us take to the kitchen and rummage through our spice cabinets – be they neatly organized alphabetically, or be they in a pile of torn sachets.
Today we’ll be making Speculaasbrokken, which is a bit of a mouthful. Basically, they are gingerbread chunks, the old Dutch way. It’s a fairly easy recipe, not too messy. If you’re a stickler for originals, view the original recipe here. (Originating from Holland, I’ll be revisiting Dutch recipes here from time to time)
sidebar: You’ll be needing something called ‘cake spice’, something commonly found in Dutch kitchens and not others. I’ll put an estimation here, so you can whip up a batch yourself:
- 8 parts cinnamon
- 2 parts nutmeg
- 2 parts ground cloves
- 1 part white pepper
- 1 part powdered ginger
- 0.5 part cardamom
Mix together, and have a whiff. Now that’s goodness… If the fragrance of one particular spice surfaces, it could mean it’s in excess. Add a bit more of the others to balance it out (or not – whatever suits your nose and tastebuds!)
Right – sidebar over. This time I had no powdered ginger available, so I grated some fresh ginger into my dough. Not sure how much exactly, but I love me some fresh ginger. Just putting it out there. To prepare the dough, you’ll need:
- 300 gr. all-purpose flour
- 175 gr. unsalted butter, room temperature
- 150 g. dark caster sugar
- 4 tsp. cake spice
- 1 tbsp. cold milk
- pinch of salt
- drizzle of dark syrup
- 1 egg, whisked
- some almonds (optional)
Put the flour in a bowl; add the butter, spices, sugar, and salt. Knead – you can use a wooden spoon or a machine for this, but I find that using just plain hands works best. When all is incorporated, and nice and sticky, add the milk and a drizzle of dark syrup. Knead again through and through, and when everything is uniformly incorporated, form into a ball. Cover, and put it in a cool place -the fridge, the balcony etc, and let rest for about 30 minutes.
While the doughball is resting (lovely word, that), heat the oven to 175 degrees. Prepare a baking tray with a sheet of baking paper (or one of those silicone thingamajigs, if you have it). Whisk the egg in a bowl -and put aside. Do a little dance, have a swig of wine – treat yourself. Then, get the dough, and flatten it on the baking tray – this is not meant to look pretty yet, nor should the shape be a perfect square or circle or parallelogram. Squish it down and spread it out, until you have a thickness of roughly speaking 1 cm. Put the tray in the oven, and your big chunk of Speculaas should be ready in 20 – 25 minutes. Take out of the oven when it smells ready, and let it rest for a bit. Once cooled down, you can break it in chunks. Doesn’t matter what size- whatever floats your boat.
Disclaimer: there’s a fair amount of fingerspitzengefül going on when I’m in the kitchen, as experience teaches me that when I follow recipes to the letter, disaster is usually not too far away.