Speculaas meringue pie

Speculaas meringue pie

 

I think I’m done with winter. Or the lack of a proper one anyway. You know, the kind with freezing temperatures and snow that lasts more than a couple of days. I’ve started to replace the candles in our house with fresh flowers, mostly tulips. I let my daughter pick a bunch the other day and she went for a multicoloured bouquet and called them “her rainbow tulips”.

Next week is Valentine’s Day and last year I made these yummy truffles at the very last minute because we hadn’t planned anything. Plus, we’re never sure how to celebrate because P. has his birthday 2 days later. The trend in our house seems to be to keep Valentine’s simple (think sofa, movie, snacks) and then P.’s birthday gets a bit more attention (family breakfast, cake, babysitter, dining out).

Tulip in full bloom

This Speculaas meringue pie also seems to be a trend because I’m pretty sure I made it for his birthday last year. The base is crunchy and caramely. The filling creamy and full of vanilla. The top is his favourite: meringue, in any shape or form. I’ve made this with a french meringue before but this year I wanted to try Swiss meringue. Either way, the result is delicious and the pie will be gone before you know it (which is a good thing because it doesn’t do so well in the fridge). You can easily half this recipe and make a smaller version to share with your loved one if you’re celebrating Valentine’s this Sunday.

What’s the best thing your loved one has ever baked or cooked for you in an effort to impress? Did it work? Were you impressed?

Speculaas meringue pie up close

 Speculaas meringue pie

(serves 8)

Ingredients:

For the base:

200g speculaas cookies (biscoff)

80g butter

For the filling:

500ml milk

50g flour

100g sugar

2 egg yolks and 1 whole egg

seeds of 1/2 a vanilla pod

For the meringue:

2 egg whites

80g sugar

Method:

  1. Make the pie crust first.  Put the cookies in a food processor and whizz until you are left with fine crumbs. If you don’t have a food processor you can put the cookies in a large freezer bag and use a rolling pin to crush them. It’s important to not have any big cookie lumps left.
  2. Now, melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Then add the butter to the cookie crumbs and mix thoroughly. Press the mixture into a springform or loose bottomed pie dish. Make sure the base is level (it doesn’t need to go up the sides) and use the back of a spoon to really press down the crumb mixture. You don’t need to bother greasing the tin/dish. Place the crust in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
  3. Now, make the filling, which is a basic crème patisserie. In a bowl mix together the egg, egg yolks and sugar. You can do this in a standmixer or using a handmixer. The mixture needs to double in volume, become thick and turn a pale beige. This can take up to 10 minutes. Sift in the flour, add the vanilla seeds and mix for another minute or 2. In the meantime, heat the milk in a saucepan on medium heat until nearly boiling.
  4. Once the milk is hot, slowly add it to the egg-sugar mixture and mix on a very slow speed. Once everything has mixed, pour the contents of your bowl into the saucepan you just used and return to the heat. Use a simple whisk to gently whisk the mixture as it heats up and thickens. This can take 10 minutes or longer depending on your hob. When the mixture is thick enough, pour it into a heatproof bowl and cover the actual crème (not the bowl) with clingfilm and let it cool completely.
  5. When the crème has cooled, it’s time to make the meringue. If you want to make a french meringue, use this method and make the circle slightly smaller than your crust size. For the Swiss meringue, mix the egg whites and sugar in a heatproof bowl using a handmixer until just combined.
  6. Fill a saucepan with about 3 cm of water and heat until it simmers. Then, place the bowl with the egg whites and sugar on top and use your electric handmixer to continue whipping the mixture. The heat from the simmering water will melt the sugar and once this is done and your egg whites have formed stiff peaks, take the bowl off the pan. Continue to whip with your handmixer until the meringue is stiff and glossy and back to room temperature.
  7. It’s time to assemble the pie. Take the crust out of the fridge. Spoon or pipe the crème patisserie on top to about half a cm from the crust edge. Then pipe the meringue on top and use a knife to create some texture if you like.
  8. If you have a blow torch in your kitchen, you can use it to give the tops of the meringue some colour. I stuck the pie under the grill for a minute or two. Or, you can leave the meringue as it is.
  9. Carefully, remove the pie from the tin and serve the same day. This pie does not keep well in the fridge.

ENJOY!!

Blooming tulip

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

IMG_6058

I grew up on a breakfast of buttered bread with a layer of jam and fresh pastries on Sundays. That’s how we did things in Belgium back in the 80’s. Cereal was new and expensive and I don’t think a lot of people had heard of muesli. Compared to all the breakfast options we have today, it seems very boring and unhealthy. Now and again though, I like to go back to this kind of breakfast purely for nostalgic reasons.

Something that was always on the table at home was peperkoek (spiced bread). It’s not really a bread in the traditional sense. The concept is similar to banana bread: looks like cake but is called “bread”. The proper peperkoek has rye flour and lots of honey. It is light on the inside and has a dark brown, soft, sticky crust. I found this version of peperkoek when I was looking for a simpler recipe that didn’t have so much sugars in it. Granted, this recipe still calls for 250g of brown sugar but the amount of the honey is limited to 1 and a half tablespoons.

Buttered knife with crumbs

The spices is what makes this bread an absolute dream. If you are a fan of speculaas (biscoff cookies) this will be right up your street. It uses the exact same spices. You can find my recipe for speculaas spice mix here. The only way to eat this peperkoek is with a rather thick layer of real butter. Another way to really enjoy it is by putting a slice in between 2 slices of fresh, crusty white bread.

So this isn’t going to be in the top 10 of “healthy breakfasts for you” but it definitely would be part of the “tastiest breakfast treats” list. I think you should try this peperkoek. If anything, for the fact that it makes your house smell amazing. But, if you’re trying to cut down on sugar as part of a new year’s resolution, just save it for later via my Pinterest board.

What is your favourite breakfast? Do you make an extra effort on the weekend? And does anyone make their own croissants?

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

 

Peperkoek (spiced bread)

Makes 1 big loaf

Ingredients:

100ml of water

250g flour

2 tsp baking powder

250g dark brown sugar

2 eggs

2 tsp speculaas spice mix

1 1/2 tbsp runny honey

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

2. Line a rectangular cake tin with baking paper.

3. In the bowl of a standmixer fitted with a whisk (or use a big bowl and a handmixer), mix all the ingredients except the flour and baking powder.

4. When the mixture is smooth, add the flour and baking powder, a tablespoon at a time. Mix until all the flour is incorporated. Then mix on medium-high speed for about 7-10 minutes. When you stop mixing you should see bubbles trying to form on the surface.

5. Pour the mixture in the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 1hr. Use a knife or skewer to check if it is baked completely.

6. Take the peperkoek out of the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before taking it out of the tin and letting it cool further on a wire rack.

ENJOY!!

 Spiced bread or peperkoek

Traditional Belgian Sinterklaas treats

Christmas flatly with red

That moment when November turns into December it’s like a switch in my head flips and I am in full Christmas countdown mode. Taylor Swift’s latest album gets pushed to the side and Michael Buble and Bing Crosby take over my playlists. I poke my nose in every bit of fir and spruce I can find and get excited about peeling a mandarin (oh the smell!). Yes, December first marks the start of the Christmas countdown in this house.

This is how it looks:

1st December: Start of Advent

6th December: Sinterklaas

13th December: St. Lucia

24th December: Christmas Eve

We started with lighting the first candle of our Advent wreath and opening the first door of our Advent calendar. This coming weekend we will celebrate Sinterklaas with the kids and next week St. Lucia, thus keeping their Belgian and Swedish Christmas heritage alive. And then we finish off with family dinner and presents on Christmas Eve.

I talked about Sinterklaas in this post and this one too. If you want to have a go at putting together a Sinterklaas treat for your kids (or yourself) here is what you will need:

Traditional Sinterklaas treat

– Speculaas (Biscoff) cookies are a must. Try making your own with my recipe.

– Flemish Christmas buns or Sinterklaaskoeken are perfect for breakfast or afternoon coffee. Make sure to spread them thick with butter. Here’s my version of these sweet yeast buns.

– clementines

– chocolate coins

– Nic Nacs which you can buy or make yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

Next week I’ll be baking traditional Swedish saffron buns to celebrate St. Lucia. In the mean time, what does your December countdown look like?

Vintage Sinterklaas postcard

(image source: Vintage images, http://vintageimages.org) 

 

Speculaas spice mix

A few weeks ago I made these crunchy, spiced speculaas cookies. There is rarely a Belgian household that doesn’t have at least one packet of them laying around. This time of year though, people make an effort to bake them at home or to buy them at the local baker’s. Why? Because in Belgium (and in the Netherlands) Speculaas is very much associated with Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, which we celebrate on December 6th.

To make this yummy treat, you need a Speculaas spice mix. Maybe you are lucky enough to find one ready-made where you live. But if you live outside Belgium or the Netherlands, chances are you won’t find it or it might be expensive. So here is my version. Use it to make Speculaas or add it to your favourite sugar cookie recipe. Try it sprinkled on top of your latte or hot chocolate. Use it for this year’s Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

Cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger

Speculaas spice mix

4 measures of ground cardamom

8 measures of ground cinnamon

2 measures of ground ginger

1 measure of ground cloves

1 measure of ground nutmeg

1 measure of ground mace (optional)

Mix the spices together and store in an airtight container.

What will you use this spice mix for?

ENJOY!