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.)
However you call them, these delightfully spiced cookies are a real Christmas treat.
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 also called ‘Dutch 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.
Are Speculaas spices always the same?
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.
You don’t need special equipment
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!
A different cookie baking method
Looking for more European Christmas cookie recipes? Why not try Zimtsterne, Vanillekipferl or Spitzbuben?
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 Windmill Cookies
Speculaas or Dutch Windmill 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.
- 250g (2 cups) plain or all-purpose flour
- 100g (1 stick) unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- 125g (4.5 oz.) soft brown sugar
- 50g (½ cup) 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- BAKE: Transfer the cookies to the baking paper-lined trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until just golden brown.
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.
NOTE: Imperial and cup measurements are approximate. For best and most accurate results I use and strongly recommend a digital kitchen scale like the one below.
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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.