Francijn of Koken in de Brouwerij was our January 2013 Daring Bakers’ Hostess and she challenged us to make the traditional Dutch pastry, Gevulde Speculaas from scratch! That includes making our own spice mix, almond paste and dough! Delicious!
I was very excited when I began reading this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge. I have heard amazing things about this thing called "speculaas," but had not yet tried it. Turns out that speculaas actually refers to a blend of spices rather than the dessert itself. Pretty cool.
But then I saw the rest of the recipe. The gevulde speculaas that we were being asked to make is a layered cookie bar type dessert with two layers of a speculaas spiced dough surrounding a layer of (homemade) almond paste. It looked and sounded delicious, but there was one problem. Little man is allergic to nuts.
The first thing that I did was ask Francijn if there was something that I could use to substitute the almond paste that would still be traditional. Several of the awesome members of the Daring Bakers' community chimed in with very helpful suggestions, but the one that stuck in my mind the most was actually that of our hostess. She mentioned that the spice mix goes well with apples.
And from there, and idea was born in my head.
But it was really outside of the box, as far as the challenge was concerned... and I usually try to keep relatively close to the given challenges. I mean, I go creative, but within the general idea of the given recipe.
But my idea stuck, so I went with it. Dutch spiced dough... apples... I wanted to make a pie.
I started with the spice mix.
While some bakers were extra daring and found whole spices to grind themselves, I had most of what I needed already in the cupboard, already in ground form. The only one of the "mandatory" spices that I was missing was mace, so I used nutmeg as a substitute, since they are related to each other, and my spice cabinet is bursting already...
Once my spices were combined, the dough came together super easily. Simply combine all of the ingredients together and knead them until they form a dough.
My "dough" never fully came together - it stayed pretty crumbly, but this actually worked well for my full idea, so I simply wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerated it for a couple hours, then proceeded with my plan.
I pressed half of the dough into a pie plate and put it in the oven to bake for a bit. As it baked, I prepared my pie filling, cooking down some granny smith apples with some more of the speculaas spices. I also took some more of the dough and re-crumbled it together with some old fashioned oats for a crumb topping. After all - speculaas is a Dutch spice mix - doesn't it make sense to make this a Dutch apple pie?
Once the crust was par-baked, it was time to fill it up!
Despite the fact that this sounds like a lot of steps, this actually came together really easily. And by the time it came out of the oven, the house smelled amazing.
And the taste was even better. The slight heat of the spice combination worked so well with the apples, and the cookie type crust was delicious. Par-baking the crust made sure that it didn't get too soggy, and the whole thing worked together deliciously. I was a little disappointed that my crumb topping stayed very crumbly... I might add a bit more butter next time, but overall, this was a delicious success.
Francijn, thank you so much for introducing me to the delicious world of speculaas and for challenging me to try something new and delicious.
To see the other speculaas desserts baked up in the kitchen this month, you can check them out here.
Speculaas Spiced Dutch Apple Pie
(inspired by the January Daring Bakers' Challenge)
Speculaas Spice Mix:
cinnamon - 40 to 60 % of the total amount
ground cloves - 1 or 2 parts
mace - 1/2 or 1 part
ginger - 1/2 or 1 part
white pepper - 1/2 or 1 part
cardamom - 1/2 or 1 part
coriander - 1/2 or 1 part
anise - 1/2 or 1 part
nutmeg - 1 or 2 parts
A convenient way to mix the spices is as follows:
Take at least 1 or 2 teaspoons of ground cloves, ½ or 1 teaspoon of mace and ½ or 1 teaspoon of ginger.
Add to taste ½ or 1 teaspoon of white pepper, ½ or 1 teaspoon of cardamom, ½ or 1 teaspoon of coriander, ½ or 1 teaspoon of anise, and 1 or 2 teaspoons of nutmeg.
Measure or weigh the amount of spices you have now, and add an equal amount of cinnamon.
I started with 1 teaspoon of cloves, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg and 1 teaspoon of ginger. To this I added 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom. I then added another teaspoon of nutmeg. I then added about a tablespoon and a half of cinnamon and mixed the whole thing together until very well combined.
For the Speculaas Dough:
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
a pinch salt
2 tablespoons speculaas spices
3/4 cup (1½ stick) unsalted butter
Put flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices in a bowl.
Cut the butter in dices and add.
Knead until smooth.
Feel free to add a little milk if the dough is too dry.
Wrap in clingfoil and put in the refrigerator for two hours.
For the Apple Filling:
3-4 large granny smith apples
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon speculaas spices
Melt the butter in a large sautee pan over medium-medium high heat. Add the apples, sugar and spices and cook, stirring to ensure that the apples are well coated with the sugar and spices, until the apples begin to soften and the mixture is syrupy.
Remove the pan from the heat and allow the apples to cool.
For the Crumb Topping:
1/4 of the prepared speculaas dough
2/3 cup rolled oats
Combine the dough with the oats with your finger tips until the mixture is crumbly (my dough was crumbly to begin with, so this was easy).
To prepare the pie:
Preaheat oven to 350 degrees.
Press half of the speculaas dough into a 9 inch pie plate and bake in preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. If it begins to puff, you can prick the pie shell in a few places with a fork or toothpick.
When the pie shell is removed from the oven, carefully pour in the prepared apples, then top with the crumb topping mixture.
Return the pie to the oven and bake for 40 minutes more, watching to make sure the edges don't burn.
Allow the pie to cool for a bit before cutting.