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Scrumptious Short Biscuits...

Known as Dutch Windmill cookies in the United States, Australia, and Kiwi-land (i.e., News Zealand), speculaas are in essence shortcrust biscuits, often containing an assortment of spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom, and white pepper. Hence, speculaas are apt for consumption during colder seasons, which is why I decided to bake them. Presently, it's raining season in Cambodia (my current location), and if ain't humid, it's cool, at least according to Cambodian standards.

Additionally, I had encountered several speculaas recipes calling for dough to be chilled overnight, sometimes even longer. In doing so, it's claimed that the flavour of the speculaas will be improved or amplified. Is this true? Well, I dunno. Let's find out, shall we?

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Ingredient List

Adapted from the speculaas recipe on the website Weekend Bakery , the following adjustments we're made:

  • doubled the recipe amount
  • altered the ratios and ingredients of the spice mix
  • added toasted blanched almonds
  • omitted rice flour
  • implemented several different techniques and procedures

Additionally, if available, I've included brand names of the food products I used (please see the tables below). Disclaimer: This isn't an endorsement. I'm simply indicating the names of the branded products used in my baking experiment.

Yield : 60 speculaas

Total Prep Time : N/A

Total Bake Time : 12 + 12 + 14 + 14 minutes

Equipment List

Procedures

Warning: Do not attempt my "recipe" (i.e., experiment) without considering the following; Variations in room temperature, humidity, altitude, food products, kitchen equipment and utensils, techniques and methods, amongst other factors, will influence the outcome of your baked goods.

Before I began, I measured, prepared, and organized my ingredients and kitchen equipment. This includes: 1) lining the sheet pans (9 x 11.5 x 1.5 in) with parchment paper; 2) cutting the butter (refer to "dough" ingredients) into cubes; 3) extracting and grinding the seeds of cardamom pods and cloves with spice mills; 4) blanching and toasting the almonds on a stove with a frying pan.

Step 1 : Along with the strainer and mixing bowl, I assembled the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, dark brown sugar, and the "spice mix".

Step 2 : Next, I sifted and whisked the dry ingredients until they we're well blended.

Note: Sifting the dark brown sugar was somewhat time consuming. It had absorbed too much moisture and was rather clumpy. However, this issue was resolved by roughly "massaging" the brown sugar through the strainer.

Step 3 : Once the dry ingredients we're well blended, I summoned forth the cubed (i.e., "rectanguled") butter.

Step 4 : "Uh-oh the butter is melting"

With my fingers, I hastily rubbed the soften butter into the dry ingredients.

On an additional note, I hadn't previously rubbed such a large amount of butter into a mixture. I handled the butter a tad too long, resulting in the butter to slightly melt and adhere to my hands. In my case, this would be considered a bad thing. (Improperly rubbed butter = non-crumbly cookies / biscuits.)

Step 5 : After rubbing the butter into the dry mixture (now resembling fine bread crumbs), I fetched the chilled milk.

Step 6 : I then poured the milk into the mixing bowl and quickly kneaded the dough into a ball. Thereafter, I sealed the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, then placed the dough in a refrigerator to chill (at 3C / 37.4F) for twenty minutes.

Note: To produce cookies or biscuits with a crumbly texture, it's best to handle the dough as little as possible. Otherwise, the butter may melt too much and result in firmer pastries.

Step 7 : After twenty minutes had elapsed, I retrieved a Chinese chef's knife and removed the dough from the refrigerator.

Step 8 : HIYAH!!! I chopped the dough in half, scaled each portion of dough (approx. equal weight), kneaded them into a ball, placed them back into the mixing bowl (sealed with plastic wrap), then transferred them to refrigerator to chill

Step 9 : After an hour had elapsed, I removed one portion of dough from the refrigerator and set it onto the cutting board. If I recall correctly, the ball of dough was stiff but still pliable.

Step 10 : After dusting the cutting board and pestle (i.e., rolling pin substitute) with flour, I flattened the dough ball into a sheet of approx. 4 mm (0.16 in) thickness. Moreover, throughout the flattening process, I dusted the dough and pestle with flour (as needed) to ensure that the dough remained intact.

Step 11 : Using a ruler and a pizza cutter, I then divided the compressed dough into 5 cm (2 in) squares.

Step 12 : Box grater, come forth! You may now fulfill your purpose as a cookie stamp.

Setting the damaged and disfigured dough pieces aside, I cautiously lifted and pressed each dough square onto the sharp dimples of the box grater, then placed them into a parchment-lined sheet pan.

Additionally, I learned that dusting the dough and box grater with flour will prevent the dough squares from tearing during the pressing process.

Step 13 : Look at'm cracker wannabes! Imitators, I say!

With the dough remainder, I followed steps 10 to 12, where applicable, until a total of thirty biscuits we're produced. Furthermore, leftovers of dough we're promptly ingested What? I was hungry.

Step 14 : One by one, I inserted a toasted almond into each biscuit.

Step 15 : Containing fifteen biscuits each, the first and second batch of speculaas we're baked in the same manner: placed into a preheated microwave convection oven, each batch was baked at 160C / 320F for twelve continuous minutes.

Step 16 : Once baked, the speculaas we're removed from the oven, then set to cool on a rack for a brief period.

Note: Displayed above is the first batch of freshly baked speculaas. You may not realize it, but a fluke had occurred. I honestly did not know that the speculaas would expand during baking, at least not to that extent. Thank goodness I set them apart in the sheet pan!

Step 17 : On that day, I rinsed and washed the above.

Step 18 : After being chilled for a period of twenty six hours, I applied steps 9 to 16 (where applicable) to the remaining dough portion, with the following exceptions: 1) the blanched almonds we're toasted for a longer duration; 2) the dough ball was rested at room temperature until it was pliable; 3) each batch was baked for fourteen continuous minutes rather than twelve.

Similar to the first ball of dough, the second ball of dough produced a total of thirty speculaas.

Note: Displayed above is the first batch of freshly baked speculaas.

Step 19 : The experiment was concluded by a pile of dirty kitchen equipmentplus delectable biscuits and a spicy fragrant room.

Results

Biscuits made with briefly chilled dough:

Within an hour after being baked , the crust of the biscuit was firm but not rigid, whereas the crumb was somewhat brittle and crumbly. Additionally, the inner interior of the biscuit was tender and moderately moist, as opposed to dry and crunchy in and near the outer interior. Regarding the taste, a combination of a modestly sweet, buttery taste and a hint of molasses was detected. Further, the biscuit harboured a slight spicy odour. Expectantly, the toasted almond was crunchy and tasted very buttery and nutty (akin to peanuts).

After an hour of being baked , characteristics of the biscuit remained unchanged, with the following exceptions: 1) the crust had softened enough to loosen the almond from the biscuit; 2) crunchiness was lost and the biscuit became slightly more moist, particularly around the outer interior; 3) the taste of molasses was slightly sharper; 4) the buttery taste was less prominent.

After a day of being baked , the crust of the biscuit was firmer but not enough to secure the almond to the surface. The crumb also became slightly less moist and crumbly, and developed an aromatic spicy odour. Moreover, the overall taste of the biscuit was smoother and balanced. Other characteristics of the biscuit remained unchanged.

Biscuits made with overnight chilled dough:

Within an hour after being baked , the crust of the biscuit was firm but not rigid, whereas the crumb was moderately dry, slightly moist, and crumbly (thus lending to the crunchy, chewy mouthfeel). The taste of the biscuit was slightly sweet, modestly buttery, with an undertone of molasses. Regarding the odour, when in near proximity of the nose, a mild spicy scent was detected. Lastly, the toasted almond was crunchy and tasted somewhat buttery, with notes of bitterness.

After an hour of being baked , the crust of the biscuit was softer but still firm to the touch. Moreover, the crumb of the biscuit was not as crunchy. In terms of taste and odour, the biscuit's buttery taste was less pronounced and the intensity of the spicy odour was elevated. Other characteristics of the biscuit remained unchanged.

After a day of being baked , characteristics of the biscuit remained unchanged, with one exception: the buttery taste reverted to modest intensity.

Note: the speculaas we're stored at room temperature.

Conclusion

According to my results, it seems that overnight chilled dough produces more fragrant but less sweet speculaas. However, storing speculaas for several days (at room temperature) also seems to yield a similar effect. In other words, whether they're stored in the form of raw dough or baked biscuits, speculaas may become increasingly aromatic and less sweet over a certain period of time.

Besides that, I learned that almonds don't toast well over a stove unless you're highly attentive. Should another opportunity arise, I'll toast my almonds in the oven to get an evenly light-brown colour.

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Posted in Home Improvement Post Date 05/04/2017


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