When cinnamon, sugar and butter are mixed together, the result is something many people all over the world find irresistible.
The first cinnamon roll was created in Sweden, around the 1920’s. After World War I, several goods such as sugar, eggs and butter, which had been heavily restricted, eventually returned to the grocery shelves. The spice trade from Southeast Asia also led to the invention of the roll. Cinnamon was not grown locally in the European countries, hence the spice trade from Sri Lanka led to the development of cinnamon use in the European countries. The influences of German baking techniques combine with Swedish and Danish ingredients can clearly be seen in the making of the cinnamon roll.
In Sweden, October 4th is ‘Kanelbulle’ day or national ‘Cinnamon Roll Day’. This holiday was originally created by the country’s Home Baking Council in 1999 to commemorate their 40th anniversary. Swedish cinnamon rolls are not as sweet and heavy as they are in North America. The dough contains a hint of cardamom spice and they are generally baked in muffin papers to make a more delicate treat.
Our family definitely enjoyed a lot of irresistible cinnamon rolls. As is everything that becomes the ‘norm’, you take it for granted until you no longer have it and it becomes a ‘taste of a memory’.
I recall my mother also making ‘potato’ doughnuts. The mashed potato seems to really add to the flavor of a yeast dough. In keeping with this Swedish ‘holiday’, I am making POTATO CINNAMON ROLLS or ‘Twists’.
In a large mixing bowl, combine lukewarm milk with yeast; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Allow to stand about 3 minutes or until foamy. Add warm mashed potato, melted butter, eggs, sugar, cardamom & salt; mix well. Stir in flour, one cup at a time. When dough is completely blended, turn onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth & elastic.
Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning dough to completely coat it with grease. Cover with plastic wrap; allow to rise in a draft-free place until doubled in size. Punch down, turn out on a lightly floured work surface & let rest for about 10 minutes.
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar & cinnamon; set aside.
Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough out into a 14 x 14-inch square. Brush with melted butter & evenly sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar mixture. Fold dough into thirds like a business letter, then roll again into a 14 x 8-inch rectangle. Facing the long edge, cut dough into roughly 18 -8-inch strips. Twist each strip several times, slightly stretching it as you do so. Take one end of the twisted strip & coil the dough around your hand twice, then over the top. Coil dough again & tuck the loose end in at the bottom.
Arrange on baking sheets. Cover with plastic & allow to rise in a draft-free place, 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size. Place oven rack in middle position & preheat oven to 350 F.
If you prefer, you can brush rolls with egg wash & sprinkle with pearl sugar or chopped almonds instead of using cream cheese glaze. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. While cinnamon rolls are baking, make glaze (if you are using it). With a mixer, beat together cream cheese & butter until light & fluffy. Blend in powdered sugar & vanilla. Add enough milk to achieve a drizzle-like consistency. Drizzle on rolls while still warm.
Freezer Instructions: Form cinnamon rolls into twisted shape & place several inches apart on baking sheet to freeze rolls individually. Once frozen, transfer to a resealable plastic freezer bag. When ready to bake, place on a lightly greased baking sheet & allow to come to room temperature before baking.
From breakfast to dessert, healthy to decadent, traditional to innovative, the carrot cake is considered a timeless classic that never goes out of ‘style’. It was probably borne out of necessity, making use of the carrots’ natural sweetness, evolving from the carrot pudding of medieval times. Carrots contain more sugar than any other vegetable besides the sugar beet.
In the 1970’s, carrot cake was perceived as being ‘healthy’ due to the fact that carrots, raisins and nuts are all ‘good for us’. Then along came that glorious cream cheese frosting that forever bonded the pair. While raisins are undoubtedly the oldest compliment to carrots, pineapple, apples or applesauce as well as walnuts have all become modern day add-ins of choice.
I remember my mother making a jelly roll cake when I was growing up. It was a sponge cake baked in a sheet pan. She would spread a layer of jam over it when it was cool and roll it up. It looked unique and tasted great. Of course, today a cake roll is very common place with many variations. As far as carrots are concerned, you can transform this versatile veggie into everything from energy bars and smoothies to cinnamon rolls and cookies etc, etc, etc…. My choice today is to make a CARROT CAKE ROLL with CREAM CHEESE FILLING, yum!!
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a jelly roll pan ( 10 x 15") with parchment paper & spray with baking spray.
With a hand mixer, beat eggs on high for 5 minutes, until frothy & dark yellow. Beat in sugar, oil & vanilla. In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt & spices. Stir into wet ingredients just until blended. Fold in dry carrots.
Spread batter in prepared pan. This makes a very thin layer; use a spatula to make sure it is spread evenly to the corners of pan. Bake 10-15 minutes. Test cake with a toothpick to be sure it is completely baked. While cake is baking, spread a clean kitchen towel on work surface. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. As soon as cake comes out of oven, turn it over on towel. Remove parchment paper carefully.
Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over cake. Using the help of the towel, roll cake tightly. Let cool completely while rolled, at least an hour.
While cake is cooling, make filling. Beat butter & cream cheese together until smooth. Stir in powdered sugar & vanilla; beat until smooth.
When cake is cool, carefully unroll the towel. Spread the filling evenly over cake & re-roll tightly. Chill about 30 minutes to an hour. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired, slice & serve.
It seems Angel Food cake has been around forever. I remember my mother making it from ‘scratch’, having those wonderful farm fresh eggs at her fingertips. It seemed she had no problem at all to bake this very tall, feather light cake even if she was using a wood burning stove and had no control over an exact oven temperature.
Of course today, all we have to do is buy a ready made mix, add some water and there you have it, one big lovely angel food cake.
Brion has always loved this kind of cake, so when I noticed this little recipe on the ninjakitchen.com website, I decided to make a few mini cakes. Of course, these little morsels were gone in no time!
Preheat oven to 325 F. In a small bowl, combine flour with 2 Tbsp sugar. With an electric mixer on high, beat egg whites, vanilla, salt & cream of tartar until soft peaks form. Add 1 tsp lime zest & 1 tsp lime juice. Gradually add remaining 4 Tbsp sugar. Beat on high until mixture is fully incorporated, glossy & stiff peaks are formed. Fold in by hand flour/sugar mixture in thirds until fully combined, keeping batter as voluminous as possible.
Fill a 12 cup silicone mini muffin pan( or non-stick mini muffin pan) with batter. In a shallow baking pan (larger than the mini muffin pan), place a wire rack. Pour water in & set muffin tin over water on rack. Bake for 15 minutes or until cakes rise & a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Remove from oven & let cool.
Stir together remaining lime zest, 3 tsp lime juice & powdered sugar to make glaze. Drizzle on cakes & top with kiwi wedges.
I think these little minis would be great with any topping you favor. Next time I make them I might try a caramel topping on them.
The aroma of Easter bread baking certainly brings back precious childhood memories. What I recall about my mother’s Easter bread, was that it was a dense, mildly sweet & a very egg rich bread. It was always baked in round ‘cans’ and the taste was unforgettable.
Nearly every country around the world has a traditional Easter bread. Each one is different in some way, a mix of symbolism and satisfying taste. They represent a continuity of traditions from centuries past, including much earlier pre-Christian times. Often these rich, yeasted breads are made in symbolic shapes and are elaborately decorated.
Germany and Austria make several shapes such as : Osterzopf – Easter braid, Osterkranz – Easter wreath or crown, Osternester – Easter nests, Eierimnest – Easter egg nest, Striezel – stacked braided bread.
That being said, I couldn’t resist doing a little ‘version’ of my own. I started with my favorite sweet yeast bread, added some anise flavor and a cream cheese filling. So now you have German osterkranz, Italian panettone and Romanian pasca all in one beautiful EUROPEAN EASTER BREAD.
In a large bowl, whisk yeast & sugar into lukewarm water; let stand about 10 minutes. With an electric mixer, beat together 3/4 cup sugar, eggs, oil, anise extract, lemon zest, lemon extract, salt & anise seed. Combine egg mixture, melted butter & milk with yeast mixture.
Add 4 CUPS flour, 1 cup at a time to wet mixture. Stir well after each addition. Turn dough out onto a floured surface & knead until smooth & elastic, about 5-6 minutes, adding remaining 1/2 cup flour if necessary.
Coat a large bowl with oil. Place dough in bowl & turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise until it doubles in bulk. Meanwhile, cut a piece of parchment paper big enough to cover the bottom & go up the sides of a 10" spring form pan. When dough has risen enough, cut into four pieces.
On the parchment paper, press one piece of the dough into a circle measuring about 10" in diameter. Sprinkle with 1/3 of the mixed peel, leaving a gap at the edge. Press out second piece of the dough on a lightly floured piece of wax paper, place it on top of the first layer & sprinkle with another 1/3 of mixed peel. Repeat with the third & fourth pieces of dough but do not sprinkle mixed peel on the final layer.
Place a glass tumbler on top of the center of the dough circles. Cut dough into 16 segments, starting a the edge of the glass. Lift & twist them away from each other through 180 degrees. Lift & twist through 90 degrees so that the ends are vertical. Press the edges together firmly. Repeat this process with all pairs of segments. Leave glass sitting on top at the center of the circle to form an indentation for the cheese filling. Cover with plastic wrap & set in a warm place to rise for about 1/2 an hour.
Preheat oven to to 325 F. In a bowl, place cream cheese, eggs, sugar & vanilla; mix well. When bread has risen, remove glass & fill indentation with cheese mixture. Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Allow to cool. Brush with honey/water glaze. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.
Eostre is an obscure Germanic and Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and dawn, and it is thought to be the namesake of the Christian holiday Easter. Because food has always had a close association with Easter, special dishes were cooked in her honor. Most important of these was a small spiced, sweet bun from which our ‘hot cross bun’ derives. These little spiced buns are a rather old English tradition, which are still traditionally eaten on Good Friday. They are marked on top with a cross which is of ancient origin connected with religious offerings of bread.
Hot Cross ‘Scones’ are an easy take on the seasonal classic bun. They are the best of both worlds; hot cross yeasted buns and a tender spicy scone. Scones work for me in the way that most of the time I have the ingredients on hand and they only take about twenty minutes or so to make.
As always, I enjoy the idea of variation in just about everything. I had three scone recipes in mind for today’s blog. One recipe is a hot cross scone made by changing out the regular flour for ‘Kamut’ flour. This flour is made from an ancient grain originally grown by the pharaohs of Egypt. It contains more protein, minerals and other nutrients than modern wheat.
The other two recipes are Spiced Orange & Fresh Apple Hot Cross Scones, bothmade with a sour cream batter. Hopefully they will become part of your Easter recipe collection.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda & salt. Add butter; using a pastry blender, blend until mixture forms fine crumbs. Stir in spices, dried fruit & orange zest.
In a small bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, & vanilla; whisk until well blended. Add to flour mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.
Scoop onto lined baking sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes until golden. Remove from oven, combine water & honey glaze. Warm very slightly in microwave; brush over tops of scones. When scones have cooled, decorate with icing crosses.
To make Kamut Scones use 1 3/4 cup kamut flour & 3/4 cup white flour instead of all white flour.
To make Apple Scones add 1/4 of a large apple, peeled & cut in 1/4" dice. to basic recipe.
In contrast to it’s name, coffeecake usually does not have any coffee in it but is most often served with coffee. This is a cake that was not invented by a pastry chef but rather evolved from a variety of different types of cakes. Said to have had it’s origin in Europe, coffeecake became famous in Germany, Scandinavia and Portugal. The Scandinavians were advocates of the coffee break and desired something sweet with their coffee, thus contributed to the evolution of this tasty cake.
By 1879, coffeecakes had become well known in America and became common place to most households. As time passed, the original recipe was being prepared with cheese, yogurt, sugared fruits, nuts and spices. The most preferred baking pan for this cake is the ‘bundt pan’. The hole in the center of the pan allows heavier batters to become cooked all the way through without any dough being left unbaked in the center.
Sour Cream Coffee Cake, sometimes called Russian Coffeecake, is one of the most delicious and poplar of all versions. Due to the fact that this dense cake is not overly sweet makes it ideal for breakfast, brunch, snacks as well as other informal occasions. The lactic acid in the sour cream results in a tender crumb as well as keeping the cake fresh longer while the fat contributes to the flavor and moistness. The slight tang of the sour cream underscores the velvety, buttery cake. With the batter being rather thick, it will support a heavy filling or streusel.
This is a cake with limitless possibilities. Personalize it to suit the occasion with fillings such as Apple Nut, Brown Sugar & Nuts, Cranberry Orange, Date or Fig. Of course, instead of a glaze you can always put some streusel in the bundt pan first, giving it a glorious look and taste when baked and inverted on a serving plate.
Today’s recipe combines the use of sour cream and cream cheese. The aroma when it comes out of the oven is heavenly not to mention the taste later.
In a small bowl, combine cream cheese with apricot preserve until smooth; set aside.
If using streusel on top or inside, combine streusel ingredients well; set aside.
Preheat oven to 325 F. Lightly butter & flour a 12-cup bundt cake pan.
In a large bowl, beat sugar, margarine, vanilla & eggs at medium speed for 2 minutes. In another bowl whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda & salt; fold into creamed mixture alternately with sour cream. Beat on low speed for another minute.
Spread 1/3 of the batter in pan; spread with 1/2 of the filling. Repeat 2 times. Bake 45 minutes or until tests done with a wooden pick. Remove from oven to a wire rack; cool for 20 minutes. Combine glaze ingredients while cake is cooling. Invert bundt pan onto serving plate & drizzle with glaze.
If you choose to use streusel, after buttering & flouring the pan, sprinkle streusel in the bottom which will essentially become the top of cake.
Or place some streusel on the bottom of pan & sprinkle some over each layer of filling.
Now comes the time to use up all those remaining tidbits of holiday baking still in the freezer. For those who haven’t tried it, sweet bread pudding is perhaps the ultimate comfort food. It’s simple to make, requires no special equipment and uses basic ingredients. It’s not even particularly beautiful on the plate, but it sure tastes good.
Just about every culture that makes bread has it’s own version of bread pudding. An open textured loaf with lots of holes become little pockets of custard. If you choose a bread that is quite ‘airy’ but has good chewiness, your pudding will strike a satisfying balance between lightness and body. In contrast, a loaf with a tight crumb makes a compact pudding with a dense texture.
The custard is what binds the bread together and creates the pudding’s lusciousness. Milk, eggs, sugar and flavoring are the basic elements but of course, other variations can be layered in as well.
Bread pudding was definitely a dessert my mother made since she baked bread every week. At that time it was pretty basic but nevertheless homey and good.
Today, January 22, our family celebrates the birthday of my sister, Marilyn. Birthdays were always made to be special as we were growing up. Not so much as to gifts but in regards to the family acknowledgement of ‘your’ day. My mother loved having a reason to use her cake decorating skills, so your birthday cake was always very unique.
For something special to mark the occasion, I have prepared STOLLEN BREAD PUDDING with SPICED ORANGE SAUCE on my blog.
Arrange stollen cubes to fit compactly into a buttered 9 x 9-inch baking dish. Do not compress to tightly; set aside any leftover cubes. Whisk together eggs & 1 cup powdered sugar until the sugar is dissolved & the mixture becomes light yellow in color. Add cream, vanilla & Grand Marnier; whisk to combine. Stir in a pinch of salt, nutmeg, lemon & orange zest.
Pour mixture over stollen cubes. Cover & refrigerate for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove bread from refrigerator, uncover & dot the top of the pudding with butter & sprinkle with 2 Tbsp. powdered sugar.
Set baking dish into a shallow roasting pan, larger that baking dish. Set them onto the center rack of the oven. Pour hot water into larger pan until it reaches about halfway up the side of the pudding dish. Bake until fully set & a knife inserted into center comes out clean, 60-75 minutes. Carefully remove the pudding from the water bath & cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.
Spiced Orange Sauce
Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in sugar, Grand Marnier, water, cardamom & salt. Over medium heat, stir until sugar is fully dissolved & the liquid is heated through. Remove from heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg until well beaten. While whisking egg, slowly pour 2 Tbsp. of the hot mixture into bowl with the egg. Then, while whisking the mixture vigorously, slowly pour the warmed egg mixture back into the sauce.
Place the saucepan back over low heat, gently stirring the sauce, raising the temperature slowly to medium. Continue stirring until the sauce thickens, about 1-2 minutes. Spoon over pudding & serve immediately.
Germany’s love of poppy seed is no secret, you can find it in everything from sweet to savory foods. For many German and central eastern Europeans, poppy seeds are a symbol of wealth, the tiny seeds representing coins. They figure prominently at Christmas and New Year’s, expressing hoped-for prosperity in the coming year.
Poppy seed cultivation dates back to 1400 BC. Early Egyptians pressed the seed into cooking oil whereas the the ancient Romans mixed them with wine and honey for Olympic athletes or home use. It should be made clear though, that this spice is not narcotic because opium is found in the pod and not in the seed itself. The dried pod loses any of it’s opiate properties long before the seeds are harvested.
‘Mohn Kaffee Rolle’ is considered a nostalgic German Christmas pastry much like Stollen is. One thing for certain, in keeping with true European tradition, poppy seed is added in such large quantities that the dough sometimes looks black.
When I recall my mother’s poppy seed roll, it was never dry. It seemed like a vanilla custard with ‘wall to wall’ poppy seeds in it. There were numerous recipes in her file — cake, roll, twists, cookies, strudel, pudding — everything and anything poppy seed! This recipe seems unique in that it uses a ‘Zwillingsteig’ (zwilling=twin, teig=dough) dough, a rich, moist dough used in the past when making cakes with fresh fruit. The dough is a combination of yeasted and shortcrust dough kneaded together. It seems a little involved but is well worth it in the end. One more special ‘taste of a memory’ before the holiday season is to far behind us.
In a bowl, place all shortcrust ingredients & quickly knead together until well combined. Shape into a disk & set aside. Dough can be made a day ahead, wrapped in plastic wrap & refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before combining with yeast dough.
In a small dish, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water, add 1 tsp sugar stirring until dissolved. Let stand 5 minutes. Sift flour with 3 Tbsp sugar & salt. Cut in butter with pastry blender. Add lukewarm milk, egg & vanilla to yeast mixture, then gradually add to flour mixture & blend.
Press dough out to about 1 inch thickness & lay disk of shortcrust on top. Knead together by hand until fully combined, about 2 minutes. Shape into a ball & place in a greased bowl. Cover with a tea towel, let raise in a warm, draft free spot for about an hour or until doubled in size.
Poppy Seed Filling
Grind poppy seeds. In a small saucepan, combine poppy seeds, sugar, semolina & salt. Add butter & milk. Place over medium high heat; stirring constantly, bring to a boil. Remove from heat immediately & set aside to cool. When mixture is lukewarm, stir in egg, vanilla, rum & walnuts. Set aside.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. When dough has risen, punch down & roll out on a lightly floured surface about 1/4 - 1/2 inch thickness.
Spread with cooled poppy seed filling leaving a 1 inch border on each of the shorter ends. Brush shorter ends with egg wash. Starting from shorter end, roll dough, jelly-roll style, into a tight log. Cut into 2 loaf pan lengths.
With a sharp knife, cut each log of dough in half lengthwise. Carefully twist the two pieces of dough together & place into prepared pans. Brush dough with egg wash, cover with greased plastic wrap & let rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 325 F. When dough has risen, brush again with egg wash & bake about 40 minutes or until golden brown. When loaves have fully cooled, whisk together powdered sugar, water & lemon zest until smooth. Brush glaze over loaves & allow to set before slicing.
Unless you can find freshly ground poppy seeds, it is best to buy the whole seeds, store them in the freezer and grind them right before using. Because of their high oil content, the seeds easily turn rancid.
Good poppy seeds smell slightly 'musty' and have a nutty flavor - not bitter or harsh.
Christmas without making a few candy treats just wouldn’t seem right. Even if its not at the top of your baking list, they are just so handy to have on hand to add to those holiday gift trays.
There was only one very special candy treat my mother made at Christmas that I remember. A small group of ‘neighbor’ ladies in our farming community had formed the ‘Willonor Club’. It wasn’t just to gather for coffee and chit chat. They were all very hands on women that enjoyed ‘networking’ about a variety of subjects. Each meeting would be hosted by one the members in her home. They would always have a specific focus to learn or do something new. One of the ladies had learned how to make dipped chocolates with her church group. She, in turn taught the Willonor Club members. Now these were not just your average chocolates. They looked every bit as professional as the ‘Pot of Gold’ brand but tasted so much better. None of this sugary sweetness — just a creamy, not overly sweet center, covered in a milk chocolate. Yum!! I came across the recipe in her little file box, written in her lovely handwriting and there I was, reliving the ‘taste of a memory’ by just reading it.
I decided to limit this candy blog to three, tried and true favorites. They are KAHLUA BALLS * PUMPKIN CREAM CHEESE TRUFFLES * APRICOT DATE BALLS. Easy to make, taste great and freeze well — perfect!
In a large bowl, combine cookie crumbs, walnuts & powdered sugar. Add Kahlua & corn syrup; mix well. Shape into 48 balls & roll in desired toppings such as cocoa powder, fine colored sugar, sprinkles, finely crushed walnuts or oreo crumbs. Chill overnight then either freeze or store in refrigerator in an airtight container.
Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles
In a double boiler over medium-low heat, melt the 55 grams of white chocolate. Transfer to a bowl. Add remaining ingredients & beat with an electric mixer until smooth. Cover & chill until solid enough to roll into balls. Once mixture can be formed, roll into 16 balls.
Line a sheet tray with parchment paper. Chop almonds in almond bark then carefully melt in double boiler. Transfer to a small, deep bowl. Drop a few balls at a time into melted chocolate. Working quickly, spoon chocolate over truffle to coat. Using a small spoon or fork, lift truffle out of chocolate & shake off excess, transfer to prepared sheet. Chill truffles until chocolate is completely set. Place in an airtight container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
Apricot - Date Balls
In a saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, apricots, dates & eggs. Cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes or until mixture pulls away from the sides of saucepan, stirring constantly. Remove from heat & stir in walnuts & vanilla. Allow to cool until mixture can be handled. Line an airtight container with wax paper. Shape apricot/date mixture into 30 balls. Roll in granulated sugar. Place in container & either freeze or store in refrigerator.
If preferred, use all gingersnap crumbs instead of graham crumbs in the original recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles.
I’ve always enjoyed food history and recreating memories from the past through cooking and baking. I had never realized how much my mother’s cooking was influenced by our German heritage. I guess as one gets older, things that were taken for granted now take on a whole new meaning. Today’s blog features a couple of those very special European treats.
VANILLEKIPFERL or Vanilla Almond Crescent Cookies – Although this little crescent cookie originated in Austria, it has become very traditional in Germany. ‘Vanillin’ became very popular in the early 20th century, after artificial vanilla flavoring was invented. I’ve noticed there are numerous recipes that call for egg yolks in them. My personal preference is to make them without – just a few less calories. ‘Vanilla Sugar’ which is used in many German baked goods can be either bought in the Dr Oetker brand or you can easily make it yourself. If you like the flavor of anise, you may want to try adding some anise seed to the cookie dough and when baked, dust these with ‘Anise Sugar’.
GEVULDE SPECULAAS or Spiced Cookies (Squares) Filled with Almond Paste – You’re right, this is very much a Dutch specialty. Some years ago I had the opportunity to spend a little time in the presence of a Dutch baker. Among the many things I learned at that Dutch bakery was their love of almonds and those unique speculaas spices. In the mid 18th century, the recipe for ‘Spekulatius’ made its way to Germany from Holland and has become another traditional favorite. The origin of the cookie’s name may have derived from the Latin word ‘Spekulum’, signifying ‘mirror image’, which alludes to the wooden mold whose mirror image appears on the cookie.Since I became ‘hooked’ on that ‘speculaas spice’ combination, I like to make a small pan of these very rich and wonderful tasting goodies each Christmas.
In a food processor, place flour & butter & pulse to combine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Place mixture in a large bowl. Add ground almonds, 1/4 cup powdered sugar, 1 pkg vanilla sugar, salt & extract. Knead dough with your hands in bowl until it comes together, about 5 minutes. Divide dough into four equal pieces, shaping each into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap place in a sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove one ball at a time from refrigerator. Roll into a rope 12 inches in length. Cut into 12 even pieces, rolling each with the palm of your hands to a 3-inch length. Form into a crescent shape & place 2 inches apart on baking sheet. When you have filled the baking sheet, bake for about 12 minutes, just until tips of crescents turn a light golden brown. Using another COLD baking sheet repeat with remaining dough.
Allow cookies to rest on baking sheet for 2-3 minutes. In a small bowl, mix together 1/2 cup powdered sugar remaining package of vanilla sugar. Carefully coat warm cookies in sugar mixture; place on a wire rack to finish cooling. Allow to sit out overnight then transfer to an airtight container for storing or freezing.
In a food processor, combine flour, baking powder, sugar, salt & spices. Add chunks of cold butter & pulse into a smooth dough (you can do this by hand if you prefer). If the dough is too dry. you can add a little milk. Wrap dough in plastic wrap & place in refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 2 days.
Either grease or line a 8 x 8" baking dish with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 F. Divide dough into 2 portions. Roll out each portion on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as baking pan. Put one layer in pan & press lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat egg with a teaspoon of cold water. Spread 1/3 of egg over dough in pan.
Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of plastic wrap, until it is exactly the size of pan. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and spread the next 1/3 of egg over it. Place the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, making it as smooth as possible. Spread the last 1/3 of the egg wash over dough. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.
Bake about 40 minutes or until they test done. Allow speculaas to cool completely in the pan, then cut into the portion size you prefer.
If you would like to make the 'Anise Seed Crescent Cookies' instead of the Vanilla Almond version, use vanilla extract instead of almond & add 1 Tbsp of crushed anise seed to the batter. For the 'Anise Sugar', blend (at a high speed), 1 Tbsp aniseed with 1 cup of granulated sugar until it makes a powder.
Although Gevulde Speculaas are at their best when fresh, I have never heard any complaints after they have been frozen. I always make sure they are wrapped in an airtight way before freezing.
In regards to the 'speculaas spice', I like to make extra so I can use it in anything you would normally use apple or pumpkin pie spice in.