finding the spirit

speculaas- cityhippyfarmgirl

Nothing says it’s nearly Christmas time, quite like belting out Wham’s Last Christmas at the top of your lungs. While big hair, eighties clothing and a snowy white landscape aren’t really necessary this year; an enthusiasm for all things just a teeny bit cheesy are. With three little people grinning from ear to ear for encouragement, I plan to quietly soak all that Christmassy spirit well and truly up.

I wasn’t going to though, well not yet anyway. It all seemed a little too early still.

However, last years advent calendar was hung, and the boys were keen for the Christmas sticks to be draped and decorated. Pre-school carols were seeping in and had a funny way of sticking in my head all day. I also couldn’t avoid the fact that everyone else was well and truly already on the Christmas wagon.

What pushed Last Christmas on to replay was the very real thought of my little people becoming big people. No longer finding it quite as exciting to decorate some fallen sticks with some brightly coloured baubles and their bunk beds with draped silvery tinsel. The excitement of seeing what might be in the advent calander in the early morning, and the planning of all the things they would do, once the Christmas holidays began. I know that contagious excitement will someday fade, as their limbs get longer and their childhood thoughts and ideas change.

So while their little dancing legs are eager, their air guitars await and theres a willingness to sing all songs Christmassy, then so will I.

And I’ll love every second of it.*

 * In the spirit of Christmas, so will all my neighbours. It’s a well known fact that Last Christmas should never be played quietly; and living in a small city apartment, well playing something with Christmas enthusiasm means everyone gets to enjoy it as well. Now THAT’S the spirit of Christmas.

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speculaas-cityhippyfarmgirl

For added Christmassy goodness, I’ve been making speculaas again. It’s been two years since the intermittent light swearing incident over the little wooden windmill and, this year I thought I’d try my luck again. Alas, still not to a standard I like, so no windmills again this year. However, the dough I’ve tweaked a little and it’s still a happy biscuit to eat.

Perfect for a little dunking, munching or sending of small parcels off to the neighbours.

Speculaas #2

150g cubed cold butter

150g brown sugar

300g plain flour

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp cardamon

2 tbls cold water

Pulse all ingredients except the cold water, until resembles bread crumbs. Turn out to a board, add the water and give a quick knead to bring it all together. You are a after a smooth dough consistency. Roll out between two sheets of baking paper and pop into the fridge to firm up (or roll into a log and freeze for a later date.) Cut out shapes and bake at 180 for 15-20 minutes.

speculating on speculaas and speculoos

chewed dog ears...or windmills if you squint really hard

I was supposed to make these last year, but that didn’t happen. This year it is though. The tasty spiced biscuits generally eaten for the Feast of Saint Nicolas, (Dec 5th or 6th- depending on whether you come from Belgium or the Netherlands) that taste rather good dunked into your beverage of choice.

SBS’s Feast magazine has had two recipes for them recently (September and December issues) and both varying slightly with their quantities and ingredients. I stuck with the simpler version and then have since tweaked it to suit me more. These are a really great biscuit to roll up and keep in the freezer, to be cooked at a moments notice. Give as gifts, and also a good excuse to go find yourself a speculoos plank. Yes indeed, a speculoos plank. Even the name is enticing and it’s one of those funky little wooden moulds to pop your biscuits in before baking.

The thought had entered my head, and there wasn’t a whole lot of persuading of that thought, that it wasn’t something I really needed. An investment in my future I rationalised. I’ll be making loads of these down the track. I’ll start a new tradition of making them every 6th of December for the family and for many years of Christmas presents to come.

See, of course it makes sense to buy one from Belgium for a friend to bring back with her on her travels in several weeks time.

That was almost the case and then I found out there is a little online Dutch store, that has them and can post straight away. Being an Australian based company this was going to be a whole lot quicker, (bought on Friday night, arrived on Monday morning- thank you Australia Post.)

So now what to do with my cute little wooden windmill mould?

Everything I had read on the internet said these were a bit of a pest to use initially when they were still new. One site helpfully suggested some ‘light swearing’ might be useful. On trying the mould out, I would suggest intermittent heavy swearing wouldn’t go astray either. I had made the dough quite a few times, I was happy with the taste and the way they could easily be cut from a log, baked and eaten. They were an easy biscuit to make in that form. Using the mould however…

First, it was new,so I needed to grubby is up a bit. Using rice flour to line it certainly helps and after quite some time of working out what works best accompanied with multiple pursing of lips, eyebrow frowns, and the odd whispered intermittent heavy swear word. It worked.

Hooray! Biscuit dough back in the fridge to firm up again and then baked. I did it, speculaas have been conquered.

Baked for 15-20 minutes until golden and then out they come. Speculaas not conquered.

They look different to the un-moulded ones. All that fiddling with the mould before they get baked  has caused the butter within to melt a bit, despite firming them up again before baking it, the dough has changed the consistency some what. How do I get them in without that small amount of melty action? The distinct windmill print looks a little more like a chewed dog ear now.

So I kept playing and fiddling, using a knife instead of my fingers to get the dough in and moulded around. The final verdict? The biscuit dough recipe is tasty, easy, and praticle. It works really well for rolled and cut circles, or simply rolled out and cut with a regular biscuit cutter.

I don’t think it’s the right recipe for the mould however, (unless you are happy with the chewed dog ear look, which in that case is fine.)

So I’ll keep playing and tweaking. In the mean time, at least I have something to nibble on while I do so.

Speculaas

adapted from SBS Feast Magazine recipe- Dec edition

250g (1 2/3 cup) plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

50g brown sugar

50g muscavado sugar

50g pecans

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, cloves

150g cold cubed butter

2 tbls cold water

Process all dry ingredients until mixed well. Then add butter and process again until it resembles bread crumbs. Mixture into a bowl and add 1-2 tbls of cold water. Give it a quick knead, bringing the mixture together to form a smooth round ball, divide into two logs. Wrap in plastic and into the fridge until it firms up, (over night is good, to let that spices infuse properly.) Or roll into log forms, and pop in the freezer for later use.*

For baking, cut rounds off on to a tray and bake….

OR

If you have a mould. Cut small rounds off and press the mixture into a rice flour dusted wooden mould. Fiddle with it until you work out the best method to get them out and then let me know how you can do all this and not let the butter in the dough change consistency.*

Thanks!

* Or simple roll mixture out and use regular biscuit cutters to get a shape that you like.

* They are still perfectly acceptable to be eaten, dunked and given away as gifts in this way.

An extra thought- I think the flour to butter ratio needs to be changed a little for using the mould properly… maybe. I’ll keep tweaking anyway and see what I come up with.