This month, we created a Dutch pastry that I had never heard of, using a fresh ground "speculaas" spice blend made of 9 different spices. The top and bottom layer are the spiced dough, which is similar to gingerbread, and the middle layer is an almond paste that is flavored with lemon zest. Very fragrant and delicious. The smells coming out of the kitchen while this pastry bakes are intoxicating!
When I read in the Daring Challenge post that we were to follow Francijn's given recipe and decorate the pastry as we pleased, I knew just what I wanted to do. I have always enjoyed creating quilt-like patterns out of cut paper and found objects, but I've never used edible objects before. The idea was to create 16 unique squares so each was its own work of art. Just as I hoped, the cut squares look really pretty on a plate!
Creating the patterns in the squares was fairly easy to do, though admittedly I had to place each slivered almond using tweezers and it took me a while. I made each pattern up as I went along. If I did this again, I would likely plan a pattern and repeat squares throughout - maybe 4 of each design - so it wasn't so random and unbalanced. This time, I went for whimsy, which is a little more free and fun to do.
Adapted from Francijn's original DB recipe found here.
4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/2 teaspoon dried ginger
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Any of these spices that can be purchased dried yet whole, such as peppercorns, clove and cardamom, use whole and estimate the measurement to equal 1/4 teaspoon when ground (extreme precision is not crucial). Place all dried spices together in a clean coffee or spice grinder and process until the spices are mixed into a fine powder. Store airtight as you would other spices and use as you would cinnamon, allspice or pie spice.
1 1/3 cups ground almonds
2/3 granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Grind together almond flour and sugar for one minute in a food processor. Add the egg and lemon zest and process until combined. It will get very thick. You may also mix in the egg by hand. Store the almond paste in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days before baking your Gevulde Speculaas.
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
Pinch of salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
3/4 cup unsalted butter, removed from the fridge about 20 minutes before using
Whisk together flour, baking powder, brown sugar, salt and spices in a bowl. Dice your butter and toss it into the dry mix.
Using a pastry cutter, your fingers or a fork, cut the butter into the dry mix until the butter pieces are smaller than peas. Using your hands, knead the dough together in the bowl until it is cohesive and smooth. Moisten the dough with a splash of milk if necessary for it to come together.
Form your dough into a round ball. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for two hours or up to 2 days.
Assembling and Baking the Gevulde Speculaas
You will need:
1 large egg, beaten with one teaspoon water
slivered almonds for decoration
10 by 10 inch (or similar sized) baking pan
Grease your pan and preheat the oven to 350F.
|cutting the dough to size|
Roll out the almond paste between two sheets of parchment paper, until it is exactly as big as your dough, and put it on the dough in the pan. If the paste is too soft and sticky, you may spread the paste using your hands instead of rolling it. Press the paste lightly out 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 it as smooth as possible. Spread the last 1/3 of the egg over the dough.
Decorate the pastry with the almonds, as desired. Bake for 40 minutes in a preheated oven. Let cool completely in the pan before cutting and serving.