June 9, 2004
When our friends came over for dinner on Saturday night, I felt like serving a simple and light dessert. By "light" I do not necessarily mean light in calories, but rather light as in "not too rich". I wanted to make something fruit-based, with a little cookie-type thing to dip in and accompany it. I like that kind of dessert, because it allows each guest to adjust his serving to his own appetite : if you feel pretty full, you can just have the fruity part. If you have a sweet tooth and enough room, fill up on the cookies!
Just the day before I had seen beautiful rhubarb at the store, and I just cannot get enough of that fruit, so I decided to repeat the Compote Rose experience, which took care of the fruit part. It couldn't be easier to make, you just have to peel the rhubarb, combine with raspberries and sugar, bake, and voilà : Compote Rose, pretty, acidulé and delicious.
As for the cookies, the idea of making speculoos had been in the back of my mind for quite a while, ever since my grandmother gave me a bag of cassonade brune from Belgium, that special dark brown sugar made by Candico. And then just recently, when I posted about a certain giant Speculoos, a reader named Peter kindly submitted a recipe in the comments, translated from the Belgian recipe website La Bonne Cuisine. The recipe looked simple enough, and it came recommended by Peter, so that's what I set out to make.
The traditional recipe uses cinnamon and cloves for spices, but I used the pumkin pie spice mix I had bought at Trader Joe's back in the days. For that I do hope that my ancestors -- my father's family comes from the North of France -- will forgive me. Regardless, I was delighted with how they came out : the taste is very close to store-bought speculoos. They aren't as crumbly though, which I think means that there is more butter in the store-bought version, but the texture of mine is extremely pleasant nonetheless, crispy on the edges and slightly soft in the center.
And they were just perfect with the rhubarb and raspberry compote. And with coffee. And with tea. And by themselves. And again. Yum.
- 500 grams (17 2/3 ounces, about 4 cups*) flour
- 150 grams (2/3 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 1 egg
- 300 grams (1 1/2 cups) brown cassonade (substitute the darkest brown sugar you can get)
- 1 teaspoon mixed ground cake spices (traditionally cinnamon and cloves)
(Yields about 50 speculoos.)
Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F), and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In a food processor or by hand, mix the butter, sugar, spices and eggs. If you're using a food processor, transfer the dough into a large mixing bowl now, as the rest has to be done by hand. Add the flour in batches, and knead the dough until it comes together and gets buttery and brown.
Divide the dough in two. Spread a sheet of parchment paper on your work surface, and use a rolling pin to spread one half of the dough on it (this is so it doesn't stick to the counter, without the addition of flour), until it is about 5 mm (1/5 inch) thick. Use a special speculoos mold to cut out cookies, or just cut the dough in long and narrow rectangles, about 3 x 7 cm (1.2'' x 2.8'').
Use the blade of a knife to transfer the cookies onto your cookie sheet, and put into the oven to bake for twelve to fifteen minutes (the cookies will still be soft in the center). Slide the parchment paper onto a rack for the cookies to cool and harden. Repeat in batches with the rest of the dough.
Store the cookies in a metal tin box. They are great with coffee, you can serve them with compote rose, you can crumble them on top of riz au lait à la framboise, grind them to make a cheesecake crust, use them to make speculoos ice-cream...
(Adapted from La Bonne Cuisine, via Peter.)
* Measuring flour by volume yields inconsistent quantities depending on the baker's gesture as well as the specific flour and the humidity level. The inconsistency is further accentuated in recipes such as this one, in which a large amount of flour is used. Please consider using a digital scale.
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