Speculaas cookies (sometimes called Dutch Windmill cookies) evoke warm, farmiliar memories in my mind. I can picture my sisters and I, very young, sitting in the backseat on the way home from a drive to Pennsylvania Dutch County, with a box full of these wonderfully aromatic spiced cookies, our roadtrip bounty. I have no idea whether this is a real memory or one I somehow made up (0lfactory memories have a way of doing that to me!) All I know is that I loved these cookies, and the smell of them brings on a wave of good, warm, fuzzy childhood memories, even if they are rather blurry.
Speculaas cookies are traditionally made for St. Nicholas’ Eve in Belgium and the Netherlands. They are crunchy, thin gingersnap-like (but oh, so much better) shortbread cookies usually cut, using wooden stamps, into shapes that resemble windmills, animals, or relics of St. Nick. I don’t have such cool wooden stamps, and I imagine the cookies really aren’t the same without them, but I am feeling quite sentimental this holiday season. I’ve been jonesing for the aroma of the cookie’s spices, which include cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamom or anise, white pepper, and sometimes clove, but I needed to make myself muffins for work—I’m not working from home anymore, so I have to plan my meals!—so Speculaas Muffins it was!
I couldn’t have been more pleased with the memory-triggering results. Turns out, the most memorable thing about the cookies was the spiced aroma—though they are mighty cute as windmills! I was almost contented by simple smelling the muffins, inhaling deeply as I pressed the muffin to my lips; then I realized how great they tasted and I gobbled them right up.
The batter is a simple muffin batter, one I use for plain muffins or traditional blueberry ones, though I used walnut oil instead of canola for a deep, earthy flavor. I used AP flour, though I’m sure a whole wheat pastry flour would work well, complimenting the rich walnut oil and spices. Also, I used half-and-half as the liquid in these muffins simply because that’s what I had on hand. You can sub regular milk, cream, butter, yogurt, or whatever it is you’ve got.
makes 10-12 muffins
- 1 egg
- 2/3 cup half-and-half
- 6 T walnut oil
- 2 ½ cups flour
- 3 tsp baking powder
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg
- ½ tsp ground anise
- ¼ tsp ground ginger
- ¹/8 tsp ground white pepper
PAM or grease a regular sized muffin pan. Preheat the oven to 375º.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the egg with the sugar until it begins to get fluffy. Whisk in half-and-half, walnut oil, and spices.
Sift together flour and baking powder. Gradually fold flour into wet mix, taking care not to mix too much to avoid tough muffins—the mixture should be juuust combined when ready.
Spoon mixture into muffin cups and bake until golden brown on top—about 20-25 minutes. Remove from oven. Inhale. Take care not to burn your nose when you bend down to take a whiff.