The January Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Francijn from Koken in de Brouwerij (cooking in the brewery), all the way the Netherlands. She chose a traditional Dutch treat called Gevulde Speculaas (which I am told translates to stuffed spice). The speculaas is a spice blend (you know how cookie butter is all the rage? that is speculaas spice you are drooling over) that is unique like curry powder – every one can be different depending on who’s making it. Cinnamon is the major player here but the team consists of many including, nutmeg, ginger, mace, cardamom, white pepper, anise, clove, coriander… you get the picture. It’s warm, spicy and mellow all at the same time. Anyway, the dough for this cake is infused with the heady mixture and then it is stuffed with almond paste. Seriously, doesn’t just the thought of almond paste get you salivating? Overall, this was fun and easy to make. Wait, I take that back. I have been making my own almond paste exclusively for many years now and almost always have some in the freezer.(Funny sidenote: I actually put 2 pounds of almond paste in my suitcase to bring to my mothers in New York just this past December!) It can seem scary at first but if you own a food processor than you too can make almond paste. This will be the hardest part of this recipe and it’s not hard at all!! Oh, I forgot to mention how cheap it is compared to store-bought. Once you make it yourself I doubt that you will ever buy store-bought after that . It is never quite as smooth as store-bought but unless you are modelling with it you won’t notice the difference and the flavor is so much better. One more thing on making almond paste – you must use blanched almonds = almonds without the skin on. There are two ways to go about this; boil up a pot of water and then add a few cups of almonds. Let them boil 3 or 4 minutes then drain. Once cool enough to handle, the skins will slide off easily. Then you need to let the almonds thoroughly (like for a few days) OR, you can be really lazy like me and buy the big giant bag of blanched, sliced almonds sold at Costco. These take virtually no time at all to process down to a fine powder. You do what works best for you. Believe I have skinned many pounds of almonds in my time.
Okay, so there are three elements to this challenge: mixing up some speculaas spice, making almond paste, and preparing the dough. The almond paste and the dough can be prepared a few days in advance if you like (this really gives the spices a chance to develop), but you can also whip this up in a jiffy as well. Bake On!
Speculaas Spice blend
This is the blend I made up but please feel free to make up your own. All spices are ground before starting
mix everything together and store in an airtight container.
Francijns recipe: (I actually used this one for the cake so as to stay true to her recipe)
7/8 cup (210 ml)(125 gm)(4½ oz) raw almonds (or 1-1/3 cups (320 ml)(125 gm) (4½ oz) ground almonds)
5/8 cup (150 ml) (125 grams) (4½ oz) granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) lemon zest
Grind the almonds for one or two minutes in a food processor, until you see nothing but very small pieces. (Or skip this step if you use ground almonds.)
Add the sugar, and grind for another one or two minutes. It must be very fine after this step.
Add the egg and let the food processor combine it – if it is powerful enough. Otherwise you will have to combine it with your fingers.
My usual recipe:
Place the almonds and a few tablespoons of the sugar in the bowl of a large food processor and whirl until it is a fine powder. Add the remaining sugar and start the machine. Add the rose-water and extract. Drizzle in the light corn syrup until it comes together and forms a smooth ball.
You can store this in thee fridge for a few weeks or months in the freezer.
I use a scale to measure out equal parts blanched almonds and confectioners (powdered) sugar so I can make large or small amounts. I tend to eyeball the light corn syrup and add little by little until I get the consistency I want. (I told you this was easy…)
1 ¾ 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, softened
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 plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator for two hours. I used my standing mixer to do this and I did need to add a little less than 1/4 cup of milk to my dough. I then let it sit in the fridge overnight.
You can choose to make the dough a few days in advance, just like the almond paste, that will benefit the flavor.
Assembling and baking the Gevulde Speculaas
Ingredients: speculaas dough, almond paste, 1 large egg, and blanched almonds for decorating (optional)
shallow baking pan, 8×10 inch (20×26 cm) or, round with of diameter 10 inch (26 cm)
Grease the pan. Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C/gas 4
Divide the dough into two portions.
Roll out both portions on a lightly floured surface, until they are exactly the same size 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 cold water and brush 1/3 of the egg over the dough in the pan.
Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of parchment, until it is exactly as big as the pan, and put it on the dough in the pan. (If you chose to make the paste soft, you can smear the paste instead of rolling it.) Press the paste lightly down to fit in the pan, and brush the next 1/3 of the egg over it. Place the second layer of dough on top of the paste, press it lightly, and make as smooth as possible. Brush the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough. and decorate the pastry with the almonds, if you like. I sprinkled swedish pearl sugar down the center of my large one with just a few almonds slices down the sides. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely. Enjoy!