After a week off of baking, I have arrived in the Netherlands!
I have visited the Netherlands once in my travels, and it is one place that I would love to return to! A while back, my family took a trip to Europe, and we stopped off in Muiden, and Amsterdam. My clearest memories of our visit to the Netherlands include the amount of bikes, the canals, our bread/fruit/cheese lunches, pancakes in Amsterdam, and the BEST CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD from a little shop in Muiden. I dont remember if it was a bakery or an ice cream shop, but we visited the place twice in one day I believe, and even though there were a variety of flavors, I got the rich, dark, smooth chocolaty goodness both times. And lucky for you, I found an old picture of the ice cream, just to make you all jealous 🙂
But it has been about 5 years since our visit to the Netherlands, so I’m due for an update of what’s happening there! So here’s some new from the tiny country:
– Burning Man is coming to the Netherlands next year! ….At first I was very confused about this, thinking “is this a person??” Some guy who…i don’t know…sets himself of fire and runs around or something and it’s a spectacle?? Nope. Its a sort of artistic…gathering of sorts that focuses more or less on self expression, inclusion and selflessness….i guess. Ha I’m still having a bit of trouble wrapping my mind around the actual concept, but now that I think about it, I feel like I had a friend from my college days who went to it once. I guess it’s usually held in Nevada, but…the event is heading to Amsterdam next year!
-The King and Queen of the Netherlands have embarked on a “regional tour”, despite the rain! Good for you, King and Queen of the Netherlands! ……I didn’t even know Netherlands had a king and queen to be honest….
-Europe seems to be making a great effort to transition into a more energy efficient society, which is AWESOME, why can’t America get on board with that??? But it seems the Netherlands is lagging behind on the transition, mostly because the biggest energy suppliers in the Netherlands are still coal and gas-fired power plants. And the new energy efficient models use smarter and more sustainable methods of providing energy, and it just seems like its going to be a tricky switch…At least that’s what I got from this article! You can read it >>here<<
Alright, enough with the chit chat, let’s get down to business!! (to defeat the HUNS!! …sorry.) These Gevulde Speclaas (which according to Google translate means “filled biscuits”), AKA “spiced almond cookie bar things” were something recommended for me to try. Stroopwafels were also recommended but, according to many recipes, those are cooked in a waffle iron, and not actually baked, so like many delicious sounding European fried or otherwise cooked delicacies, I decided to save that recipe for another time.
Basically, if you’ve never had these, they consist of a layer of spiced cookie-ish dough (reminded me a lot of the flavor of gingerbread, but with a wider variety of spices), a layer of almond paste (not to be confused with marzipan), another layer of the spiced dough, and decorated with almonds on top. It is slightly strange, but mostly delicious. I feel like it would serve as a good holiday treat, which is lucky because I think that’s sort of what they are in the Netherlands?? Well anyway, I shall save this recipe for one of those holiday baking parties that will turn up sooner than I think they will.
I cheated a little bit with this recipe, and used pre-made almond paste instead of making my own. In my defense though, I only just recently bought a food processor, and with out one….making almond paste would be quite tricky. I also pulled a “me” and spent too long deciding how to arrange the almonds on top.
I took a few of these bars to work to share with my coworkers, 3 out of 4 who were brave enough to try my Gevude Speculaas, said they were really good and they were reminded of gingerbread. The 4th said it was good but they preferred less spices. Given that I don’t know how these are actually supposed to taste like, I’ll settle with those reviews!
The recipe I used had a long list of spices to use, some mandatory, some optional. I ended up using cinnamon, cloves, ginger, mace, nutmeg, coriander and cardamom.
Other spices that were listed as optional additions were anise and white pepper. I traveled back to my hometown recently to meet my new nephew (HE’S ADORABLE) and I visited this trusty old Amish grocery store about a mile from my parents’ house, and got all kinds of spices for super cheap, including whole nutmeg- something I’ve never used before. So jumping back to the baking experience, I grated my own nutmeg. And to be perfectly honest, I never want to go back to using pre-ground nutmeg ever, if only purely because whole nutmeg looks so AWESOME on the inside!!
The basic procedure for making these Gevulde Speculaas starts with pressing half the spiced dough into the bottom of the pan. You can then press the almond paste onto the dough if it’s soft enough, but mine was a little on the stiffer side, so I rolled it out between two sheets of plastic wrap, and then cut it to the size of the pan. Then I pressed in the rest of the spiced dough on top, lightly scored it, and pressed in the almonds.
As always, I highly recommend actually checking out the original source of the recipe, as it provides other insights to actually making this than what I do>> HERE<< That baker also provided a recipe for homemade almond paste!
But if you only want the recipe and no other fun facts, here it is:
Spices for the dough:
cinnamon 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves 1 or 2 parts
mace ½ or 1 part
ginger ½ or 1 part
white pepper ½ or 1 part
cardamom ½ or 1 part
coriander ½ or 1 part
anise ½ or 1 part
nutmeg 1 or 2 parts
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now,and add an equal amount of cinnamon.
Speculaas Dough Recipe
1¾ cups (250 gm) (9 oz) all purpose (plain) flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) baking powder
¾ cup (150 grams) (5-1/3 oz) brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (15 gm) (½ oz) speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) (175 gm) (6 oz) unsalted butter
Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter into cubes and add to the dry ingredient.
Knead until you get a smooth dough. You may need to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
If you wish to get more flavor it would be better to keep the dough in the fridge for a couple of days
Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)
1. Grease your pan or line it with parchment.
2. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas 4
3. Divide the dough in half into two parts.
4. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are the size of your baking pan.
5. Place one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to make sure it fills the bottom.
6. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon cold water.(I used 1 teaspoon of vinegar with 2 teaspoons of water to avoid eggy smell)
7. Brush 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
8. Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and gently transfer it to place it over the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.)
9. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan and to makw sure it adheres to the dough beneath it.
10.Brush the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
11. Place the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible.
12. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
13. Decorate the pastry with the almonds.(You can decorate the speculaas any way you like, you can use the almonds to draw patterns or flowers or trees. This is also the place to allow kids to help)
14. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven.
15. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.