Spekulatius: German Spiced Cookies With A Long Tradition…

The Weihnachtszeit or Christmas time in Germany is often called magical. With its romantic Christmas markets, evergreen decorations and longstanding traditions, the time never fails to make the darkest time of the year shine bright. As the weather turns colder, parents spend time with their children indoors making decorations for windows and trees and of course baking Weihnachtsplätzchen or Christmas cookies. These cookies are usually enjoyed while sitting around the Adventzkranz, a decorated wreath with four candles, on Sunday afternoons. Even today, these Adventzkaffee get-togethers remain the highlight of my holiday season. The lighting of the first candle marks the official start of the advent time and the first taste of the Weihnachtsplätzchen marks the beginning of all the delicious treats to come! Makronen, Zimtsterne, VanillekipferlSpritzgebäck and Lebkuchen are sure to bring the sounds and smells of a traditional German Christmas into anyone’s kitchen. Since today, December 1, marks not only the beginning of December but also the first advent of 2019, I have decided to share all of my favorite German cookie recipes with you. From now until December 25, I will post a traditional recipe every single day, so you can bring the magical Weihnachtszeit right into your own kitchen!

image8

When it comes to Christmas cookies in Germany, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without Spekulatius-Kekse. Those spiced Spekulatius are a staple on every  Plätzchenteller.

Spekulatius are a classic German Christmas cookie which not only has a long tradition dating back to about the 15th century, but it is also known for its depth of spices of cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, cardamon. The cookies have always been made using sturdy, carved wooden molds that bear ornately detailed figures like animals, costumed men and women and of course the windmill. Most of the time, these molds have been handed down from generation to generation and with it, stories of how grandparents and great-grandparents only used flour to grease the intricate molds before beating them against tabletops to force the dough back out, ultimately creating these delicate biscuits.

Because of the amount of exotic spices to create this cookie, Spekulatius-Kekse remained a luxury for the longest time. It wasn’t until World War II that many people could afford them. Today, the spiced biscuit are available everywhere and appear on supermarket shelves when the leaves begin to fall. For many Germans, my brother included, Spekulatius are as much a part of Christmas as Christmas trees. In Belgium and the Netherlands, where it was invented, the cookies can be eaten all year long. In Germany, they disappear shortly after the Christmas season. The name Spekulatius comes from the Latin word ‘Specculum,’ or mirror, since the carved molds create a mirror image onto the cookie dough. The dough is typically prepared by beating butter, sugar and spices and combining the, before storing it in a cool place overnight to give the spices time to do its magic and keep it from sticking to the mold. One really fun fact is when placed in a row next to each other in the correct order, the Spekulatius image tells the story of Saint Nicholas.

Since the molds are hard to come by these days (a few can still be found on ebay), there are a few ways of making the German Spekulatius cookies these days. One of the easiest ways is to roll out the dough using a rolling pin and cutting out the cookies using cookie cutters. Another way is to use a Springerle rolling pin and using a pastry wheel cutter to cut out the cookies. But the original way to make these cookies is to use a wooden springerle mold, which I used to make mine. I found a few on ebay and on amazon.

Ingredients for Spekulatius-Kekse:

  • 4 cups or 500 grams of all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons or half a packet of baking powder
  • 1 cup or 200 grams of white sugar
  • 1 pinch or 1 Messerspitze of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or 1 packet of vanilla sugar
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon of natural unsweetened cacao
  • 1/2 teaspoon of anise powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cardamom
  • 1-1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 1 cup or 200 to 250 grams of soft butter
  • 1 cup or 100 grams of blanched ground almonds

Instructions:

  • Mix the flour and baking powder. Add the sugar, salt, spices and cacao.
  • Create a hole in the center of the flour and place the eggs and the milk in the middle.

Use a fork and mix the ingredients.

  • Cut the butter into slices and add to the top of the flour mixture.
  • Add the almonds on top of the butter-flour mixture.
  • Using a mixer with a kneading hook, mix until dough is smooth. ( If the dough is too dry slowly add more butter. If the dough is too sticky, place the dough in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. — I would recommend doing that anyway because it makes the dough a lot more manageable.)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 Fahrenheit.
  • Sprinkle some flour on your work surface (I used a parchment paper) and roll out the dough.

If using a springerle rolling pin, roll the dough out very thinly. Using a cookie cutter, cut out the cookies.

  • If using a mold, lightly flour the mold before placing the dough into the mold. Using a knife either scrape off the access dough from the mold or remove the finished cookie from the mold and using the knife cut around the shape of the cookie to removed the access dough on the edges of the cookie.

Place the cookies on a cookie sheet and bake on the middle rack for about 10 minutes.

  • Place cookies on a cooling rack.
  • Store in a tin box.

image5

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: