In actuality, I meant to have these cookie recipes out on this blog before Christmas, so everyone might be able to use them for the holidays. Very obviously, that did not happen. With a Wine Tasting and Food Pairing event just before Christmas, and with guests arriving, blogging just did not happen. But, maybe these recipes can stay on the back burner until later on, or next Christmas.
One cookie recipe I had been wanting to try for years was Speculaas, sometimes also spelled Speculoos. Where they originate from is up for grabs, as far as I can tell: Dutch, Flemish, Belgian, German, French. The reason I had wanted to try making these cookies is because of the Biscoff Cookies I had tried. Mine came out more highly spiced and far less sweet than these commercially made cookies, but the recipe is delicious, and the cookies are great with a cup of coffee.
|My Springerle Rolling Pin making Speculaas|
The first thing needed before making these cookies was Speculaas Spice Mix. I looked through countless recipes for "traditional" Speculaas Spice Mixes and all had some things in common, while there were those few that had something different or other. In general, something like a Pumpkin Pie Spice mixture will work, though there are some spices that are almost always a part of Speculaas that are not in Pumpkin Pie spice, namely coriander seed and white pepper.
|Speculaas Spice Mix|
Speculaas Spice Mix
Makes about ½ cup
3 tablespoons Ceylon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1½ teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1½ teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds
Combine all spices in a glass jar with tight fitting lid and shake well. Store in a cool dark place. Use approximately 1 tablespoon spice mix to 1 cup of flour in your recipe, according to your taste.
|Speculaas Cookies, ready to bake|
Next, I took a tour of the internet looking at what kind of recipe constituted Speculaas. I read in many places that these were shortbread cookies, which is generally taken to mean there are no eggs to bind the ingredients. Yet for all that, many recipes called for eggs. I opted to keep the recipe without eggs. In most places, Speculaas are described as a thin, hard cookie. To stamp the cookies with shapes, such as windmills or other, there has to be enough thickness to be able to press down on the stamp (or Springerle Rolling Pin). I opted to roll the dough about ¼-inch thick, and then rolled/pressed evenly with the Springerle rolling pin. Many recipes called for a very low oven and very long baking times, to dry out the cookies and make them crisp. Others baked them at high temperatures for shorter periods to achieve the same thing. I took a middle-of-the-road approach here. I used a 325 oven for part of the time, then lowered it even more for the rest of the time. The cookies came out wonderfully well, and very spicy and delicious, so I am quite content with the recipe.
Made about 60 cookies
12 tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (213 g) light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup (80 g) water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (44 g) white rye flour
½ cup (40 g) finely ground almond meal
¾ teaspoon (3 g) salt
½ teaspoon (1 g) baking soda
3 tablespoons (11 g) Speculaas Spice Mix
In a stand mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar until very light and fluffy. Combine the water and vanilla extract, then begin adding to the butter mixture by teaspoonfuls, beating continuously and waiting until the water is completely incorporated before adding more.
Separately, whisk together all the remaining ingredients to combine. Add the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough comes together into a mass. Turn out of the bowl and form into a large ball or roll, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.
If using a Springerle rolling pin, or other cookie stamps, roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thick with a regular rolling pin. Use the Springerle rolling pin and dust well with flour. Roll the Springerle pin, pressing evenly over the cookie dough and leaving the dough about 1/8 to 3/16-inch thick. Cut out the cookies and set them about an inch apart onto the prepared parchment lined cookie sheets. Gather up the scraps and re-roll them as needed, to use up the dough.
If cutting out the cookies with cookie cutters or just cutting into small rectangles, roll the dough with a regular rolling pin to about 1/8 - 3/16-inch thick and set the cookies an inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake the cookies for 15 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets and lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees, leaving the cookies in the oven. Bake the cookies for an additional 20 minutes, until very crisp, but not browned.
Another kind of cookies I made for this year's holidays are Chocolate Cherry Cookies. I based these on a recipe I first encountered on Facebook (see that recipe here, called "Maraschino Cherry Almond Chocolate Cookies"). My reasoning was that my husband has had a "favorite" Christmas cookie his Mom always made, and I have been making them each year since I met him, 28 years ago. These were called Cherry Bon Bons, and while tasty, they are a pain to make! The dough was difficult to work with, and it needed to be formed around a well-drained whole Maraschino cherry, then my husband liked them rolled in the little, hard "rainbow nonpareils" that ended up all over the counters and floor before I was done rolling the formed dough in them.
|Chocolate Cherry Cookies|
The recipe I found seemed to have the things my husband likes best all in one cookie: maraschino cherries, cherry juice in the dough, and even better, chocolate chips, too! As I looked at the recipe, the dough part sounded very similar to the dough for the Cherry Bon Bons. Instead of wrapping it around the cherries, the cherries are chopped up instead. So far, I was really happy with this concept. I made the recipe a bit larger and changed some of the amounts by slight bits and the whole thing came out so great that I am hard pressed to think of ever going back to the Cherry Bon Bons again, no matter how cute they are!
|Chocolate Cherry Cookies|
Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Makes about 66 cookies
1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained, syrup reserved
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
3½ cups all-purpose flour
3 - 4 tablespoons maraschino cherry syrup
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure the cherries are well drained before starting the recipe. Set them into a sieve or colander and drain, then set them on paper toweling to wick out more moisture. If there is too much residual liquid in the cherries, this will add moisture to the cookie dough and they may not set up so nicely in the oven. Once the cherries are well drained, chop them and set them aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter with the almond extract, salt and confectioners' sugar until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour until nearly all incorporated, then adding in 3 of the tablespoons of cherry syrup. If the dough is too dry to come together, add the remaining tablespoon of syrup. Add in the cherries and the chocolate chips. Mix just until combined.
Make 1-inch balls, or use a cookie scoop and place the balls about 1½ - 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until set but not browned. When done, slide the whole parchment sheet with the cookies onto a cooling rack. They will easily release once cooled slightly.
My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.