How many people have speculaas in their background, one of those cozy growing-up flavours your parents introduced you to? More savoury and spicy than sweet, speculaas flavour is really similar to chai flavour, the only real difference being the cardamom in chai. I’ve always loved chai tea and never really put two and two together to realize it was because of it’s similarities to speculaas.
Growing up, we often had crunchy speculaas cookies imprinted with detailed Dutch windmills hanging around in the pantry, but I think they were a back-up snack for those Sundays when mom hadn’t gotten around to baking something and needed something to put on a pretty plate. I’ve since had speculaas squares in many places but they’re often dry, always plain looking, and never something I’d thought to bother making myself.
I’ve been missing out and I’m making up for it.
These squares are adapted from a recipe in the first church cookbook I ever owned. They were overlooked for too long because they were on the same page as my favourite boterkoek. One day I just didn’t feel like slicing off that extra 1/3 cup of butter, and that laziness extended to an inability to bother turning the page, so what we had was speculaas. Having had a few too many dry speculaas squares, I tweaked things a little and baked them in a smaller pan than the recipe called for, and we had a new favourite born – equal to (not better than) the boterkoek that shares its page, and made again only a couple weeks later, a rare occurrence for recipes around here.
They’re distinctly unassuming and plain, and I purposely left them that way rather than drizzle them with some enticing icing or white chocolate that might make more people fight me for them. Didn’t work, though. One bowl, perfectly spiced, ready for the oven in 10 minutes, soft and chewy…and now the kids know how delicious they are I may never get to eat one again :P
- 1 cup butter or baking margarine, softened to room temperature
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup lightly packed brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon ginger
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease a 9x13" baking dish and set aside.
- In large bowl, with electric mixer, beat butter and sugars on medium speed until light and creamy, 2-3 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla and beat well.
- Add flour, baking soda and spices to bowl and stir well on low to combine.
- Spread batter into prepared pan - I find it works best to push/pat it into place with slightly dampened hands. Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges are lightly browned and centre no longer jiggles. Let cool before slicing into bars.