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Cookies are a holiday hit — add speculaas to your spread

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

Big tree, little tree, real tree, fake tree — my family isn’t particular about Christmas decor. One thing de rigueur is an ample supply of cookies. Unlike pies and cakes, they are something that can be baked ahead of time and stored. Variety is the key.

The word “cookie” comes from Dutch word “koeptje.” The tradition of making them for the holiday season goes back to the monasteries of the middle ages where monks had access to sugar and spices.

While we take these things for granted, in the past they were prized and expensive, reserved for only the most special occasions.

To celebrate all things spice, I am adding speculaas to my cookie tray this year. Speculaas are a shortcrust cookie, so they’re thin and crisp with a satisfying crunch.

They originated in the Netherlands, and are usually baked on Dec. 6 to celebrate the feast of St. Nicholas. The most decorative speculaas feature characters and images gathered from the stories of his life.

Just as we have pumpkin pie spice in the United States, a speculaas blend is sold in Europe. At Christmastime, kitchens are perfumed with this fragrant blend of warm holiday flavors.

Traditionally a springerle, a special type of cookie mold, was used to make the intricate designs in the speculaas. However, the dough will work just as well with your favorite cookie cutters or cookie stamps.

Just make sure that you allow enough time to chill the dough sufficiently before rolling out. If you are using cookie stamps, chill them too.

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Speculaas, a spice cookie originally from the Netherlands, can be made with a traditional springerle or with cookie cutters and stamps. Be sure to leave time to chill the dough before rolling it out. The cookies will crisp up after they come out of the oven. (Julie Falsetti/For The York Dispatch)

Speculaas

  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ cup toasted almond flour*
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon white pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ½ teaspoon cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg

In a small bowl, combine the flours and baking soda. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter, sugar, vanilla, spices and salt. Add the egg and mix until well blended. Mix in the flour until a dough forms.

Form the dough into two disks, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 2 hours or more. When ready to bake, lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.

Working with one disk at a time, roll the dough about ¼-inch thick. Use any shape cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

Fifteen minutes before baking the cookies, preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Bake the cookies for 15 to 20 minutes, until they’re light gold around the edges. Remove them from the oven, and cool. They will crisp up when cool.

To toast almond flour: Put the almond flour in a medium-size frying pan over medium heat. Stirring constantly, cook until golden brown and fragrant, about 6 to 8 minutes. Watch carefully.

Once the flour begins to toast, it will happen very quickly. Immediately pour the flour into a small bowl to cool.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.