Vanessa Levis

Many years ago, I gave a speculaas recipe in a magazine and a reader wrote in saying ‘Oh, they’re not speculaas!’ and then gave me her recipe. Her family turned out to be bakers in Holland. I think this is one of the prize recipes in the book. They are special crisp biscuits, rich in butter and flavoured with brown sugar, spices and rum, made especially for Saint Nicholas’ Eve in Holland.


Quantity Ingredient
450g plain flour, plus extra for kneading
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground aniseed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger or ground white pepper
250g butter or oil, softened
330g firmly packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons rum or brandy
1 egg white
125g flaked blanched almonds, almonds to decorate


  1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Grease baking trays or line them with baking paper.
  2. Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, aniseed, salt and ginger or pepper together in a bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer, cream the butter in a large bowl, then add the brown sugar gradually, beating until the mixture is light and fluffy. Stir in the rum or brandy.
  4. Gradually add the flour and spices to the creamed mixture, stirring until well combined, then form the dough into a ball. Knead the dough on a board sprinkled with about 1/4 cup sifted flour.
  5. Roll the dough out between sheets of baking paper into a rectangle about 5 mm thick. With a sharp knife or cutter, cut the dough into 6 cm x 3 cm rectangles. Re-roll scraps and cut more rectangles. Place on the prepared trays, brush with the egg white and decorate with slivered almonds.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes or until they are browned and firm. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
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