Ideal brunch material: speculaas bread

speculaas breadI love brunch, it’s my idea of an ideal Sunday. Preferably, I stay in my pajamas until noon, unless we have guest of course. Because inviting guest allows you to really go for it and fry and bake anything you fancy. I recently bought a new cookbook by Juliette’s, a famous cookie bakery in Bruges, all around speculaas, the cinnamon and ginger cookie that is very popular in Belgium. It contained an excellent recipe for the cookie itself (which I won’t blog about, as it was for industrial quantities, but do try my speculaas recipe) and lots of recipes to use up any left-over cookies, like in this bread. Really easy and totally delicious! The recipe is for 2 small loafs, so you can always pop one in the freezer if you want. Here’s how to make it:

Lightly warm 220 g milk in the microwave and stir in 25 g dried yeast until it is dissolved. In a large bowl, mix 1 egg with 550 g bread flour and add the milk mixture. Knead well, cover with cling film or a dry tea towel and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough, add 10 g salt, 25 g sugar and 125 softened butter cut in cubes and knead until you get an elastic dough that no longer sticks to your work surface (about 5 tot 10 min). Allow to rise until doubled in size.

Knock the air out of the dough and split in to two. From each half, keep a small piece (100 g) apart. Roll out the big piece to a long rectangle and put a speculaas biscuit at the long end of the rectangle. Flip the dough with the cookie over, add another cookie and continue until you reached the end of the dough (you need about 200 g speculaas biscuits in total for the 2 breads). Roll out the small piece to a rectangle as well and use it to wrap your rolled bread in. Repeat with the second batch. Put in a buttered loaf tin, brush with a beaten egg and leave to rise for another 45 min. Preheat the oven to 160 C and bake for 25 min or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

If you don’t have speculaas biscuits, I’m sure this will work with other biscuits as well, it’s easiest if you use rectangular once. I think ginger biscuits would taste great as well. Enjoy!

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Always a winner: New York cheesecake

New York CheesecakeWho doesn’t love New York cheesecake? It never last very long in my fridge anyway. When in doubt on what to bake next, this is always in the top 3 of suggestions made. So here’s a really delicious recipe from one of my trusted GoodFood magazines:

Heat the oven to 200 C and line the base of a 20 cm round springform with parchment paper. For the crust, crush 200 g speculaas and press into the bottom of the tin. Set aside as you make the filling. If you don’t have speculaas, mix 140 g crushed digestive biscuits with 85 g melted butter instead and pre-bake for 8 min.  Crushing the biscuits is easiest in a food processor. If you don’t have one, you can put them in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin, but I find that the bag easily rips leaving crumbs all over the place. So I have yet another solution: put the biscuits in a bowl and use a potato masher, works a treat!

Prepare the filling: in a bowl, beat 500 g full-fat soft cheese (I used Campina, but Philadelphia is good too) at low speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Continue beating and gradually add 210 g sugar, then 2 and 1/2 tbsp flour and a pinch of salt. Continue by adding 1 an 1/4 tsp vanilla extract and the zest and juice of 1 lemon. Whisk in 3 eggs plus 1 yolk, one at a time. Continue on low speed and add 200 ml soured cream (if you don’t have soured cream, use regular cream and add a good squeeze of lemon juice instead). Whisk to blend, but don’t over-beat. The batter should be smooth, light and somewhat airy.

Brush the sides of the springform tin with some melted butter and put on a baking sheet. Pour in the filling – if there are any lumps, sink them using a knife – the top should be as smooth as possible. Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 90 C and bake for 25 minutes more. If you gently shake the tin, the filling should have a slight wobble. Turn off the oven and open the oven door for a cheesecake that’s creamy in the centre, or leave it closed if you prefer a drier texture. Let cool in the oven for 2 hours. The cheesecake may get a slight crack on top as it cools.

Put the cheesecake in the fridge to cool completely. Before taking it out of the tin, run a knife around the sides to loosen any stuck edges. Unlock the side, slide the cheesecake off the bottom of the tin onto a plate, then slide the parchment paper out from underneath. Enjoy while listening to Cheesecake by Louis Armstrong.

Use up left-over cream cheese in a blueberry crumble cheesecake or to frost a carrot cake or a blueberry cheesecake gateau.

Use up your leftover speculaas: speculamisu

Speculamisu
Speculamisu

To use up leftover speculaas and to surprise a friend who, because of her allergy to gluten, had never eaten tiramisu, I came up with a combination of both: speculamisu. It’s the same mix as for tiramisu, but instead of using ladyfingers (aka boudoirs) dipped in coffee, I use speculaas.

Let’s face it: after years of tiramisu revival, you’re bound to be ready for a change. If so, this is a great alternative.

Mix 4 egg yolks with 100 g icing sugar and a splash of amaretto. Add 500 g mascarpone and mix well (you don’t want any lumps). Beat 4 egg whites until stiff (add a small pinch of salt to make it easier). You should be able to hold your bowl upside down without the egg whites moving. Carefully spoon the egg whites under the mascarpone mix.

Put a layer of speculaas at the bottom of your serving this (if you didn’t have time to make them yourself, you can off course use shop-bought speculaas). You don’t need to soak them in anything, a couple of hours with your mascarpone mix and they will be soft. Add a layer of mascarpone mix, another layer of speculaas en so on. End with a layer of mascarpone mix.

That’s all there is to it! Put in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight and you’re ready to go. If you want, you can sprinkle some cacao powder on the top to decorate. If you prefer a regular tiramisu, just swap the speculaas for ladyfingers and dip them in strong coffee first. Enjoy!

A belgian classic: (gluten-free) speculaas

Speculaas
Belgian-style cinnamon cookie

I really love these cinnamon cookies that are mostly served around Sinterklaas, at the beginning of September. But that doesn’t stop me from eating speculaas the whole year round, and this family recipe does just the trick for me! In addition, you can easily make them gluten-free if you are allergic to gluten. With that allergy, you can’t eat bread, pasta or anything containing flour, which includes most desserts and of course cookies. But there is a solution: you can buy gluten-free flour and gluten-free baking powder. If you live in a modern country such as New Zealand, you’ll find them in the gluten-free isle of your supermarket. In countries where people thing that someone with a food allergy is just someone who wines too much (like Belgium), you need to go to a health food store to get them.

Gluten-free flour has a less dense and more powder-like consistency then regular flour, so it clings less to other ingredients. But for most cakes and bakes, that is not an issue because eggs can do all the sticking you need. That’s also true for this recipe. In addition, as the cookies are really flat, you don’t need any lift so you can do it without baking powder.

If you’re hungry now, I’ll have to disappoint you, the cookie dough needs to stand overnight… For starters, melt 150 g butter in the microwave. Add 125 g dark brown sugar, 1 egg yolk, 2 tbsp of water and 1 tbsp of speculaas mix. Or if you don’t have this mix in your spice rack, just grind the seeds of 2 cardamom pods and add them together with 1 tbsp of cinnamon. Now add 200 g of gluten-free flour or self-raising flour. You can use your hands to kneed the dough so that everything is combined. Let the dough rest in a cool place for 24 hours.

The next day, heat the oven to 180 C. Knead the dough again a bit to loosen it, roll little balls and flatten them on a baking sheet. Make sure to space the apart a bit as they will spread in the oven. Bake for 12 min and allow to cool on the baking sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Use up left-over speculaas in speculamisu or in speculaas bread or us as a base for cheesecake.