Speculaas cookies are delicious, crisp cookies made with speculaas spices and dark brown sugar. They are a real treat and the perfect cookie to make with kids.
Speculaas are amazing cookies that originated in the Netherlands. They are thin, crunchy, or baked in chunks, and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and sometimes white pepper.
They are usually shaped into festive figures or patterns using wooden molds or cookie cutters.
Some speculaas are filled with almond paste or other sweet fillings. They are traditionally eaten on St. Nicholas' Day (December 5th) or around Christmas time, but they are delicious any time of the year.
Speculaas are one of my favorite treats and I highly recommend you try them if you haven't already!
Baking with children
Baking speculoos can be a fun and educational activity for (small) children.
You can involve them in measuring and mixing the ingredients or rolling out the dough or cutting out the cookies.
The most rewarding task, sampling the cookies, is of course also for the kids!
The history of speculaas
In the mid-17th century, the VOC acquired a monopoly on the trade in cloves, mace, and nutmeg from the Portuguese. Amsterdam became the most important storage site for spices from around the world, and from its warehouses, the spices were distributed throughout the rest of Europe.
Many cookbooks from that time say that you can only get certain spices from the Netherlands. This remained that way until a Frenchman managed to grab some cuttings from a nutmeg tree in 1770 and smuggle them to Mauritius.
It took some time before these cuttings really produced something, but at the beginning of the 19th century, the monopoly of the Netherlands was eventually broken.
What spices go in this recipe?
Many of these spices form the basis for the speculaas spice mix. Because since the 17th century, more and more spices arrived in the Netherlands, the price dropped, and more people could afford to buy them.
It is, therefore, not surprising that bakers started to experiment with them in their baking, and you start to see more recipes for cookies and cakes that contain them. Every baker at that time, and to this day, had their own secret spice mix.
Not surprising that the first recipes and paintings with speculaas and pepernoten originate from this period.
Speculaas spices – A spice mix with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and pepper to make speculaas and pepernoten.
Brown sugar – This is an essential ingredient. It is best to use dark brown sugar, but regular brown sugar will work if that is what you have.
Butter – I like to use unsalted butter and add the salt later.
Place the flour with the baking powder or self-rising baking flour, butter, milk, sugar and speculaask spices in a mixing bowl and cut in with two knives.
With a cool hand, knead the dough well to form a firm dough. If your dough is too dry you can always add a little milk.
Roll out the dough with a rolling pin until the dough is about 1 cm thick. Using a cutter, cut out small cookies and place them on a baking sheet with a sheet of baking paper.
If you are using a speculoos board dust it well with flour first and press the dough into it. This may not work well the first time but after a few practices you should be fine.
Make sure the dough is well cold if you want to try this.
Brush the speculoos with egg and decorate with half almonds and let the egg dry for a while. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 170℃
Brush another thin layer of egg over this and bake the speculaas for 15-18 minutes and speculaas chunks for about 30 minutes at 340 F or 170℃
If you want to make speculaas chunks bake the dough as a large rectangle and break it into smaller pieces after baking when it has cooled down.
How to shape your speculaas cookies
To turn them into traditional shaped windmill cookies you need a special speculaas board. These can be hard to get your hands on especially if you are out of the Netherlands but any cookie-cutter will work!
Speculaas chunks are made by baking a large slice of speculaas dough and then breaking it into smaller pieces after it cools.
To make sure that everyone can bake speculoos, some adjustments are sometimes needed. I have listed the most commonly requested adjustments below.
- Gluten-free - to make gluten-free speculaas, you can replace the flour with the same amount of gluten-free flour or cereal.
- Lactose-free - replace the butter with a plant-based butter and the milk with plant based milk or water.
- Vegan - replace the butter and milk with a vegetable viant and omit the egg. Brush the speculoos with some vegetable milk for a nice brown coating.
- You can use your dough straight away or after an hour in the fridge, BUT if you leave your dough in the fridge for a day or two, the flavor becomes much richer.
- Every recipe for speculaas spices is different, and that’s ok! You can tweak the recipe to your taste!
- If you want to make the traditional windmill shape or if you want to use a speculaas board, your dough should be cold to prevent the cookies from running in the oven.
To make this recipe you will need a large mixing bowl, measuring cups or a kitchen scale, plastic wrap, and cookie cutters.
You can store speculoos chunks in a cookie jar for a few days. They may soften during storage.
They are also suitable for freezing. You can keep them in the freezer for about three months.
You can also freeze the dough. In a freezer bag it stays fresh for about 3 months. Take it out of the freezer well in advance and knead it before baking.
More amazing speculaas recipes
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 6 oz butter cold
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons speculaas spices
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 -2 tablespoons milk cold
- 1 egg beaten
- Optional: a few whole almonds for decoration
- Add the butter, milk, flour, baking powder, speculaas spices, and sugar to a bowl and cut the butter with two knives into a crumbly mixture.
- Work the dough by hand into a firm dough, wrap it in cling film, and put it in the fridge for at least an hour. You can use the dough immediately, but the taste is better if you let the dough rest.
- Roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1 cm.
- Brush some of the egg over the speculaas and decorate with the almonds.
- Give the speculaas another egg wash and bake for about 30 minutes in a preheated oven at 175°C or 350°F.
- Let the speculaas cool and break into chunks.