Spiced almond biscuits
One of the most captivating cookbooks this year is Anja Dunk's Advent a book of 'festival German bakes to celebrate the coming of Christmas'. It's full of the most amazing recipes and beautifully illustrated with lovely photographs and linocuts.
Anja writes: "These biscuits are traditional Advent sweet treats in both the Netherlands, where they are usually eaten around the 6th December (St Nikolaus day), and in Germany, where they are eaten throughout the whole run-up to Christmas.
Usually they’re decorated with images relating to Nikolaus, and more often than not have windmills depicted on them. You can also buy special wooden rolling pins with pictured squares carved into them specifically for rolling this dough out at home. I don’t have one of these and I certainly don’t have the patience to create the intricate decoration it would involve without using one. Instead I use pretty cutters (I think snowflakes work best) to cut out festive shapes.
Usually almond Spekulatius have a flaked almond base, but I’ve switched things up and adorned mine with them on top instead. These snappy (by this I mean crunchy and good to snap) biscuits are best eaten alongside a black coffee and are also brilliant crushed into a powder and mixed with melted butter to create a Christmas cheesecake or chocolate torte base."
Spiced almond biscuits (Spekulatius)
Makes about 30
150g (1 cup plus
2 tbsp) plain (allpurpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
50g (½ cup minus 1 tbsp) rye flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
120g (²⁄₃ cup) caster (superfine) sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt
125g (½ cup plus 1 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temp
Milk, for brushing
50g (1¾oz) flaked (slivered) almonds
Put all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the butter and mix it into the flour using your fingertips until it has the consistency of fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and bring everything together into a dough with your hands. (Alternatively, simply put all the ingredients into the bowl of an electric free-standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix until an even dough is formed.)
Heat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan/375°F and line two large baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a 3mm/1/8in thickness. Cut out shapes with your cookie cutter and gently transfer them onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving 1cm/3/8in between each to allow for spreading. Re-roll the dough offcuts into more biscuits. Brush the tops with milk then sprinkle some flaked almonds onto each one, pressing them down gently to ensure they stick.
Bake in the oven for 10–12 minutes until golden all over. Allow to cool on the sheets for a minute before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Store in an airtight container, where they will keep well for up to 4 weeks.
Advent is published by Hardie Grant at £25. Photograph and recipe © Anja Dunk.
See also Ren Behan's Polish spiced cookies
If you found this post useful and were happy to get the advice for free perhaps you'd think about donating towards the running costs of the site? You can find out how to do it here or to subscribe to our regular newsletter click here.