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Monday, July 9, 2012


For some reason, all the men I know seem to have a soft spot for these crisp gingerbread cookies.

We first discovered them in Belgium, when my sister was living there. They are one of their specialities (with beer, mussels and french fries) but are also very popular in the northern parts of France and Germany.  It is hard to miss them, as they are almost always served with your coffee (or tea) in restaurants and cafés as a little sweet ending.  I find that this generous ritual of giving a small taste of a local specialty to end your meal says a lot about a culture and its pride in something that they do exceptionally well.  This is also done in France (chocolate, financiers, or speculos), Italy (amaretti cookies) and in Switzerland (chocolate of course).

It turns out that they are relatively easy to make with the exception of the spice blend that is used.  I studied this carefully and tried to create something that was similar to the taste we have grown accustomed to.   The results were very good and the cookies were even better the next day as the flavors seemed to develop a little.  My choice of spices however needed to be modified a little.  My expert told me that the taste of nutmeg and cloves was a little too strong.  I have therefore outlined my recipe with a reduced amount of these two spices.   Following the original recipe trial, I did discover a spice blend I had called Mélange pour pain d'épices (Blend for gingerbread).  Its components of cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, mace, cardamom and ginger seem to be exactly the spices used in the traditional recipes from Belgium.  Here is my recipe with a suggestion of use for the spice blend if you can find it.  You can always tweak the amount and choices of spices used to your own taste preferences. 

You will need:  for 30 - 35 cookies
  • 150g (2/3 cup) of unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 175g (1 cup) of dark brown sugar
  • 225g (1 3/4 cups) of white flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract
  • 50g (1/3 cup) of almond powder
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of ground nutmeg
  • (or you can use 1 tbsp of gingerbread spice blend)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp of baking soda

  1. Using a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until well blended;
  2. Add the egg and the vanilla extract and blend well;
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, salt, almond powder, baking soda, and spices together;
  4. Add to the butter mixture and blend well;
  5. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for 1 - 2 hours;
  6. Preheat the oven to 160°C (325°F);
  7. Sprinkle a little water on your work surface and place a piece of parchment paper on top of it (this will ensure that the parchment paper will not move while you are rolling out the dough);
  8. Roll out the dough to 2mm thickness (it should be quite thin);
  9. You can choose to mark your batter or use a traditional speculos cookie press;
  10. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes;
  11. Remove from the oven and cut out the forms or shapes that you would like;
  12. Turn off the oven and put the individual cookies back on the baking sheet;
  13. Return to the oven and let sit for 20 minutes (this will help to ensure that they are very crisp);

Time investment:  Prep:  15 minutes (+2 hours sitting time), cooking time:  40 minutes

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