As promised, I am sharing another one of my traditional German Christmas recipes that has been adapted to be gluten and nightshade free. Most people with either a German or Dutch background will be familiar with Spekulatius. These cookies are immediately recognizable by the relief images baked right in them. They are crisp, light and spiced with the three “C’s” of Christmas: Cardamom, Cloves and Cinnamon. If you have tried to make them at home and found that the texture was different than (and not as nice as) the commercially made ones, you’ll love this recipe.
The secret to crisp, light Spekulatius is lard. When you use butter or margarine, they come out like any other spiced cookie, but with lard, this little Christmas gem is elevated to “Singing Choirs of Angels” cookie status. (IMHO) I am probably biased. Nope, I’m definitely biased! (As mentioned in the recipe, you can use a mixture of butter and lard, but don’t use more butter than what is recommended. You do need the lard to get the texture right.)
This Christmas cookie will always be my favourite. They take some attention to make, but only because the rolling pins and blocks that are carved out to make pictures on the cookies have to be kept well floured, yet not so well floured that you lose the picture in the process. It takes a little practice to find the sweet spot for this process. But they are so worth the effort! Any good kitchen store will have one of these rolling pins and if not in stock, they can certainly order them in for you. Well, not in time for this Christmas, but there’s always next year.
There are a couple things you’ll want to know before you get started on these. First of all, don’t substitute the lard, and don’t use artificial extracts. These are a once a year cookie and they just aren’t wonderful if you don’t trust the recipe. Also, the nuts absolutely must be ground really fine. If they aren’t, you’ll have a lot of trouble forming the cookies with the blocks or rolling pin. Don’t rush chilling the dough. It needs to be cold, especially in this Gluten Free version. Have a pastry brush (a real one, not a silicone one) on hand so you can gently brush away any extra flour from the surface of the cookies before you bake them. In the grand scheme of things, it’s easier to use the rolling pin than the individual blocks. You want the dough to be relatively thin, but there has to be enough thickness so it can fill the recesses in the blocks and rolling pin and give you that lovely relief picture that these cookies are famous for. Every oven is a little different, so watch the first batch and notice how long it takes for them to bake. Use that as your guide. The time will vary depending on how thin they are.
Gluten Free Spekulatius
500g Gluten Free Flour Mix (as given in last week’s blog)
1Tbsp Gluten Free Baking Powder
1 tsp Xantham Gum
1 Tbsp Vanilla Sugar (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
1/4 tsp Pure Almond Extract
1/4 tsp Cardamom
1/4 tsp Cloves
1 tsp Cinnamon
200g Lard (do not substitute; though it is okay to use 150g lard and 50g butter)
100g Finely Ground Hazelnuts (Almonds are okay)
1. Combine all dry ingredients together and mix thoroughly with a whisk.
2. On a clean counter, make a pile with the dry ingredients.
3. Make a well in the dry ingredients; put eggs in the well and mix with a fork, just enough that they won’t run all over the place.
4. Cut up the lard into small pieces and dump it, as well as the ground nuts onto the messy pile on the counter. Mix the dough, with your hands, and work it until it is smooth and uniform. Chill the dough for at least one hour.
5. Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment and preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
6. Roll out the dough with a regular rolling pin to about 1/4″ thick. Using either a well-floured rolling pin that has relief images carved into it, or wooden blocks with relief images carved in them, press images into the dough. If using blocks, take your time and use a small, sharp knife (like a paring knife) to coax the dough out of the carved portion of the block, if it gets stuck.
7. Use a knife to cut the individual images into separate cookies and arrange them on the prepared cookie sheet. Gently brush away any excess flour from the surface of the cookies.
8. Bake for about 4 minutes or until lightly golden (compared to when they started). Allow them to cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.
And there you have it!
I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas. I hope that however you celebrate this season of the year, that your celebration is filled with Love and Kindness; yes capital “L” Love and capital “K” Kindness. Because really, that is all that matters.
Happy Baking and when those cookies are all done…
Happy knitting… and good luck keeping the cookie crumbs off your project!