Sunday, November 29, 2009

St. Nicholas Cookies - Speculaas

St. Nicholas feast day is on December 6. The recipe I am going to give you
can be used to make molded cookies. Here are some examples of St. Nicholas boards. The board on the left is sold at Hobi Picture Cookie Molds, Belleville, Illinois. The web address is

You certainly don't have to own a board to make Speculaas cookies, but it is fun and very authentic if you do! The St. Nicholas Center that I mentioned in my last post sells mitre cookie cutters very reasonably,
A mitre is the head piece that a bishop wears. I have with much enjoyment watched many children decorate and then eat mitre cookies on the feast of St. Nicholas that were cut out from Speculaas dough, baked and iced.* If you don't have time to order a mitre cookie cutter, you may make your own! Cut out your own mitre shape after the dough is rolled out, either making a pattern on a piece of paper and then tracing the outline on the dough or freehand if you are adept at drawing. I have included an address to a page that has a picture of a bright, red cardboard mitre. You may find it helpful if you decide to make your own pattern for a mitre cookie, The average size of a mitre cookie is 3 1/2" high by 2 1/2" wide. You may want to enlarge them a bit. I do encourage you to explore the St. Nicholas Center site because they offer a variety of St. Nicholas cookie cutters in their shop. After you make and bake some of these delicious spice cookies, be sure to share some with others - just like St. Nicholas!  See adaptation below for a quick fix.*

Speculaas Cookie Recipe
found in 
A Continual Feast by Evelyn Birge Vitz  

PREP:25 minutes 
CHILL:3 hours or freeze 20 minutes 
BAKE:10 – 12 minutes

DECORATE:10 – 15 minutes 
YIELD: 3 dozen cookies

2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
grated rind of one lemon
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon cardamom
½ teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Optional Icing (see below)
electric mixer
large spoon or rubber spatula
wax paper or plastic wrap
cookie cutters, cookie molds, or wooden board of St. Nicholas
large cookie sheets
wire racks
clean paint brushes for decorating

DIRECTIONS: YIELD: 3 dozen cookies
1 In a large bowl, cream the butter with the sugar until fluffy. Stir in the eggs one at a time, blending thoroughly after each addition. Stir in the lemon rind.
2 Sift the spices and salt with the flour and baking powder, and stir gradually into the butter mixture. Wrap in waxed paper or plastic wrap and chill for several hours or overnight. (If you are in a hurry, start the chilling proves in the freezer: leave the dough in the freezer for about 20 minutes.)
3 On a floured surface, roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch. If you are going to make large figures – over about 6 inches – you might roll out the dough a little thicker, to about ¼ inch: the figures will be less fragile. Cut out with cookies cutters, or with a sharp knife. This dough can also be used with your St. Nicholas mold or board. Follow the directions you received with your mold or board to form and bake. Hint: chill the board and you will find the dough comes out more readily!
4 Place the cookies on a lightly buttered baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, or until set and lightly browned. Large or thick cookies will take somewhat longer and yield less than the 3 dozen listed. If you like your cookies soft, remove them from the oven when they are just set – the longer the baking time, the firmer the cookies. Move from baking sheets to wire racks and let cool. Decorate. An icing recipe is given below.
In small containers, place about 1/3 cup of powdered sugar in each one. Add a little bit of water and a drop or two of lemon juice or use egg white. Stir. Add a small amount of food coloring and stir until the consistency is fluid enough to paint with, but will not run all over the cookie. Apply with small paint brushes or a decorating tube. You can really let your creative imagination takeover and decorate these as fancy or as simply as you and your children like. (You can also use ready made frosting and add food coloring.)
*Adaptation: Use a refrigerated gingerbread or spice cookie dough as a substitute for making the cookies from scratch. You can cut them out and decorate them just like the ones from the recipe. Follow the directions for baking on the container or package.

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