In my opinion, I’ve assimilated pretty well into Dutch culture. Unlike a lot of expatriates who come to live in Holland, I actually speak the language (albeit rather badly), I only hang out with Dutchies, I’m not ashamed to admit that I listen to Guus Meeuwis and Jan Smit (Dutch singers) … yes I’m genuinely in love with my adopted country and its people.
But there has been one aspect of Dutch culture that has failed to win me over, and that’s their cuisine. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike it. In fact I always over-indulge when I visit my mother-in-law who is a fantastic cook. But, Dutch food just doesn’t inspire me in the same way that Italian, Asian, or even Greek, Spanish or French food does.
That’s why for June’s FoodBlogSwap, I decided to bite the bullet and tackle something that is typically Dutch. So, when I saw that I had been given the Dutch food blog “Judith’s Cakes” to cook from, I jumped at the chance to make this Speculoos Pie (or as the Dutch call it, “Speculaastaart”).
Choosing from Judith and Jaap’s blog was the biggest challenge I’ve had to face so far in the Dutch FoodBlogSwap event. There were just so many delicious sweet treats to choose from! But this pie really struck me as being completely different to anything I had tried to make before, and so my curiosity was piqued.
According to Wikipedia, speculoos (Dutch: speculaas, or in New Zealand we often call them “Dutch Windmill Biscuits”) is a type of spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally eaten during the feast of St Nicholas (Sinterklaas) in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Northern France and around Christmas in Germany. Speculoos biscuits are thin, very crunchy, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking.
The most striking thing about speculoos biscuits however is the flavour, which is a combination of spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper (therefore similar to English mixed spice).
This pie is therefore a tribute to the flavour and texture of speculoos biscuits. The recipe itself, as far as I’m aware, is not especially typically Dutch, but the combination of flavours and ingredients certainly are. The spices together with the almond paste and dried fruits will conjure up vivid memories of Sinterklaas and Christmas for any Dutch person. And of course that really means that I should have made this in November or December. Meh!
Judith and Jaap from Judith’s Cakes used small round balls of the dough to form the design on the top of their pie. I think it looks absolutely fantastic, but as I lack the assistance of small children in my home, I just didn’t have the patience to stand there and roll all of those tiny little balls!
I therefore decided to get a bit creative and ended up cutting out strips of the dough and platting them over the pie, finishing off with with little stars to fill up all of the gaps. And of course, if you were to make this at Christmastime, then this pattern would be absolutely perfect. But you should feel free to use your own imagination and create your own unique design to top it off.
So, do I regret choosing something “typically Dutch” to cook from Judith and Jaap’s food blog? Absolutely not! This pie was delicious! It’s definitely going to remain a part of my repertoire and I hope some day to have the opportunity to make it around Christmastime in New Zealand for my family and to showcase to them that Dutch cuisine is actually all that after all!
… oh and by the way, don’t skip the orange liqueur cream as garnish to this dessert. It’s absolutely divine!!