Speculaas are spiced Dutch cookies traditionally made to celebrate Saint Nicholas Day on December 5. In Holland, Saint Nicholas Day is the main gift-giving day, rather than December 25 as in North America. As children, my sister and I would leave a shoe out with a carrot for Sinterklaas’ horse on the night of Dec 4. In the morning, the carrot would be gone and in its stead, small treats like these speculaas, pepernoten, mandarins and beautiful pieces of marzipan shaped like animals or fruit! We would listen to Sinterklaas music and enjoy our treats under the Christmas tree, talking about how Sinterklaas could possibly have found us in Canada… so far away from the Netherlands! This is one of the songs we would listen to:
Making speculaas with a traditional wooden mold (pictured above) is a labour of love… every single cookie needs to be pressed and shaped individually. My mold is quite old and after making my cookies this year, I think it would be better suited as a piece of art, rather than a functional mold. As you can see, the detailing on the cookies is not very clear anymore. But they taste just as good as I remember them from my childhood!
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cloves
- 3/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 tsp aniseed
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1/2 tsp orange zest
- 1/4 tsp corriander
- 1/8 tsp fresh coffee grounds
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 medium egg
- 1.5 tbsp speculaas spice mix
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 cup all-purpose gluten-free flour
- 1/2 cup sprouted, roasted almonds
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
To make the spice mix, try to get whole spices and grind them yourself. If you want to store the spice mix, do not use fresh ginger or orange. Or add the fresh ingredients straight to the dough (1/4 tsp each)
Cream the butter and the sugar by whisking until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat. Finally, add the spice mix and salt and beat again.
Meanwhile, in a food processor, grind the almonds with a quarter cup of flour to as fine a consistency as possible. Then add the remainder of the flour as well as the baking powder and soda. Processes again until fully blended.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until fully combined. Wrap dough well in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a day to let the spices bloom.
If you are using a traditional wooden mold, flour the molds well before pressing in the dough. Once you have pressed the dough evenly into the mold, scrape off the excess, then carefully tap out of the mold and lay on a cookie sheet. If you don't have a wooden mold, you can use a patterned rolling pin or simply press out shapes with a cookie cutter... it all tastes the same in the end 😉
Bake at 350°F for 12 minutes, or until the edges darken slightly.