Friday, December 20, 2013

Zeeuwse Speculaas

Unintentionally, cookie week took on an international character. I wasn’t planning on doing that but it turned out that way which is rather interesting, don’t you think?

I started with American cookies, went on to Italian and now it’s time for Dutch.

I have mentioned many times before how much I dislike some of the Dutch culinary traditions, but at the same time how impressed I am by their confections and pastries.

I constantly discover new Dutch sweet treats to love and they are so incredibly delicious they can become addictive. In the summer of 2012, when S and I traveled to the southwestern province of Zeeland, I discovered some more; the Zeeuwse bolus, the kruidkoek and the Zeeuwse speculaas.

I shared the recipe for Dutch speculaas cookies three years ago, along with pepernoten and gevulde speculaas (speculaas cake filled with Dutch almond paste). I gave you a glimpse of the Zeeuwse speculaas in this post (go all the way down to the last picture) and I promised to share a recipe. Well, better late than never.

This version of Dutch speculaas appealed to me because the cookies didn’t have that intense taste of spices of the common speculaas. They were milder without lacking in flavor and when I made them myself, I was thrilled that they were exactly how I remembered them to be.

Zeeuwse speculaas are crispy, with a crunchy exterior from the raw caster sugar that covers them. Made with cinnamon, light brown sugar and only a pinch of nutmeg, their flavor is mellow yet unbelievably deep and that is because as soon as the dough is made, it is placed in the fridge for twenty-four hours. During this time, the flavors get to know each other, mature and intensify, creating the most aromatic and flavorsome speculaas cookie there is.

Happy baking!

Zeeuwse Speculaas (Dutch Cookies from Zeeland)

These are traditionally made with Zeeuwse bloem, a type of flour from Zeeland which has a low percentage of gluten (8-9%) that gives cookies a soft and light texture. You can substitute with pastry flour or you can do as I did and use all-purpose flour along with some corn flour.

These are traditionally shaped into wind-mills or clogs using speculaas molds but since it’s Christmas, I opted to use Christmas tree- and star-shaped cutters. You can make them any time of the year, giving them the shape you prefer.

If you don’t have caster sugar, which is finely granulated white sugar, then in a small food processor, add white granulated sugar and process it for a few seconds until it becomes fine. Be careful not to overprocess because it will turn to icing sugar.

Yield: 26 tree-shaped cookies (10 cm x 6.5 cm)

230 g all-purpose flour
20 g corn flour
11 g baking powder
1 heaped tsp cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of sea salt
150 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces
125 g soft light brown sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Icing sugar, for the cookie cutters

Caster sugar, for covering the speculaas

Special equipment: sieve, food processor, plastic wrap, rolling pin, 1-2 baking sheets, baking paper, tree-shaped cookie cutters

Sieve the all-purpose flour together with the corn flour two times in a bowl. Add the baking powder, the cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and sieve all the ingredients together. Transfer dry ingredients to the bowl of a food processor and add the butter pieces, sugar, and lemon juice.
Process until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Empty it onto a clean work surface and start bringing it together with your hands and kneading it. At first, it may seem like it won’t come together into a smooth dough but after 3-4 minutes, as the butter will be incorporated and dispersed throughout the mixture, it will. Knead until you have a smooth dough that holds together perfectly, yet cracks ever-so-slightly.

Shape dough into a disk and wrap it very well with plastic wrap. Place it on a plate and in the fridge for 24 hours.

Remove the dough from the fridge 1 hour before you roll it out, because it needs to be pliable. If you try to roll it out straight from the fridge it will be too hard and it will break into pieces.

Place the disk of dough between two sheets of baking paper and with the help of a rolling pin, roll it out to 0.5-0.7 cm-thickness. Place the rolled-out dough in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up.

Line your baking sheet(s) with baking paper.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 Fahrenheit.

In a small bowl, add some icing sugar and use it to dip in your cookie cutter. In this way, the cookie cutter won't stick to the dough.
Remove the top baking paper from your rolled-out dough and using your cookie cutter, cut out tree shapes and place them on your prepared baking sheet, spacing them 1.5 cm apart.
The dough will spread very little.

Note: It's best if you transfer the cut-out cookies from the baking paper to your baking sheet using a small offset spatula. This way you ensure the shape of the cookie remains intact. You need to work fast because the dough becomes warmer and softer as time passes.
Note: Gather scraps of dough, roll out again, place in the fridge to firm up and then cut out cookies. Repeat until all the dough is used up.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of your preheated oven and bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes, until just set in the middle and they have taken on a golden color. Be careful not to burn them.

Note: If you choose a different cookie cutter, either smaller or bigger, or even of a different shape than the one indicated, the baking times will change. Keep a close eye on your cookies while baking so you avoid any surprises.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven and place the second one in. Allow the cookies to stand for 2-3 minutes.

In the meantime, in a large plate or baking pan, add plenty of caster sugar. Transfer the cookies directly from the baking sheet onto the sugar, a few at a time, and coat them well on all sides.

Then transfer them to a wire rack to cool.

Store them in a cookie tin for up to a week.

Before you eat them, brush off some of the sugar from the speculaas.


  1. Thanks for the recipe!

    I find myself in full-on holiday sappy mode this morning, so just let me say how much I enjoy your blog and the glimpses into your world. I hope your holidays are happy! Patricia

    1. Hello Patricia. Ah that's a wonderful mode to be in. :) Thank you so much for your sweet words. Happy holidays!

  2. These are beautiful, Magda - and I really like that you are doing "cookies by country." Until this post, I never realized that caster sugar is what we call superfine or bar sugar. I just assumed it was regular old granulated sugar. I always learn something form you! Merry Christmas! ~ David

    1. Thank you David. So you must have had that question for ever since I use caster sugar all the time for the recipes here on the blog :)
      Merry Christmas!!

  3. Delicious and stylish; love the simple, crisp, buttery shortbread type of cookies. What could be better with a good cup of coffee?

  4. I am smitten with speculaas! Haven't heard of this variation before, but they look great Magda. Merry Christmas :)