Sunday, January 27, 2013

January 2013 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Gevulde Speculaas

Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
Gevulde Speculaas
My husband is half Dutch, so I was thrilled to discover this Dutch pastry would be my second Bakers’ Challenge recipe.  One of his favorite Dutch treats has always been Speculaasjes which are windmill cookies.  Needless to say, he has been looking forward to trying homemade Gevulde Speculaas which is Speculaas stuffed with almond paste.

I encourage you to visit Francijn’s blog, Koken in deBrouwerij, to read a bit of the history behind this Dutch treat.

Home made Speculaas Spices
I truly enjoyed making the Gevulde Speculaas!  Well… aside from those few moments at assembly time.  Perhaps I should have added a bit more milk, as my dough crumbled when I attempted to roll it (allowing it to set out helped, as the second section was far easier to work with.)  And, I must admit, rolling the almond paste was easier than I had anticipated.  Now, getting it off of the cling wrap and onto the dough was another story!  (In the end, I peeled one layer of the wrap off, laid the paste onto the dough in the pan and pressed it onto the dough.  Getting the plastic wrap off of the edges of the almond paste was a little tricky, but once it pulled off the edges, it lifted right off of the center, leaving the paste on the dough.)  My photos demonstrate how rough my top layer of dough appeared.  I managed to smooth it out a bit and used a knife to even out the edges.  My husband laughed at (with?) me as I showed him my various stages and complained, “Honey, this isn’t as pretty as it should be.”  So, I felt pretty good when I showed him the final pre-cooked pan of Gevulde Speculaas and he exclaimed how great it looked.

Almond paste over 1st layer of dough - pretty rough around the edges...

Top layer of dough - shouldn't it be prettier?
With the egg wash and almonds, it's looking better!
The big question with any new recipe in our home is, "Is it a make again recipe?"  In response to this treat, my husband declared, "Heck yes!  I think you did great!"  We might try it with a tiny bit less clove next time, but he's not even sure that is necessary.
Gevulde Speculaas - It turned out beautifully!
As for my picky eater... he could smell the Speculaas Spices in the dough as I mixed the bread and declared it smelled so much like gingerbread, he knew he would like Gevulde Speculaas.  (Considering he does not like nuts, I found his declaration quite impressive.)  He is in bed at the moment, so I will give you his final verdict tomorrow - as well as his brother's opinion.
A slice for my husband - we will be making more of these in the future!

Below is Francijn's recipe.  I cannot thank her enough for introducing this traditional Dutch recipe to me.  I cannot wait to deliver some to the rest of my husband's family to enjoy!

You will need the following equipment:
rolling pin
food processor (to grind the almonds, & possibly to grind the anise seeds)
shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch (20x26 cm) or round with a 10 inch (26 cm) diameter

Preparation times:
Making the almond paste: 10-20 minutes
Making the speculaas dough: 10-20 minutes
Waiting:  2 hours or a few days (your choice)
Assembling:  30 minutes
Baking:  40 minutes.
Cooling:  a few hours.

Speculaas Spices Ingredients:               Amounts I used:
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount                              9 teaspoons
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts                                                    2 teaspoons
mace ½ or 1 part                                                                1 teaspoon
ginger ½ or 1 part                                                               1 teaspoon        

white pepper ½ or 1 part                                                      did not use
cardamom ½ or 1 part                                                         1 teaspoon
coriander ½ or 1 part                                                           1 teaspoon
anise ½ or 1 part                                                                 1 teaspoon
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts                                                             2 teaspoons (freshly grated)

A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.
This method yields at least 4 and at most 18 teaspoons of spices, so if you plan to mix just a few spices, use bigger or more spoons to get a reasonable amount.

Take your time to smell the ingredients individually before you decide how much to add. And remember the proportions; that will make adjustments easier next time.
Store the spices airtight, dry and dark, they will not spoil for a long time.

MONEY SAVING TIP:  The spices were the most expensive ingredients.  If your store has a bulk spice section, I strongly encourage you to check that out.   A single bottle of ground cardamom would have cost me roughly $16.00 and Anise seed would have been another $8.00.  In the bulk section, I was able to take a couple of teaspoons of the four spices I did not have on hand and it cost me less than $5.00 for them all.

NOTE:  I was unable to find ground anise.  I purchased a couple tablespoons of bulk anise seed and used my food processor to grind it into powder.  I was unable to grind all of the seeds, but I did manage to make about 3 teaspoons of ground anise.  I kept the extra in an airtight container, labeled it, and put it in my spice cabinet with my home made Speculaas Spices.

Recipe Almond Paste
As we are going to make stuffed speculaas, we will need almond paste. You may be able to buy it in a store, but homemade almond paste tastes better.

7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest

If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.

Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)

Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.

Add the lemon zest and grind until combined.

Add the egg and let the food processor combine it - if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.

Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Although the flavor gets better as days pass by, it is not wise to store the paste for too long, as it contains a raw egg. For the same reason you should not eat the paste unbaked.
To be safe, you could choose one of these options:
use egg powder and water to replace the egg (follow instructions with the powder)
use 50 ml of another liquid, like lemon juice (in that case, leave the zest out)
add the egg just before you are going to bake the pastry
The paste can also be kept in the freezer.

Recipe Speculaas Dough
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter

Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.  (I added one tablespoon of Almond Milk.)
Wrap in clingwrap and put in the refrigerator for two hours.

You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste; that will benefit the flavor. Freezing is no problem.

Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
speculaas dough
almond paste
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8x10 inch (20x26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)

1. Grease the pan.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough into two portions.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
5. Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon of cold water.
7. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
10. Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
11. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
12. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
13. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
14. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
15. If you wrap the stuffed speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh speculaas tastes better.

Storage & Freezing Instructions/Tips:
Speculaas spices: store them airtight, dry and dark, and they will not spoil for a long time.
Almond paste: keep it in the refrigerator. Some people keep it there for months, but if it contains raw egg, I recommend not more than a few days.  It can easily be frozen.
Speculaas dough: can be kept in the refrigerator for days or in the freezer for months. But remember: fresh tastes better.
Stuffed speculaas: if you let it cool completely, you can wrap it in clingwrap and keep it a few days at room temperature.  And again: freezing is possible, but fresh is better.

Thanks for stopping by!

***UPDATED 1/28/13***
My eldest declared Gevulde Speculaas tasted like a "fantastic cinnamon cookie" and he really wanted to have it again in the future.

My youngest realized the center was made with almonds and thought he would get away without a taste.  I insisted I needed to share his opinion with the world and cut a tiny portion off of a thin slice. He reluctantly picked it up (with his big brother insisting it was really good) put a tiny bit in his mouth, chewed, and made a face.  I almost sighed out loud, believing he did not like it, then he picked up the rest of the slice and devoured it! When asked to describe it in his words, he said it was "magical goodness."