We are thrilled to share a special guest post from Andrea Hampton, owner of SweetImpressions. Andrea is based in Newark, NY and we met her through a Facebook group, Ankarsrum Mixer Fans – USA. She specializes in springerle, speculaas, shortbread and specialty cookies which are so gorgeous you almost don’t want to eat them. But, we have had the pleasure of tasting them as well, and they are as delightful to eat as they are to look at.
Note: this recipe requires special cookie molds, which are readily found from a variety of sources on the internet. And while you wait for your molds to arrive, you can fill your cookie cravings by ordering from Andrea’s little bakery.
From guest contributor, Andrea Hampton:
Growing up on the apron strings of my mother and grandmothers, sure, I learned to cook. But my little heart, well, it loved to bake. Alongside my mom, and perched upon my step stool, we’d whip up batches of cookies. While her little assistant was learning to read one day, into a bowl of sugar, flour, butter and eggs, as the recipe said “add vanilla extra” went the entire bottle; Mom and I still laugh at that moment yet today.
Fast forward many years and recipes than I care to mention, whilst watching one of Martha Stewart’s Christmas episodes, I decided to change up my cookie exchange and introduce Springerle to the mix. As I was a newbie, and as all newbies navigate the learning curve, directions were flip flopped and my springerle too were exactly that, a total flop. Dusting off my apron from the cake flour and fast forwarding 13 years to January 2019, it was time to try them again and this time, they worked! As they baked, their little feet sprang from the baking sheets they had dried upon the night before and their cake like texture were pillows of anise bliss. With great delight and enthusiasm and every weekend thereafter, I was giving a new molded cookie recipe a try! Which dough would hold an image and which one wouldn’t? Which cookie tasted spectacular and which cookie ended up in the bin?
There was however, always one cookie that eluded my baking success, although it was my favorite cookie growing up: Speculaas! You know those tasty, crispy, spicy, buttery, so-good-you-can’t-stop-at-one-cookie cookies? Here in the USA we call them Windmill cookies, as they are Dutch in origin. But in fact, they are made in the Netherlands (Speculaasjes) hence their American given namesake, Belgium (Speculaas), Germany (Spekulatius) and even parts of France (Speculoos). No matter what you call them, I call them the best cookie the whole world round. These spicy biscuits are traditionally baked on or just before St Nicholas’ feast, held on the 5th of December, but every day is a good day to bake speculaas!”
It was then the learning curve took me upon a journey where I would cross roads with my Belgian best friend, whose recipe has a special place in my baking loving heart, hence the February contribution to the Ankarsrum blog. Anyone who travels across an ocean not once, but twice, to teach me how to bake speculaas is a true friend indeed! Two years, too many batches of dough to count and a teeny tiny bakery later, the need for a new mixer arose. Enter Ragnar, my Electrolux (an earlier version of the Ankarsrum mixer) and Lagertha, my new Ankarsrum mixer, into the story. Speculaas dough you will soon see, are a bit heavy to mix but oh, they are worth every spiced minute!
LUC LONGIN’S SPECULAAS
- 3.5 grams (just under 1 tsp.) Hartshorn/Bakers Ammonia
- 8.5 grams (just over 2 tsp.) Baking Soda
- 100 mL (approximately 1/2 cup) Water
- 650 grams (3 cups plus 1 Tbsp.) Dark Brown Belgium Sugar (I use Couplet however it’s not available in the USA, a decent source in the US is Label Peeler’s Dark Brown Soft Candi Sugar Note: Belgium brown sugar contains no molasses.
- 12.5 grams (1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp.) Speculaas Spice & 12.5 grams (1 Tbsp. plus 1 tsp.) Cinnamon OR 25 grams Spice Mix per recipe below
- 1 tsp pure Cocoa Powder
- 350 grams (approximately 1 1/2 cups) Butter, softened at room temperature (KerryGold is best)
- 1 medium Egg
- 1 KG (approximately 8 1/2 cups) Type 00 Flour (sifted) (my preference is Alce Nero available from Sensibus)
- rice semolina, for dusting cookie molds
Dissolve the baker’s ammonia and baking soda in the water.
Place the brown sugar into the mixer bowl, add the spices and cocoa powder and blend until well combined.
Add the butter and mix until creamed.
Add the egg and water mixture, blend until incorporated.
Add the flour gradually and continue to blend at a medium low speed until a thick, cohesive dough forms on the sides of the bowl, stopping as soon as all of the flour is fully absorbed.
Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and compact by tapping it gently on the work surface from all sides. Place the dough into a bag and refrigerate the dough a minimum of 48 hours or up to 2 weeks.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator and keep it cool while molding, working with ¼ or ½ of the dough on the counter, returning the balance to the refrigerator until needed.
Prepare the speculaas mold (or plank) by flouring it with rice semolina and removing the excess. A light coating of flour should remain of only the finest particulates.
Take a piece of dough enough to fill the cavity of the mold and roll it into a ball or cylinder shape.
Press the dough into the images of the speculaas mold (or plank).
Use a clean, sharp, flat knife to cut away the excess dough from the back of the mold.
Turn the mold over and give it a firm “whack” onto the counter top to release the image from the mold.
Take a piece of fresh dough and combine it with that which was cut away from the prior molding process until all of the dough has been shaped into cookies.
Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets at 355 degrees for a minimum of 10 minutes depending on the thickness of the cookie. If, after cooling, the cookies have not hardened, return them back to the oven for baking in small increments of time (2 minutes) and reduce the temperature to 300 to 320. Do not allow the speculaas to burn.
- Work with cold dough, not room temperature and not ice cold.
- Clean the knife each and every time dough is removed to prevent dragging and lifting.
- Cover thin spots with aluminum foil or place an extra piece of parchment paper underneath prior to baking.
Premixed spice mix is available, however it is easy to make your own to your taste preferences:
- 3½ Tablespoons Cinnamon
- 1 Teaspoon Nutmeg
- 1 Tablespoon Cloves
- 2 Teaspoons Ginger
- ½ Teaspoon Mace (optional)
- ¼ to ½ Teaspoon White Pepper (optional)