It is thought that the Dutch name Speculaas comes from the latin 'speculum' that means mirror.
Traditionally speculaas biscuits are the mirror image of the carved wooden moulds they are baked in.
Windmill shaped speculaas biscuits are known throughout the whole world, as are male or female speculaas figurines.
These days speculaas biscuits can take any shape or form. But you can do so much more with speculaas spice than just making biscuits.
Find out more about the delicious recipes you can make using vandotsch speculaas spice mix.
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John Holland works for the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and is also a freelance composer, arranger, musician and conductor.
A few years ago, he started to bake for his work colleagues as a hobby and joined in with various social media baking activities, gaining many new friends, followers and experience along the way. He set up 'Baker On Board' in May 2016 to focus more on his cakes, patisserie and other baked goods, as bespoke commissions started to roll in.
John has created a sweet version of the popular Italian bread Focaccia, perfect for tea-time! This is a twist on a dark and fruity one by the wonderful Nigel Slater.
Nigel Slater's 'Blackberry Focaccia' was first published online in 2006 and then included in his book 'Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard' (2012)
What follows is an overview of the ingredients that John used to make his cherry focaccia bread infused with vandotsch speculaas spice, including:
For the bread:
- 450 g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
- 2 tsp yeast (or 1 x 7g sachet)
- 1 tsp crushed salt (I tend to use smoked for a more intense flavour)
- ½ tsp vandotsch speculaas spice
- 350 ml warm water
For the topping:
- 250 g black cherries (if they are out of season, use a similar dark-skinned fruit)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp golden caster sugar (or demerara)
- ½ tsp Speculaas spice mix (or ground cinnamon)
- Icing sugar for dusting
What you need:
- Two mixing bowls
- Clingfilm (or a clean cloth)
- Baking sheet (or tin, approx. 30cm across)
- Sift the flour into a bowl then add the other bread ingredients.
- Mix together with your favourite wooden spoon then turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface.
- Knead the dough for about five minutes, until it feels elastic.
- Dust the other bowl with flour and put the dough into it.
- Cover with clingfilm (or cloth) and leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour; it should double in size.
- When risen, uncover and punch out some of the air; tip onto the baking sheet/tin.
- Gently push half of the fruit into the dough and scatter the remainder over the top.
- Pre-heat the oven to 220C/Gas 7.
- Cover the dough once again and leave to rise, as before.
- Once doubled in size, uncover and drizzle over the olive oil.
- Mix together the golden caster sugar and spice; sprinkle this over the bread and place in the oven.
- Bake for 35-40 minutes until well-risen, golden brown and has a crispy top (it should spring back when pressed).
- Leave to cool slightly before dusting with the icing sugar.
- Serve and enjoy straight away!
How to make John's cherry and speculaas focaccia
"I love using vandotsch Speculaas spice-mix in my kitchen; the warming flavour enhances each
bake that I use it in – it
also perfumes the air with its comforting aroma and that instantly makes me feel reassured."
"The inclusion of the spice mix in this focaccia recipe helps to enhance the natural piquancy of the fruit and the tingling
crunch of the spiced sugar is most satisfying."