Today’s Blogger Guest Post for The Holiday Project:
Yasmeen from Wandering Spice
[Yasmeen is such a sweetheart. I wrote a post for her blog not too long ago. These cookies seem just perfect for some holiday baking. Yum! Oh, and the boyfriend she talks about in the post? He's her fiancee now! Congrats, Yasmeen! So happy for you!]
Hi there, dear readers of Life Tastes Like Food! I’m Yasmeen – food lover, recipe writer and photographer at Wandering Spice.
First, a big thanks to Stephanie for sharing her beautiful space with me. I was thrilled to accept her offer to participate in The Holiday Project. What a fun way to get to know other readers, bloggers and food enthusiasts, and learn a bit more about your holiday traditions!
When I heard about the theme, I knew almost instantly what I’d make – Speculaas, a Dutch spice cookie. It’s a treat rich with a history of its own, and one that bears a special significance to me. You see, my sister, her husband and their gorgeous boy live in Holland, and I was lucky enough to be there when my nephew was born and through his first year. I also met and fell in love with my boyfriend (the Australian Man) while living in Amsterdam. Naturally, Holland and my memories there have a special place in my heart. So do cookies. A match made in heaven, I’d say.
Though available year-round now, speculaas are traditionally eaten at the start of Het Sint Nicolaasfeest (St Nicholas Festival) on 5th December in Holland. They’re generously spiced with a warm blend of aromatics – including white pepper – then pressed into ornate cookie molds, making addictively crisp and decorative wafers.
I often joke that I like putting a Middle Eastern ‘stamp’ on things, by adding Arabic flair to Western dishes. I can safely say I’ve taken that pun to a whole new level with my speculaas. Since I didn’t have a Dutch cookie mold, I used a traditional Arabic maamoul (date and semolina cookies) mold instead. Not quite conventional, but definitely festive.
The result? I used whole wheat flour, which made an ever-so-slightly chewier cookie, perfect for dipping in a piping hot cappuccino. And the taste? Each bite, a mile closer to my loved ones and unforgettable memories, and yet one step into a new holiday baking tradition in my new Australian home.
SPECULAAS: DUTCH SPICED BISCUITS
Adapted from Feast magazine; makes 12 large cookies
1 2/3 cup flour (250g – I used whole wheat)
1 tsp baking powder
2/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp white pepper
150g cold unsalted butter, cut in small cubes
2 tbsp ice water
Process flour, baking powder, sugar, spices and butter in a food processor until the mixture makes a coarse meal. Add the ice water and process until the mixture just comes together, 5-10 seconds (it will still be crumby). Turn out onto your work surface. Form the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and refrigerate 30 minutes or until cold and firm.
Preheat oven to 170C / 325 F. Line a baking sheet with nonstick paper. Roll the dough into golf-ball sized spheres one at a time and press into the cookie mold. If not using cookie mold, you can press them into circles and leave as-is, or decorate with a fork – no worries! Turn the cookies out onto the baking sheet.
Refrigerate once more for 20 minutes to help the cookies retain their shape (they will still flatten a bit when baking). Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Audio pairing: The XX, “You’ve Got the Love” Remix