Every year in November, my family would take a trip to my grandparent’s home on the outskirts of Frankfurt to celebrate my Grandpa’s birthday. These November birthdays were also the occasion for the yearly exchange of a large silver box my grandmother would pull from one of her kitchen cabinets. As soon as we arrived home, that box was quickly hidden in the back of the pantry. Finally, on the first Advent, my mum would arrange a plate with some of the boxes contents together with cookies she baked. Christmas time was finally there.
The box contained my grandmother’s infamous Spekulatius – spicy Christmas cookies – that she would always bake for the whole family. She must have loved us very much as Spekulatius are not the easiest thing to bake. At one point, when my grandmother had gotten too old to find the energy to produce the Spekulatius supply for the whole family, my mum took over. Eventually, she did not only inherit the – not so secret – recipe, but she was also handed down the old moulds my grandmother, and probably even her mother, had used.
So, almost every year of my life I was lucky enough to enjoy home-made Spekulatius. I picked them up after visiting my parents, they send them to me, carefully packaged so they would not break, or brought them themselves, just like this year. All those who do not have a relative who supplies them with a box of the best Christmas cookies in the world can find my Grandma’s Spekulatius recipe below. I can promise you one thing: you will never want to eat store-bought Spekulatius ever again.
What you need
- 250g butter
- 300g sugar
- 100g marzipan
- 1 egg
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 500g flour plus some additional flour for the mould and the baking tray
- 100g flaked almonds
Knead the butter with the sugar and the marzipan. Mix the egg and your spices with the sifted flour and add it to the butter-marzipan-sugar-mix. Knead! Put the dough into some tin foil or cling film and leave it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, but you can also let it rest overnight.
Dust the moulds with flour and prepare a thin wire or a good knife to cut off the dough. Dust one or two baking trays with flour and sprinkle them with the flaked almonds. And preheat the oven to 190°C.
Now you take small pieces of dough and press them into the dusted moulds. Cut off the overlapping dough with the wire or a sharp kitchen knife. Now comes the tricky part: remove the dough from the mould by hitting it hard on a wooden board or the baking tray. Repeat. Make sure the dough you handle is always quite cold.
Bake the cookies in the middle of your oven for about 10 minutes. Remove them using a flat knife and let them cool on a cooling rack.
Variation without a mould
I have not tried it out yet but found this idea on Pinterest, and it might work: Instead of using a mould, use plain round cookie cutters and give those plain Spekulatius some structure by stamping them with the bottom of a whisky glass.