Gevulde Speculaaskoeken: Almond Filled Spice Cookies

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These are spiced shortcrust cookies with a smooth almond filling in the center. The speculaas spices pack a warm punch from the cinnamon, ginger, and even a bit of white pepper.

Gevulde speculaaskoeken actually are a blend of two Dutch classics: speculaas cookies and gevulde koeken. Speculaas, or windmill cookies, are crisp, spiced cookies stamped with beautiful decorations. Gevulde koeken are buttery shortcrust cookies filled with an almond filling and topped with a whole almond. 

Gevulde koeken and a hot cup of coffee are a gezellig cold-weather ritual. And naturally, I had to mix the comforting spices from speculaas cookies with the classic gevulde koek.

gevulde speculaaskoeken with a cup of coffee
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What is Speculaas?

Speculaas is a spiced shortcrust cookie from the Netherlands that dates back to the 17th century, the height of the Dutch spice trade. They’re traditionally prepared for Sinterklaasavond, or St. Nicholas’ Day, the 5th of December in the Netherlands. The cookies are stamped with images depicting the story of St. Nicholas before they’re baked, leaving them embossed into the cookie.

Speculaas cookies are flavored with a piquant spice mix, similar to the spices in gingerbread. The mix usually includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, white pepper, and various other spices that were plentiful in the Netherlands due to the spice trade.

You can find jarred Speculaas spice mixes, but if you have a well-stocked spice cabinet, you can also mix your own.

Similar cookies are made in Belgium, called speculoos. Speculoos are made with fewer spices than speculaas, as spices were more expensive in Belgium at the time. The cookies are also popular in parts of Germany, where they’re called Spekulatius.

Amendelspijs Filling

Amendelspijs is the dutch name for almond paste. Dutch baking uses a lot of almond paste, and it features in many holiday recipes like Kerststol (the Dutch stollen) and banketletters, which are pastries filled with almond paste shaped into an “S” or other letter.

In the Netherlands, you can easily find amendelspijs in the supermarket. If you’re unable to find almond paste easily, you can also make it yourself. Almond paste is made with an equal amount of almond flour and sugar, and a small amount of egg.

One of the benefits of making your own is you can choose to flavor it how you like. I added a bit of almond extract for a more pronounced bitter almond flavor, as well as some orange zest. Lemon zest is more often used, but I love orange with warm baking spices.

a tray of Dutch almond-filled speculaas cookies
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Tips for Baking Gevulde Speculaaskoeken

  • If you’re making your own amendelspijs, it’s best if prepared the night before. You can also make the speculaas cookie dough the night before, just keep the dough wrapped in plastic in the refrigerator until you’re ready to assemble and bake the cookies.
  • To save time, you can use ready-made almond paste instead of making your own amendelspijs. Just substitute 200g almond paste (3/4 cup). Then follow the same directions for assembling the cookies.
  • When mixing the ingredients for the speculaas cookie dough, you don’t need to cream the butter and sugar. The idea is to just combine them until smooth. Creaming the butter and sugar would add too much air in the dough.
  • When adding the dry ingredients and the milk, start by incorporating half of the dry ingredients. Then add all of the milk and mix to combine. Stir in the rest of the dry ingredients, stirring until the dough comes together. This method of alternating the dry ingredients and the milk prevents clumping.
  • After mixing the dough, wrap it in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Letting the dough chill before rolling has two purposes: it allows the gluten to rest to prevent tough cookies, and cold dough is much easier to roll than warm, sticky dough.
  • When cutting out the cookies, you can gather up the scraps and reroll to cut out more. Try not to do this more than 2-3 times, as the dough will become overworked and when it warms up it’ll begin to stick to your work surface.
  • Brushing the cookies with an egg wash before baking gives them a shiny finish.

Looking for more cookie recipes?

A tray of gevulde koeken
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Ingredients:

Yields 12 cookies.

Speculaas Cookie Dough

MetricCups
115g unsalted butter
110g dark brown sugar


1 egg yolk


240g plain flour
2 Tablespoons speculaaskruiden
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


2 Tablespoons whole milk
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar


1 egg yolk


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons speculaaskruiden
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt


2 Tablespoons whole milk

Amendelspijs Filling

MetricCups
100g almond flour
100g caster sugar


1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup caster sugar


1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

Speculaaskruiden

3 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground aniseed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cardamom

Assembly

1 egg
Blanched Almonds

Amendelspijs Filling

Combine the almond flour and sugar:

In a small bowl, whisk together the almond flour and sugar.

Add the rest of the ingredients:

Add the egg white, almond extract, and orange zest and mix until it forms a paste.

Save the yolk: you’ll use it for the cookie dough.

Rest the almond paste overnight:

Wrap the almond paste in plastic and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight.

Speculaas Cookie Dough

Whisk together the dry ingredients:

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, spices, baking powder, and salt.

Combine the butter and sugar:

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a rubber spatula, combine the butter and brown sugar and mix until smooth.

Add the egg yolk:

Add the egg yolk and mix until combined.

Add half the dry ingredients:

Add half of the dry ingredients and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Pour in the milk:

Pour in the milk and stir to combine.

Add the rest of the dry ingredients:

Add the rest of the dry ingredients and mix just until the dough starts to come together. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead gently with your hands to form a uniform dough. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and let it rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

the ingredients for speculaas cookie dough
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Assemble the Cookies

Preheat the oven:

Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and arrange a rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking tray with parchment paper, or a silicone baking mat.

Roll out the speculaas dough:

Lightly dust a large work surface and both sides of the cookie dough with flour. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough thinly, about 1/8th of an inch thick (about 3mm).

Cut out cookies with a round cookie cutter:

Use a 3-inch (7.5cm) round cookie cutter to stamp out 24 rounds.

You can gather up the scraps into a ball and roll out the dough again if you need to. Try not to do this too many times, as it’ll overwork the dough and make the cookies tough.

cutting out the speculaas cookie dough
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Prepare the almond filling:

Crack an egg into a small bowl and beat the egg until combined. Mix half of the egg into the almond paste.

Save the other half of the egg to brush the cookies with before baking.

Fill the cookies:

Place a rounded teaspoonful of the almond filling in the center of one of the cookie rounds. Brush the edges lightly with water, then top with another cookie round. Seal the cookie with your fingertips or the tines of a fork. Repeat with the remaining cookies.

Brush the cookies with the egg:

Arrange the cookies two inches apart on the lined baking tray. Gently press an almond on the top of each of the filled cookies. Brush each cookie with the leftover egg.

filling the gevulde speculaaskoeken with almond paste
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Bake the cookies:

Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes, or until they just start to turn golden brown. Let them cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

enjoying a gevulde speculaaskoek with a hot cup of coffee
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