Every year around this time I get excited about Christmas baking. When it’s cold and grey outside, it’s nice to be warm inside, and who doesn’t love the smell of baking? And at the end of course you have something nice to eat with a cup of tea. It’s all good!
One of the biscuits I like to bake is speculoos, a heavily spiced biscuit common in Belgium and the Netherlands (but also in Germany). However it was in Belgium where I first discovered them so in my mind they are Belgian.
I bought a packet of Speculoos spice mix at a Belgian market some years ago, so I could make my own biscuits, but when this ran out, I needed a replacement. I undertook a lot of internet research, tried a few combinations, and this is the best recipe I found; one that combined the rich spice and fiery kick that these biscuits need.
Speculoos spice mix: 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom.
(I probably put in a little more ginger than this recipe calls for. That’s a personal thing, I happen to like ginger.)
I often use this mix in recipes that ask for cinnamon. Cinnamon is perfectly nice, but the speculoous spice mix just kicks things up a little. Mostly it works.
Every year I consult with different websites, looking at pictures, trying different speculoos biscuit recipes. I even bought a special wooden mold to make the biscuits in traditional shapes. And I am always optimistic when I start out, that this is the year I will get the picture perfect biscuits that also have crunch and spice.
And so far, every year, I produce lumpy misshapen cakes, not beautiful crispy biscuits.
I don’t know what I do wrong, but whatever it is, I do it wrongly every year.
I make the dough according to recipe, I chill it in the fridge, and when it’s ready I take it out, roll it thin, and push it into the wooden mold. And then curse and get angry when the dough doesn’t come out, even when prodded with a spoon or knife, even when the wooden mold is shaken with force. Or maybe only half the dough comes out. Or it comes out but is badly deformed and no longer carries the imprint of the mold.
At some point I abandon the mold for simple metal cookie cut outs. These are much easier to handle, and if I stick with simple shapes (like circles, penguins, stars, cats, hedgehogs) they come out of the oven thin and crispy and looking kind of like what they are supposed to be.
But my wood mold biscuits? Well they will not be winning me any new followers on Instagram.
Next year I’m sure I will find the right recipe.