Gevulde speculaas is one of my favourite sweet Dutch treats. It’s filled with all the warm winter spices like Cinnamon, Clove and Nutmeg plus a big load of Almond.
This traditional Dutch treat is generally eaten at Sinterklaas which is on the 5th of December.. ..but we wont be too strict about that here.
Speculaas is a spiced biscuit that’s eaten quite commonly with coffee or tea and handed out very regularly in the shape of a windmill or Sinterklaas himself. Then there is the upgraded version gevulde speculaas (filled speculaas) which is basically a softer version of the biscuit sandwiched between a layer of amandelspijs (almond paste).
I always just thought amandelspijs and marzipan were the same thing but I soon found out after moving to the Netherlands that they are very much not. This is a paste made from Almond, Sugar and Eggs, and sometimes a burst of lemon zest. This can be usually found in every Dutch household, whether homemade in a jar or from a packet.
I made this as one of our desserts after Christmas dinner, so even though I’m breaking the rules by posting a traditional sinterklaas recipe in JANUARY *gasp*… I hope ill be forgiven.
The recipe is split into two parts. The almond paste needs to be made ahead of time to really bring up the flavour but once it’s made and stored you can make the whole recipe quite quickly. Also, Almond paste can be added into many treats so it’s nice to have some in storage anyway.
175g ground almonds
1 small egg, beaten
Zest of half a lemon
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp water
1/2 tsp almond extract
Its ideal to make the almond paste a few weeks ahead of time, i find a week or 2 is pretty good.
In a bowl add the ground almonds and mix them with the sugar and lemon zest. Stir in the egg, lemon juice, almond extract and water until it’s all combined and is a very obvious paste texture. Store in a jar and keep in the fridge until needed.
I find the tastiest recipe for gevulde speculaas to be from the Dutch magazine “Foodies” by the talented, Willem.
150g cold butter, cubed
200g self rising flour
150g brown sugar
1tbsp speculaas spice or mixed spice/pumpkin spice (not the same but similar)
250g almond paste
50g blanched almonds
1 egg yolk
Start by placing the flour, sugar, butter, speculaas (or mixed spice), 2 tbsp of the milk and the salt into a medium/large bowl. Mix together with your hands and form into a smooth dough. Divide dough onto 2 pieces; press into small disks, about 1 inch thick. Wrap separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours or until firm enough to roll.
Preheat the oven to 175°C or 350°C and prepare a baking tin. The tin that i used was a rectangular fluted loose bottomed tin with measurements of 35cm x 12cm.
Roll out the dough into two pieces. 1 to cover the bottom and edges, and another for the very top. When you have the first piece layering the tin spread the almond paste all over the base with a spatula or spoon. Use the whole contents, if it’s difficult to spread, try dampening the spoon or spatula and it should glide over easily. When satisfied, layer on the 2nd dough piece and cut off any around the edges that hang over. Lightly press the blanched almonds onto the top in any way you like. Mix the egg with the remaining 1 tbsp of milk and brush over the top of the almonds and dough to give a nice glossy finish.
It will rise up so significantly so don’t worry if it looks slightly sunken before it goes into the oven.
Bake in the oven for 40-45mins. Let cool on a wire rack and when cooled slice into squares and enjoy.