Speculoos (or speculaas) is a Belgian and Dutch Christmas cookie. They are simple, crisp cookies, very spiced yet not overly sweet, and similar to a gingersnap. Traditionally, they are made with a special mold, called a springerle mold, in which the dough is placed and pressed, yielding quaint reliefs, such as windmills, angels, cottages and St. Nicholas. If you don’t have a mold, the dough can simply be shaped in balls and pressed with your fingers, or rolled thin and cut with a cookie cutter.
It’s the spice blend that sets these cookies apart. In Europe you can purchase pre-made speculoos spice blends, yet it’s very easy to make your own, as it’s essentially a laundry list of Asian and East Indian spices that you most likely have in your spice drawer. As with most blends, speculoos blends can vary slightly from baker to baker. The key is to not hold back on any of the spices and include a generous amount in the cookie batter, because it’s the kick of spice that distinguishes these fragrant cookies.
Active Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes, plus chilling time
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup almond flour or finely ground almonds
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sliced almonds for garnish
Demerara sugar for sprinkling
Mix the spice blend ingredients in a bowl to blend. Add the flour, almonds, baking soda and salt, and stir to combine.
Cream the brown sugar and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix to combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix on medium-low speed until just combined, without overmixing. Gather the dough and flatten into a disk. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Roll out the dough 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick and cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. (Alternatively, shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place on the prepared baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart. Flatten each ball with your fingers or the bottom of a water glass into 1 1/2-inch disks.) Press a few almonds into the top of each cookie and sprinkle with a pinch of demerara sugar.
Bake until light golden and firm, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. The cookies will harden as they cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.