Virginia’s Christmas Shortbread
I have always made a lot of different shortbread at Christmas, especially when the kids were little and I would make heaps of Christmas goodies as gifts for their teachers at school, as well as giving them to our friends and workmates. I have a quick slice and bake recipe that has lots of variations, a Greek coffee & hazelnut variety, and my mother’s delicate and melt in mouth shortbread made with a lot of wonderful New Zealand butter and icing sugar.
So I thought I had the best shortbread, until my dear friend Virginia offered me some of hers last Christmas and I was smitten! This rich, lightly spiced shortbread was the best I’d ever tasted – elevated to something really special by the addition of a clove embedded in each biscuit. I had to have that recipe, and a year later ………..I got it! Thank you so much Virginia for sharing this with me. And thank you for going to all the trouble to make some extra biscuits for me to photograph as I was rushing to pack for a holiday and ran out of time.
This recipe comes from The Australian Women’ s Weekly Cookbook ‘Biscuits Brownies and Biscotti’
Sugar and Spice Shortbread Makes 3 doz.
- 500g butter, softened
- 1 cup (220g) caster sugar
- 4 ½ cups (675g) plain flour
- ½ cup (75g) rice flour
- 1 teaspoon mixed spice
- 36 whole cloves
- 2 tablespoons of white/raw sugar, extra to sprinkle
- Preheat oven to 150°C or a slow oven
- Beat butter and caster sugar with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Stir in rest.
- Press mixture together to form a firm dough, Knead gently on floured surface until smooth.
- Divide dough in half; wrap in cling wrap & refrigerate 30 minutes.
- Roll dough between sheets of baking paper until 1 cm thick. Cut dough into 6 cm fluted rounds or star shapes. Re-roll scraps.
- Place biscuits about 3 cm apart on lightly greased oven trays, push a clove in the centre of each and sprinkle with extra sugar. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Bake in slow oven about 30 minutes or until a pale straw colour. Stand 5 minutes before lifting onto wire racks to cool.
Gevulde Speculaas – A Luxurious Dutch Christmas Treat
My husband is Dutch and that opened up a whole world of new treats fro me to enjoy – this is one of the best Holland has to offer! Rich, buttery, spicy and filled with delicious h home-made marzipan, this fantastic Christmas treat is very special and looks impressive too, but is actually easy to make.
Whenever I make it & give it to people they always rave about it – even my Dutch relatives! since it’s one of those things not many bother to make themselves anymore. Once you’ve tasted this though, you’ll never buy it again………it’s world’s away from the supermarket stuff.
Basically it’s a very rich,risen spiced shortbread, filled with almond paste, topped with whole almonds and baked in a s;ice pan, then cut into small squares or fingers. With a food processor it’s a whizz to make, and if you’re in a hurry, you can substitute bought marzipan instead of making your own. The result still tastes great, the slice is a bit thinner, the texture is a little more dense, and the marzipan goes a little bit chewy round the edges, which we rather like.
In Holland they sell Speculaas Kruiden or speculaas spice (rather like pumpkin spice, or mixed spice) in the supermarkets, but in Australia you’ll either have to go to a specialist deli, Dutch shop or make your own.
In Sydney go to the fantastic The Dutch Shop t’Winkeltje for loads of great Dutch lollies, biscuits, Indonesian condiments, pickles, Dutch sauces and tinned goods and tons more. Plus they have a great little cafe inside chock full of old Dutch memorabilia, serving a range of Dutch treats like croquettes, fresh bread rolls with paling (eel) or gevookte zalm (smoked salmon) and Apple Tart, met slag room of course! Wash down with a glass of Chocomel, a can of cassis or a dutch-style filter-drip coffee served with cold milk in a cow shaped jug.
Where to find them? : 85 Market St Smithfield Sydney 02 9604-0233
Gevulde Speculaas – Filled Spiced Shortbread Makes 24-28 pieces
Don’t be put off by how long this recipe looks – it’s a couple of stages, and resting time. All the work is done in a food processor, so it doesn’t take more than half an hour to actually make. I promise – you’ll love it!
- 250 gm flour
- 220 gm butter
- 125 gm brown sugar
- 10gm/ 2-3 tb speculaas spice
- 3 tsp baking powder
- rind, 1/2 orange finely grated
- 28 whole blanched almonds
- 1 egg & 1 tsp water mixed to glaze
- Process flour, butter, sugar, spices and baking powder together to mix well.
- Add egg and process till forms a ball of dough. Knead lightly on floured board.
- Pat into flat disc, wrap and chill 1 hour to develop flavours.
- Pre-heat oven to 180°C- 190°C. Cut dough in half and roll out to fill 17cm x 27cm brownie tin. Grease tin and line with half of dough.
- Roll out almond paste or marzipan to fit, lay on top of dough in pan. Roll out second half and cover. Use scraps to fill in any gaps.
- Mark into squares, place whole blanched almond in each square, and brush top with egg wash.
- Bake 30 – 40 minutes until rich golden brown and almonds are toasted. Cool on rack in pan 10 minutes, cut into squares then allow to cool completely.
Amandelspijs – Almond Paste (1)
- 125gm/1 scant cup icing sugar
- 200gm/2⅓ cups ground almonds/almond meal
- 1 egg
- zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 lemon
- Process all together to make paste, wrap and chill to mature 1 hour or best – overnight.
- 150gm blanched almonds
- 150gm caster sugar
- 1 egg
- 1/2 lemon, finely grated rind
- Finely grind almonds with caster sugar, in processor. Add rest & form paste.
- Wrap and chill to mature 1 hour or best – overnight.
Speculaas Kruiden – Speculaas Spice Mix (1)
- 6 tsp g cinnamon
- 2 tsp each g cloves & freshly grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp g aniseed
- 4 tsp g cinnamon
- 1 tsp g cloves
- 1 tsp g nutmeg
- 1/3 tsp g ginger
- 1/4 tsp g white pepper
- 1/4 tsp g cardamom
- 1/4 tsp g coriander seeds
- 1/4 tsp g anise seeds
You can leave out the cardamon & coriander if you wish but they do add a depth of flavour. It’s a funny thing but when you make speculaas, no matter what combination of spices you use or in what proportion, it always seems to taste the same!
I’ve noticed the same thing when I make Ontbijtkoek or Dutch Gingerbread, (technically translates to mean Breakfast Cake – and yes the Dutch do eat it for breakfast, slathered in butter! In fact they like to eat it sandwiched between two slices of bread! Weird huh, a gingerbread sandwich!)
Happy Festive cooking to all and hope you try these tried and true recipes.