I Want My Fill of Almonds from an Almond Filling: Gevulde Speculaas

Ottolenghi's cookbook Sweet has two recipes for Dutch speculaas cookies that use the same spice mix. One is a roll and cut cookie. The other is a cookie stuffed with almond paste and mixed candied peel, appropriately named "Gevulde Speculaas" -- as "gevulde" means"filled" in Dutch.

While the filled speculaas require a little extra effort for assembly, they are not difficult to make. To make the dough, you beat softened butter with dark brown sugar and whole milk; add baking soda, homemade spice mix (cinnamon, aniseed, white pepper, ground ginger, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, and cloves), flour, and salt; and mix until soft and pliable. I put the dough in the fridge while I made the almond paste.

To make the almond paste filling, you grind almonds in a food processor (I just used almond flour); mix in sugar, egg, and lemon juice; add mixed peel; and pulse until incorporated. I used a 50-50 mix of diced candied lemon peel and candied orange peel.

The slightly chilled dough was very easy to handle and I rolled it out between two sheets of parchment into a long rectangle. I brushed the dough with melted butter and laid the almond paste -- formed into a flattened log the same length as the rectangle but about a third of the width -- in the middle. I brushed the almond paste with more melted butter and then folded the dough on either side over the filling and pressed the seam closed. The I flipped the filled log of dough over so that the seam was underneath, brushed the dough with egg wash, arranged whole blanched almonds on top, and baked the log until it was colored and the almonds were golden. I cut the log into slices after it had cooled slightly.
The finished cookies looked a lot like skinny fig newtons. They were very good and a hit with my tasters. The gingerbread spices scream holiday, and in combination with the candied peel in the filling, the overall flavor profile reminded me a lot of lebkuchen. I really like lebkuchen and I really liked these cookies. But they were slightly disappointing. I absolutely love almonds and given the ratio of almond paste filling to the surrounding cookie, I was expecting almond to be the primary flavor. As it turned out, I could hardly taste the almonds at all. Instead, the primary flavor of the filling was the citrus peel. The main ingredients of the filling are 200 grams of almonds, 150 grams of sugar, and 60 grams of candied peel. But candied peel has a very strong flavor -- and in addition to the lemon juice and fresh lemon zest, I think it drowned out the almonds.

I would make definitely these cookies again but I would either reduce the amount of candied peel in the almond paste, add some almond extract to the filling, or both. I want these cookies to live up to their almond potential!

Recipe: "Gevulde Speculaas" from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh, recipe available here at The Guardian.

Previous Post: "Baked Sunday Mornings: Lebkuchen," August 27, 2017.


Yes, I think you could use store-bought almond paste (without or without the addition of candied citrus peel)!