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Speculaas – Dutch Spice Cookies

Speculaas or Dutch Spice Cookies are a wonderfully old fashioned Christmas treat and so delicious! These light and crisp cookies are full of fragrant and exotic spices, perfect for the festive season.

Ever since I was a very little boy, one of my favourite types of cookie has been Speculaas or Dutch Spice Cookies. Depending on whereabouts you are located these may be known as Speculaas (Holland), Speculoos (Belgium), Spekulatius (Germany) or Biscof/Dutch Windmill Cookies (U.S.) Whatever you call them, these delightfully spiced cookies are a Christmas treat.

So what are Speculaas cookies?

Delicious! Speculaas cookies are a very old fashioned bake, traditionally eaten in the Netherlands around St. Nicholas’ Day, the 6th of December. They are a lightly caramelised, thin and crunchy cookie flavoured with cinnamon, aniseed, cardamom, cloves, mace and ginger. I love them so much I even use them to make the base of my Mulled Wine Cheesecake!

That’s a lot of spices!

That’s why they’re called spice cookies! Back in the 17th century when Speculaas were invented, the Dutch East India Company were in full swing, transporting exotic spices like cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon from Indonesia to Europe. Because these spices travelled a long way they were a real luxury and reserved for special occasions.

Why are they sometimes known as ‘Windmill Cookies’?

Speculaas cookie dough is traditionally pressed into intricately carved wooden moulds, before being turned out and baked. While these are made in all sorts of wonderful shapes and sizes, commercial Speculaas is often made in the shape of a windmill – one of the emblems of the Netherlands.

Is there a special mixture of spices that are used in Speculaas?

The exact combination of spices that are used in Speculaas varies from cook to cook, rather like ‘ras al hanout’ or ‘top of the shop’! The base spices are always cinnamon, cloves and ginger. Coriander, cardamom, anise and nutmeg are added to taste. Traditionally mace, the dried leaf of nutmeg, is also used, though I leave it out as I find the flavour of nutmeg is enough.

How do I decorate Speculaas if I don’t have the traditional moulds?

Don’t worry too much, you can use lots of things to decorate Speculaas! I like to cut them out into star shapes and then use cookie stamps or wooden cutouts to decorate them. You could use a decorative cookie roller, silicone mats, the side of cut glassware, or anything with a texture to make an imprint. Get creative!

Most cookie recipes start with creaming the butter and sugar together – why don’t you do that here?

When you cream butter and sugar together you beat lots of air into the mixture, which causes cookies to lose their crisp edges when they puff up. In this recipe we want to preserve all of the intricate details, so no creaming the butter and sugar!

Looking for more European Christmas cookie recipes? Why not try Zimtsterne, Vanillekipferl or Spitzbuben?

Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can I change the spices around in Speculaas? I don’t have all of these?

As long as you stick to the base notes of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves you’ll have a traditionally flavoured cookie. The other spices you can adjust to taste.

How do I store Speculaas?

I find they keep best in a metal cookie tin or glass jar.

Can I freeze Speculaas cookie dough?

Yes! Wrap well in cling film before storing in the freezer.


Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies
Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies
Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies
Speculaas Dutch Spice Cookies

Speculaas - Dutch Spice Cookies

Yield: 40 Cookies
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Speculaas or Dutch Spice Cookies are a wonderfully old fashioned Christmas treat and so delicious! These light and crisp cookies are full of fragrant and exotic spices, perfect for the festive season.

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 100g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • 125g soft brown sugar
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • ½ tsp cardamom
  • ¼ tsp aniseed
  • ¼ tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground gloves
  • finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 egg, beaten

Instructions

  1. PROCESS THE FLOUR AND BUTTER: Combine the flour, butter, baking powder and salt in the bowl of a food processor with the blade attachment fitted. Process until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
  2. MIX THE INGREDIENTS: Pour the flour and butter mixture into a mixing bowl and use a fork to stir through the sugar, almonds, spices and orange zest until well combined. Pour in the egg and mix well.
  3. FORM THE DOUGH: Use your hands to squeeze and knead the dough until soft and smooth - don’t overdo it, just bring the dough together. It may initially look like it will stay crumbly, but it will come together. Form the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  4. HEAT THE OVEN: When the dough has rested, heat the oven 20 180°C / 350°F / Gas 4 and line two oven trays with baking paper.
  5. ROLL AND CUT: Roll the dough out to around 3mm thick on a lightly floured work surface. Cut into the desired shape, using decorative cookie stamps or cutters if you like.
  6. BAKE: Transfer the cookies to the baking paper-lined trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until just golden brown.

Notes

If you are finding the dough really doesn't come together at all, add a couple of teaspoons of milk to add a little moisture.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 40 Serving Size: 1 biscuit
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 64Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 10mgSodium: 36mgCarbohydrates: 9gFiber: 0gSugar: 3gProtein: 1g

Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.

Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram.

If you enjoy this recipe please leave a star rating or a comment below!


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Jay Wadams
Jay Wadams

Jay Wadams is a cookbook author and food photographer. Jay is the author of two cookbooks: 'Tasty' (2017) and 'Simply Summer' (2019). Based in Italy 🇮🇹 Germany 🇩🇪 and Australia 🇦🇺.

Articles: 288

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