Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gluten-Free Ratio Rally: Belgian Speculaas Cookies

This month's Ratio Rally is a special and timely one for us. The theme is cookies, and yesterday was St. Nicholas Day, the Belgian Christmas. My grandmother was Belgian, and the holiday has always been an important one in the Bronski household. Every holiday season, you'll find pairs of wooden clogs under our Christmas tree, and on the morning of St. Nicholas Day, those shoes get filled with gold-wrapped chocolate coins in keeping with tradition.

So it was again this year. Now that we have young girls, it's been wonderful passing along the tradition to them, too. (For now, I think the thing they were most excited about with this holiday was the novelty of eating chocolate at 8 o'clock in the morning...)

Another hallmark of the Belgian St. Nicholas Day is the speculaas cookie. It's akin to a spicy gingerbread cookie, and is sometimes pressed or stamped with a wooden mold that evokes scenes from everyday life in Belgium and the Netherlands. Our recipe—which we share in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking—dates to the 19th century, and comes direct from my great-great-grandmother.

Usually, we cut the dough into simple shapes and bake it. But for today's Ratio Rally, we wanted to "step up" our game and use our wooden mold to make the cookies just as you might find them over in Antwerp or Brugge, where some of my relatives still live. To do that, we made some minor modifications to the recipe—in how you prep the dough, as well as with the oven temperature and bake time.

For this recipe, our ratio of flour to butter to sugar worked out almost exactly to 5:3:3 (plus a whole bunch of spices thrown in for good measure).

Belgian Speculaas Cookies

375g Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend (3 cups)
2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp GF baking powder
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
225g salted butter (2 sticks)
233g packed brown sugar (1 cup)
1 tsp GF almond extract
2 tbsp rum or cognac

1. Sift together the flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, spices, and salt. Set aside.
2. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer until fluffy. Add the almond extract.
3. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated. The batter will be very crumbly.
4. Add the rum to form a paste-like dough. Shape the dough into a log, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 deg F. Butter cookie sheets.
6. Remove the dough from the fridge, and let warm until it becomes workable.
7. Cut the dough into manageable sections, and roll out each piece into a thick sheet between two pieces of plastic wrap.
8. Remove the top piece of plastic wrap, then use the plastic wrap on the underside to flip the sheet of dough over onto the prepared cookie sheet.
9. Press your mold into the dough, and cut away any excess. Dough scraps can be combined and re-rolled.
10. Bake for 12 minutes.


This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, soy-free.

Note: We usually use dark brown sugar, though for today's recipe, we used light brown sugar. Also, if you don't have a speculaas mold (but seriously, who doesn't these days!?), simply cut the log of dough into quarter-inch-thick slices and bake.

Finally, be sure to visit Caroline over at The G-Spot Revolution. She's hosting this month's Ratio Rally, and there are lots of other tasty cookies to check out, including many seasonal ones that'll be great for holiday parties.

- Pete


Caroline @ The G-Spot said...

Pete, these are GORGEOUS! Can't wait to make them. :)

Rachel said...

I love that you took a holiday tradition and made it look (and I'm sure taste) just wonderful. Bravo!

peterbronski said...

Thanks Caroline and Rachel!

Cheers, Pete

Lisa @ GF Canteen said...

three cheers for using the mold. I am in awe of people who can get the dough out of those molds! these look fabulous.

M Smith said...

Perfect! I was wondering what kind of cookie dough I could use for my cookie stamps. This is it!

peterbronski said...

Hi Lisa... Often, the cookies are baked in the actual molds, which makes removing them easier. But since we only have one mold, it would have taken WAY too long to bake the cookies one at a time. =) Fortunately, we were able to figure out a way to successfully "stamp" the dough, resulting in the cookie you see in the pic!

Cheers, Pete

Jenn said...

I love speculaas, and what a cute cookie mold! Absolutely beautiful recipe :)

Karen said...

absolutely gorgeous, since my kids began attending a Catholic grade school we have celebrated St. Nicholoas day but minus the clogs- we used their everyday shoes but now they are all grown up so you brought back a pleasant memory.

Morri said...

I saw these (the old fashioned windmills) in Sweden, and I fell in love with them.

These cookies look amazing, and I hope they tasted as good as the look in honor of St. Nicholas Day.

peterbronski said...

Thanks Jenn!

Hey Karen... So glad to bring back a pleasant memory. Food does that, doesn't it?

Hi Morri... I'm happy to report they tasted great!

Cheers, Pete

Tara Barker said...

I love your mold! The windmill reminds me of when I visited Denmark. And the cookies sound delicious with all the spices. Beautiful!

Jonathan said...

What a wonderful recipe, either 'dressed-up' or 'dressed down.' Thank you for sharing, Pete!

charissa (zest bakery) said...

adorable. now i need to get cookie stamps! :) thanks for sharing this.

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Alison said...

Hi Pete and Kelly! These cookies look wonderful. Could you tell me the approximate cup measurement of the brown sugar. I have yet to purchase a scale (I know...total kitchen fail), but I've asked for one for christmas. ;-) Obviously, I'd like to make these before the holiday.

jas - the gluten free scallywag said...

I'm always amazed that the dough actually comes out of the cookie stamp, but obviously they do! They look so pretty and sound delicious.

peterbronski said...

Thanks for your compliments, everyone!

Allison, 233g of brown sugar is 1 cup. I've updated the recipe with that equivalency. Sorry about that...meant to include it originally but overlooked it!

Cheers, Pete

The Healthy Apple said...

These look amazing, Pete! Wow; you are so talented. I seriously am going to make these for a New Year's Eve dessert.
Thank you for sharing; hope you are having a fabulous holiday season!
Big hugs to your 3 girls for me!