Catholic Recipe: Speculaas or Speculatius II
Also Called: St. Nicholas Cookies, Speculaas, Speculaus, Kris Kringle Cookies, Dutch spice cookies
The children of the house have smelled the good smells of spices, and they are dancing around the table with mixing spoons and cookie cutters in their hands. "Don't forget St. Nicholas, Mother. Don't forget he comes tomorrow night."
There is no forgetting St. Nicholas at our house, I can assure you. That is the eve when we all hang up our stockings. The hanging of stockings on the fireplace is great fun for the children. Most of the real sport, though, comes the day before when we make the treats to fill those stockings. One of our favorites is a spice cookie which came from the Netherlands, the land which loved St. Nicholas best. This Dutch koekje is called Speculatius. [Editor's Note: Do not substitute with margarine or shortening, but all butter (i.e. 2 cups butter) does nicely.--JGM.]
Sometimes, after the dough is chilled, we roll it very thin and try to cut it into the shape of good St. Nicholas himself. It is great fun to use a sharp little knife as a stiletto and see how artistic you can be. The very best ginger cake figure is always named Saint Nicholas. The others are good, bad and indifferent — until we call the worst of all Black Peter. You may dub it the devil — that is about what it looks like. But you have nothing to fear if you have been good all year, even though St. Nicholas and his servant Black Peter come knocking at your door. Part of the dough can be cut into the shape of birds or fish or animals. This is the feast day of school children — and what pleases them is the order of the day. Sometimes we ice these ginger cakes with white or pink icing, and decorate them with dried or candied fruits.
Sift together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside. Cream the butter, lard and sugar. Add sour cream alternately with sifted dry ingredients. Stir in the nuts. Knead the dough into rolls. Wrap the rolls in wax paper and chill them in the refrigerator overnight. Roll the dough very thin and cut into shapes. Bake in moderate oven (375°) for 10 to 15 minutes.
Part of the dough can be cut into the shape of birds or fish or animals. St. Nicholas is the patrony of school children — and what pleases them is the order of the day. Sometimes we ice these ginger cakes with white or pink icing, and decorate them with dried or candied fruits.Recipe Source: Cooking for Christ by Florence Berger, National Catholic Rural Life Conference, 4625 Beaver Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50310, 1949, 1999