So every year this season cookie baking and I have a thing... Last year, for those of you who were with me, you might recall the cookies on this blog were never-ending. And also last year a few of you were insistent on speculaas cookies. This year, I got caught up in working on my book Unconventional Treats (it'll be out tomorrow!! Craziness), and didn't get as much of a chance to focus on cookies (well that's a half truth -- many of them just ended up in the book instead...). In fact it's been so hectic with all the book work that I've hardly been able to share any recipes the last few weeks. But speculaas never left my mind...
...In fact, I've been baking them non-stop. Partly experimenting with different textures and flours, partly experimenting with the stamps (more on this later), and partly trying to get the spice flavor right -- after all, that's the essential component of a speculaas; what makes it magical. (Derailing a little, but anyone notice how sneaky the packaged store-bought speculaas are? "Ingredients: ...spices (like cinnamon)" >> thanks, that's super helpful...). And most importantly because I really needed some baking therapy to hold myself together through the mountain of work to get that book out to you.
Since the speculaas I've seen at the shop don't list the spices, I had to do some investigating and a lot of trial and error to nail it (for some very random reason we have a Dutch products shelf at the local grocery store. Only Dutch. No other cultures. Go figure. But grateful it was there for this speculaas experiment ;) ). ... And amused to know that Dutch people seem to REALLY like their chocolate sprinkles (there are like 5 different brands of them on that shelf)...
Another important component to speculaas is their distinct beautiful shape. There's a standard mill imprint that most use, and otherwise lots of decorative imprints that definitely evoke a feeling of winter, coziness, and family. I looked around to find some, but found that they were either unavailable or pricey. So I resorted to my favorite cookie decorating -- using regular stamps. I shopped around A LOT to find a nice one. And by nice, I meant one that conjures up that very same feeling of care, warmth, seasonal tidings, and an element of nature ... and also of course one that imprints well too.
Of course the cookies can be enjoyed un-stamped as well. But there's something special to eating a beautiful cookie. And even more special when you gift beautiful cookies to others. So if you're curious, here is the stamp I used:
You can find it here on Amazon (which is where I got mine). In previous years I picked many stamps up from the art shop however -- so check your local ones if you prefer to pick them out in person (I found lots at Michael's). But this stamp worked out quite well. If you're interested, here are a few other beautiful patterns I was debating:
- The cutest sheep sporting a scarf
- A cute little sparrow
- A beautiful nut-eating squirrel
- The tiniest igloo
- A moody minimalist reindeer
- And a cardinal
- And for reference, here is one of the traditional types of speculaas stamps you could go for if you prefer (though rubber stamps are a little more budget-friendly...)
And of course you've got lots of typical snowflake rubber stamps to choose from too or other winterscapes to your liking. Just select carefully -- the more minimal the pattern, the better it will transfer over onto a cookie.
This one worked a treat:
The last thing I'll note is on the texture of these cookies. There's been a bit of a debate over what speculaas should feel like... All the ones I've tried before were slightly crunchy, sweet, and crumbly, but this recipe also tastes nice softer to me and I couldn't decide which version to share with you -- the only difference is really the baking time. Bake longer = crunchy, bake less = crunchy on the outside, soft and crumbly on the inside. I've given out samples and the verdict was divided. I've even gotten my Dutch friend to try them for me... but he was no use in that regard since he's happy to just be eating cookies :) He did say the spice was bang on. So at least we got that part covered. In a nut shell, I'll leave the texture decision up to you. They are delicious no matter the texture, so it's just a matter of finding what you like best.
Oh, and final note: you'll notice in some of the photos you can see large speckles -- that's because the coconut sugar I used had some larger crystals (bottom of the jar... ;) ) -- which actually sort of looked nice. The photo above and below was from a different batch with properly ground coconut sugar, and as you can see the results are much smoother. Just sharing in case you're wondering. Ok, and now to the cookies...
Ok, wait, one more note: traditional speculaas cookies often use rosemary extract as a key component. I wasn't able to find any, so went with anise extract instead and it worked really well. Ok, cookies...
P.s. If you like the cookie pattern idea, but not all the spices, try this cinnamon bunny recipe instead -- it works great for imprinting cookies.Print
Speculaas Inspired Cookies
A gluten-free spiced cookie recipe inspired by the traditional holiday Dutch speculass cookie. Dairy-free.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 30 minutes
- Yield: 6 large cookies
- Category: Cookies
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Dessert
- 2 tbsp coconut oil, softened (not melted)
- 2½ tbsp agave
- 2½ tbsp coconut sugar
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp pure anise extract
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp of each: ground cardamom, ground ginger, ground nutmeg
- ⅛ tsp of each: ground white pepper, salt
- 1/16 tsp of each: mace, cloves
- 12 tbsp white or brown rice flour
- 3 tbsp arrowroot starch
- Preheat oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Get 2 sheets of parchment for rolling and a rolling pin ready, as well as your stamp and a knife (if using; otherwise whatever cookie cutters you like).
- Whip coconut oil in a mixing bowl with a hand mixer to fluff it up a little. Add everything except rice flour and arrowroot, and mix once more into a uniform mixture. Add in the flour and arrowroot and use your hands to start mixing the mixture until you can lump it into a ball. If after kneading it a little it's too crumbly, add another ½ tablespoon agave and knead into a ball then flatten into a disk.
- Roll out the dough into somewhere between ⅛" and ¼" thickness in between the two sheets of parchment (thinner -- crunchier, thicker -- softer cookies). Imprint the dough with the stamp (leave room between each imprint so they don't affect one another when you press into the dough to make more -- I can usually get about 4 prints in at this stage). Use a sharp knife to cut out the edges of the imprint into a square cookie shape. Use a wide spatula to carefully transfer the cookie onto your cookie sheet. Collect all dough scraps, roll out again, and repeat to create 2 more cookies.
- Bake in a pre-heated oven for 15 - 19 minutes (15 -- crunchy around the edges, but very soft in center, 19 -- very crunchy. You can also pick something in between :) ). Remove from oven and cool on a rack for at least 10-20 minutes (note: they will be soft when you pull them out, but will harden once they cool. Enjoy!