Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Speculaas (Dutch Windmill Cookies)

I just love holiday cookies. Who doesn't? After all, everyone is a cookie monster at heart. (Hint: they make great presents for neighbors, co-workers, party hosts, etc.) This year, I have recreated two of my favorite Christmas cookies my mother would have in the house time of year: spritz cookies with jam; and speculaas, aka Dutch windmill cookies. Spectulaas are a Dutch shortbread that are traditionally served for St. Nicholas day and spiced with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, and sometimes white pepper. Since this cookie will not rise, it's perfect to use a pretty mold for these. If you don't have one, like me, a cookie cutter will do the trick. I forgot how much I enjoyed speculaas. This recipe lived up to my expectations that my memory conjured up. In a way, they reminded my of those biscoff that they serve on airplanes. I gave a small bag to my Dutch friend and neighbor. She said I that I did a nice job with them, and the flavor was better than she remembered having as a child in Holland. The texture differs a bit since I used oatmeal and buckwheat flours which add more complexity to the flavor and texture. Since this recipe is in weight, it's easy to swap out flours to put your own personalization on them, say like almond flour. These cookies can be decorated in so many pretty ways, but in a rustic fashion, which has more character. They can be used for edible ornaments, too if you cut a small hole in the dough before baking.

165 grams sweet (glutinous) rice flour
165 grams brown rice flour
100 grams oat flour
100 grams buckwheat flour
270 grams butter, room temp
260 grams confectioners sugar
80 grams sugar
3.2 grams (2 tablespoons) grated lemon zest
5 grams (1 tablespoon) cinnamon
1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) cloves
1 gram (1/2 teaspoon) cardamom
1/4 teaspoon salt
50 grams (1 large) egg, room temp
garnish: egg wash & sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400F.

In a medium/large bowl combine all the flours and mix well. In a large work bowl of a mixer, fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the butter, powdered sugar, sugar well but not fluffy. Add in the zest and all of the seasonings and mix until just incorporated. Add in the egg and mix until just mixed in. With the mixer on low, slowly add in the flour mixture until all added in well. The dough would be very thick and uniform.

The classic way to make these cookie is by molding the cookie dough. The dough is pressed into special wooden cookie mold, then removed and laced onto parchment paper. Alternatively, it can be stamped to emboss a design in the dough. Otherwise, make up the cookies wither as icebox cookies or as rolled cookies cut with cookie cutters. They should be rolled/cut to 1/4 inch thickness. Garnish with a light brush of egg wash and almonds. If making into ornaments, cut out a small hole before baking. This recipe makes a lot of cookies! About 3-4 dozen, depending on size. Merry Christmas!

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

We invite you to to our Virtual Cookie Swap with Food Network! Check out The FN Dish.  Follow the participating bloggers: and . Here are some incredible cookies that others are bringing to the on-line holiday communal table:

Thursday Night Dinner: Peppermint Bark Cookies

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

So continues Food Network's Fall Fest with winter squash. The first thing to come to my mind, as I sure most people's minds, is butternut squash soup. With good reason. It's comforting, warm, hearty, rich, and not that difficult to make. Most soups start with a mirepoix (onions, carrots, and celery), which creates the aromatic foundation. Then add in cooked tender squash, stock, seasonings, and puree. That simple. Well, I find the most difficult aspect is the handling of the butternut squash. Every time I break one down, I curse at myself for not buying a cheap work horse cleaver from the Asian market. Hence I prefer to roast the butternut squash split in the oven. Then it works it easy to scoop out and add into the stock pan. Roasting adds a great depth of flavor from the Maillard reaction: the browning reaction (think meats, caramel, etc) that breaks down proteins and carbohydrates into small tasty flavor molecules. I add the mirepoix on the baking sheet to roast with the squash, too. That tends to get more browning, which means more flavor. Make up a big batch. It keeps well in the fridge and reheats well. Add a little flair by garnishing using your creativity. I prefer sour cream and chives. Other garnish ideas: roasted pumpkin seeds, celery leaves, thyme leaves, a sprinkle of chipotle or ancho chili powder....

1 medium butternut squash
1 medium onion, chopped medium
3 stalks celery, chopped medium
3 carrots, peeled, cut medium dice
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
dash nutmeg
salt and (white) pepper, to taste
1 quart chicken broth, not all will be used (or vegetable)
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (optional)
1/4 cup half and half

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut the butternut squash lengthwise, remove the seeds with a spoon, coat with oil and salt, place cut side down on a jelly roll pan. Add the mirepoix (onions, celery, carrots) on the jelly roll pan with remaining oil, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes. Stirring the mirepoix a couple of times. Done when the squash is fork tender and some of the mirepoix is lightly browned.

In a large sauce pan or small stock pot, add about 1 cup of stock and heat on medium. Add in the roasted mirepoix to the stock while the squash cools off enough to handle. With a spoon, remove the skin from the squash, cut up in smaller chunks, and add into the stock. Top off with more stock until the level of stock is about 1/2 inch above the vegetables. Allow to simmer for a few minutes, add in thyme or seasonings of your choice. Remove from heat and puree with an immersion/stick blender. If you do not have one, blend in a blender or food processor in batches as needed. During this, add in the half and half. Taste and adjust seasonings per your palette.

This makes up to 2 quarts of soup. Adjust this recipe for your preference. I view a recipe like this as a guideline. Freezes well, too.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

This is part of Food Network's Fall Fest, highlighting the produce that is in season. Check out The FN Dish. The seasonal produce we are focusing on this week is winter squash. Come over to Twitter where we are discussing it on #cookingwith and #fallfest. Here are other delicious features on winter squash:

Spritz Cookies with Jam

While sharing cookie recipes with the rest of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally (GFreeRally), I came across spritz cookies. You know, the kind that are piped out with a small dollop of jam in the center. What really caught my eye was almond paste was listed as the first ingredient and I just bought two packages of marzipan from IKEA. I also had a new jar of strawberry preserves. Nice, I didn't even have to buy anything to make these cookies. Spritz cookies have a strong association with Christmas. Frankly, it had been so long since I had them that I had forgotten what they tasted like.

Apparently spritz has been shortened from the German spritzgebäck. Per Wikipedia: "Spritzgebäck is a type of German Christmas  biscuit  made of eggs, butter, sugar, and flour. When made correctly, the cookies are crisp, fragile, somewhat dry, and buttery. The German verb spritzen means to squirt in English. As the name implies, these cookies are made by extruding, or "squirting" the dough with a press fitted with patterned holes or with a cake decorator to which a variety of nozzles may be fitted. Spritzgebäck is a common pastry in Germany and served often during Christmas season, when parents commonly spend afternoons baking with their children for one or two weeks. Traditionally, parents bake Spritzgebäck using their own special recipes, which they pass down to their children."

I brought out a plate of my freshly baked spritz cookies at the tail end of a heart-breaking football game we were watching. And our team was losing miserably. They perked up everyone's spirits immediately. "Erin, THESE are the best cookies you have ever made!" "These remind me of Christmas with chewy jam center." They were liking eating childhood Christmas nostalgia for me. The outside was a thin crust of sugar with a delicate moist almond crumb. And the chewy jam center... irresistible.

This month's GF Ratio Rally challenge is cookies & Caroline of The G-Spot hosted this month. The Gluten-Free Ratio Rally is a group of GF bloggers, rallied by Shauna of, where we put our on spin a a culinary standard. These culinary standards are known formulas, ratios, that professionals use. The caveat is that everything is done by weight, since weight is more standardized and much more accurate than measuring by volume. This is the foundation of the GFreeRally as started and explained by Gluten-Free Girl here. The book that we base our ratios is Michael Ruhlman's Ratio. Ruhlman's drop cookie ratio is a 3 parts flour : 2 parts fat : 1 part sugar recipe. Mine turned out to be a little more complex, 2 flour : 2 almond paste: ~2 butter : 1 sugar : ~1 egg, but so worth it!

133 grams almond paste or marzipan
67 grams sugar
1.5 grams (1/4 teaspoon) salt
113 grams (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp.
50 grams (1 large) egg, room temp.
2 grams (1/2 teaspoon) vanilla extract
67 grams sweet (glutinous, but GF) rice flour
67 grams brown rice flour
1/4 cup your choice of jam, preserves, jelly, etc

Preheat oven to 375F. In a medium bowl, scale and mix together the sweet & brown rice flours. In a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, scale the marzipan, sugar, salt, and butter. Cream on low until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the egg and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. With the mixer running at the lowest speed, slowly add in the flour mixture and mix until uniform. Transfer all of the batter into a pipping bag equipped with a large star tip or a gallon plastic food bag with the very tip of the corner cut off. Use a cookie press if you have one. Pipe circles, or any shape you'd like onto a sheet of parchment paper, leaving ample space between. I recommend 12 x 1.5" diameter per sheet. Place a small dollop of jam in the center of each cookie. Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until the edges are slightly golden brown.

This recipe makes about 18-20 cookies and can double very easily. If you would like more "body" to these cookies, add another 10-15 grams of each flour to the recipe. Store in an air-tight container. Share with loved ones.

-Erin Swing
The Sensitive Epicure

Head on over to Caroline's host post to see her amazing Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies and all the other fantastic recipes brought to you by rally participants this month! Thanks again Caroline for hosting a festive challenge! Also, if you're on Twitter, search #GFreeRally

Amanda | Gluten Free Maui | Simple Shortbread
Amie Valpone | The Healthy Apple |
Grapefruit Sugar Cookies
Brooke | B & the boy! |
Candy Cane Shortbread
Caleigh | Gluten Free[k] |
Mulled Spice Cookies
Caneel | Mama Me Gluten Free |
Cardamom Date Cookies
charissa | zest bakery |
Coconut Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies
Caroline | The G-Spot | Double Chocolate Chip Peppermint Cookies
Claire | Gluten Freedom |
Chai Latte Cashew Cookies
Erin | The Sensitive Epicure |
Spritz Cookies with Jam
gretchen | kumquat |
Classic Sugar Cookies
Irvin | Eat the Love |
Apple Brown Butter Bay Leaf Spice Cookies
Jean | Gluten Free Doctor Recipes |
Reindeer Cookies
Jenn | Jenn Cuisine |
Basler Brunsli
Jonathan| The Canary Files |
Vegan Salted Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
Karen | Cooking Gluten Free! |
Mexican Wedding Cakes
Lisa from Gluten Free Canteen |
Molasses Rum Raisin Cookies
Mary Fran | frannycakes |
Pinwheel Cookies
Meaghan | The Wicked Good Vegan |
Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Meredith | Gluten Free Betty |
Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
Morri | Meals With Morri|
Stevia Sweetened & Grain-Free Thumbprint Cookies with Apricot Preserves
Pete & Kelli | No Gluten, No Problem|
Belgian Speculaas Cookies
Rachel | The Crispy Cook |
Shauna | The Gluten-Free Girl & Chef | Soft Molasses Cookies
Silvana Nardone | Silvana's Kitchen |
Old-School Italian Jam-Filled Hazelnut Cookies
T.R. | No One Likes Crumbley Cookies |
Cinnamon Lemon Cookies
Tara | A Baking Life | Walnut Shortbread