Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
Do you ever feel like Laurel and Hardy or the Three Stooges in the kitchen? Well, this was one of those times for me. I made a batch of sugar cookies earlier in the day and burned my fingers three different times. Three!
Let me start back a bit though since this is a Daring Bakers post. I was excited to see the challenge because 1) it seemed simple enough and it used ingredients I already had in my cupboard, 2) I love anything related to gingerbread and this sounds kind of like a gingerbread cake, and 3) I was born in Holland and even though I moved when I was two years old I still love things that connect me to that time and place.
I started out making the almond paste. It gave me a chance to use our Vitamix for something besides smoothies. It went well enough until I got to the part in the ingredients where I was supposed to use lemon zest but I couldn’t find it anywhere in the actual step by step directions. I frantically posted on the DB forum to see if anyone else was awake and baking but alas, no responses. I then did the next best thing. I asked google. I read over a few other recipes for Gevulde Speculaas and noticed there was no lemon zest mentioned so I just omitted it. The paste went into the fridge overnight.
The next step was making the Speculaas dough. I enjoyed mixing the combination of spices that I used for my Speculaas spices. I put in the least amount necessary and didn’t even pay attention to the total amount of spices I had. I guess it’s a good thing I used the least amount because it wasn’t until I was mixing the dough that I thought, “Wasn’t I supposed to have leftover spices?” After a quick run over to the computer where I confirmed I should have only added 2 tablespoons I realized that my 6 teaspoons would be close enough. I got a pretty good chuckle though thinking about what would have happened if I had mixed a larger amount of spices. My cake may have been just a tad overspiced, if that’s possible.
The dough seemed a bit dry to me and it wasn’t really mixing together so I did add some milk to it. It reminded me a bit of the consistency of pie crust once I was adding the milk to it. I still think it was a bit on the dry side which meant that I needed to roll the dough into two separate balls (taking out one of the steps of later splitting it into two). That went into the fridge overnight as well.
I was a bit concerned that the dough wouldn’t roll out well since it seemed to be so dry the day before. I worked it for just a little bit to warm it up and once it rolled out it turned a beautiful smooth, dark brown color.
The almond paste was somewhat distracting to me because I kept thinking about it being mashed bananas for banana bread. If you look at the picture above this one you can see that it looks somewhat like mashed up bananas.
I made one larger Speculaas (I used a deep dish 9 inch pan) and had some leftover dough. I decided to use as much of the dough as possible so I made two smaller Speculaas. The only problem was that I didn’t have enough almond paste. I happened to have some commercially made almond paste in the cupboard so it was almost like a science experiment, see which version tastes better.
So back to Laurel and Hardy again. I read the directions so many times that you would think I would have had them memorized by this time but I missed the step of putting the egg wash between the first layer of dough and the layer of almond paste on the large Speculaas. I don’t think it was too critical since it seemed to go together well enough without it. But then I also decided to try to roll out the soft almond paste, all the while knowing that it would just stick to the cling wrap but not reading just one sentence further that you didn’t need to roll it out between cling wrap if it was soft almond paste. Nothing like trying to scrape sticky almond paste off of two sheets of cling wrap!
As far as the differing almond paste, there was a stronger almond flavor (more like almond extract) with the smaller Speculaas (the store bought paste). Both were very tasty though. Enjoy!
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Measure out the cloves, mace, ginger, and nutmeg into a coffee filter or a paper towel. Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now; add an equal amount of cinnamon.
4½ oz raw almonds
4½ oz granulated sugar
1 large egg
If the raw almonds still have their brown skins, remove them as follows. Bring water to a boil, add the almonds, cook them for one minute, drain immediately and let cool for a few minutes. Rub them between your fingers to remove the skins.
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor or high powered blender until you see nothing but very small pieces.
Add the sugar and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and combine it with your fingers.
Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to use (no more than a day or two).
1¾ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch of salt
2 tablespoons Speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter
Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Cut the butter in dices and add. Knead until smooth. Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry. Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
The flavor of the dough is enhanced if you make it a few days in advance.
Assembling and Baking the Gevulde Speculaas
whole almonds without skins for decoration
1 large egg
Grease a 9 inch square or round pan. Preheat the oven to moderate 350°F. Divide the dough into two portions. Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly as big as the baking pan.
Put one of the layers in the pan and press it lightly to fill the bottom. Lightly beat the egg with a teaspoon of cold water. Smear 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
If the almond paste is soft, smear it on the first layer of dough. If it is store bought or hard, roll out the almond paste between two sheets of clingfoil, until it is exactly as big as the pan. Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and smear the next 1/3 of the egg over it.
Now put the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Smear the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
Decorate the pastry with the almonds. Bake for 40 minutes in the preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan, then cut it in portions as you like.
** If you wrap the stuffed Speculaas in clingfoil, after it has cooled completely, you can store it a few days at room temperature. Freezing is possible, but fresh Speculaas tastes better. **