Sunday, January 29, 2012

Baked Sunday Mornings: Speculaas


This “BAKED” version of the German Biscoff Cookie is delicious, but I wish I’d baked them for Christmas as I did Dorie's recipe a year ago.

Every time I have a kitchen project that is inspired by the German part of the world, my mind wanders to my Grandmother, Charlotte, who immigrated from Switzerland during WWI.  She, along with her mother (her father had died) and an older sister, Bertha, braved the war areas and made their way to Germany, to the American embassy.  Had she been a boy she would not have been allowed to go further as she would have been forced fight in the German army.  Even though her travels were dangerous,  she arrived in Salt Lake City at the age of 18.

Grandma Charlotte was highly educated for a woman in her time, and was also a skilled seamstress.  Her clothes were extraordinary with hand made lace and beautiful, perfect stitching.  Before immigrating, her family’s Swiss home was a four story mansion and she lived in luxury...the home is in use today as an inn. But she came to America with nothing, married young, bore ten children (my father was the10th) and always lived in poverty.  She was always happy, however, and I remember her singing in her soothing alto voice  as she did her chores and continually served others.  By the time I was born, my grandfather had died, and she was homeless.  All her children did well and she divided her time with them all, living with each for a month or maybe two of every year. 

I loved her staying with us because she would mend all the clothes, help me sew outfits for my Barbies, clean the house, cook, do dishes...anything.  After our sewing projects, I remember how she always crawled on her hands and knees under the sewing table with an empty spool that she used to wind every small piece of thread for future use such as sewing on a button.  She wasted nothing.  Not only had she escaped war-torn Europe with only the clothes on her back, but she lived through the Great Depression and other very hard times, and she never forgot.

I’ll never forget the one time I became angry with her.  I returned home from my Jr. High classes at the end of the day, and found that all my dresses and skirts (yes, we used to wear nice clothes to school every day), had been mid-calf ...and this was the mini-skirt era.  I was horrified and could not believe that she would do such a thing without first talking to me.  She had seen me growing like a weed and thought she would surprise me with her kind deed, but I could only envision how I would be humiliated by my friends at school.  Yet, back in the day, when we were taught to be respectful of our elders and to have good manners, I was unable to voice my frustrations.  I remember crying myself to sleep.  I know things got worked out and my clothes were “fixed,” but I don’t remember how that all happened.  I only remember my trauma.

Back to the grandma loved to cook and enjoyed good foods.  With her strong German accent, she reminisced about special days and holidays from her youth, and I wonder if a similar cookie had made it to her family’s holiday table.  I think so.  She often spoke of pfeffernusse, ginger, and other spice cookies which she loved.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me if these cookies are the same as Dorie’s recipe that we baked a year earlier.  I would say no.  They are really very different.  The mixing method is different, and the texture is different, and some ingredients are different.  (Cardamom is listed in the procedure part of the recipe, but not in the ingredient list.)  And I always have fun running to the back yard where I can pick a fresh orange to zest, and that flavor is also different in this recipe

When I  mixed the dough, I cheated by using my food processor.  It was very dry and crumbly.  I was really worried when I took it out of the fridge this morning after chilling all night, that it would not roll out nicely, as it still appeared to be crumbly, but everything came together and the dough was actually sticky and needed a good dose of flour on the counter top and also sprinkled on the dough top.

Once rolled, the dough cut out well, baked nicely and tastes delicious.  I only baked the cookies for 10 minutes instead of the suggested 15.  At 10 minutes, the edges were browning and I feared they would be burned with 5 more minutes in the oven.

This shorter baking time produced a softer, chewy cookie where Dorie’s were crispy and remind me of those Moravian cookies that sell for a high price at Williams-Sonoma during the holidays.

We are still into holidays at our house, so this recipe still fits into our family.  Seems like holidays keep marching on: the fall holidays lead into the Christmas season, then New Year’s, and somehow we keep catching up on good foods and treats we feel we have missed.  (we made more pumpkin pie this week, and peppermint topped brownies) And this week we celebrated 2 days of Chinese New Year with our Singapore friends, and now we are thinking about Valentine’s Day.....and we have had lots of birthdays and other fun days through it all.  Christmas cookies are still appreciated, especially when in the shape of a heart.

Just like the Biscoff airline cookies being an addiction for the Baked boys, I’m finding these Speculaas are a new addiction for me...I'm munching while I type up this post...a nice change from my chocolate addiction.

Since it is now afternoon, I’ll get this “morning” post up and see what you all have done with your cookies.  I’m sure they will look delicious as you all are fantastic bakers!

Well, after 2 hours out of the oven, these cookies are now "thin and crispy" but I would say are still not the same as Dorie's.  My opinion. 


  1. What a fantastic story, Kris. My oranges aren't ready yet, so I need to run to the store. I'm looking forward to trying these since I love Constant Comment Tea & I'm wondering if they will taste like that lovely orange spiced tea.

  2. I was wondering if these were different from Dorie's. I'll have to try this version as well!

  3. I really enjoyed reading your post about your grandmother, Kris. She sounds like she was a remarkable woman and much like both my grandmothers. Your cookies look delicious and look much more like Dorie's, although I agree that they are a very different cookie. I don't know why mine are so much darker, I thought the color was different than Dorie's because of all the dark brown sugar and extra cinnamon in them. They certainly tasted different, but are very good.

    I am glad my post on the buckeyes help you! I hope you have a good week.

  4. your cookies look great! i havn't made mine yet, but hoping to in the next few days. great post!

  5. I LOVE your post about your grandmother. She sounds like she was a remarkable woman. Your hearts are great...mine didn't keep their shape quite as well. I too wished I made these for Christmas... Next year :)

  6. Great story about your grandmother. Yours have turned out so lovely. Somehow my cookies turned out thick and crispy. Maybe I burnt them..just a little bit.

  7. I really enjoyed reading about your grandmother. Grandmothers are amazing people. Reminds me how much I miss mine. The cookies look really delicious, and since I don't eat chocolate I should try these!

  8. What a great story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I love the holidays and these seem like a good holiday cookie. My family, like your grandmother, always talks about pfeffernusse cookies. They are great holiday cookies as well!

  9. A lovely story of your grandmother...I agree with made me think of my wonderful grandmother, too! They were strong, powerful women, weren't they?
    Your cookies look wonderful...I love the pretty heart shapes! Perfect for Valentines Day! I might have to give these a try.

  10. Wow- what a neat story about your grandmother. She lived through a lot, was very generous and appreciative and sounds to have had a full life. 'Remarkable' (as someone else referenced) is a good word for her. Thanks for sharing. Your cookies look great- delicious. A few people did hearts- which I love. Great for Feb.

  11. I thought about mixing the dough up in the food processor. Good to know it works well! Your cookies are quite appropriate in the heart-shape. Cute!

  12. Memories of my Grandmother are some of my fondest. It's amazing how different their lives were than ours. So inspiring.

    I also made Dorie's cookies from AMFT and I really enjoyed them. Unfortunately I didn't care for the Baked version. But glad I've now made speculoos and speculaas. I was completely lazy and didn't roll out my dough. I did a log and then sliced off rounds. Your hearts look great!