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)

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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!

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

Perfect speculaas cookies (homemade biscoff cookies)

For the past 5 days Berlin has been covered in a blanket of greyness. The sun obviously thought that it also deserved a week of autumn holiday like all the school kids in the city. Rubber boots were the preferred choice of footwear and every puddle on the way to Kita had to be jumped in. I would have joined my kids in this fun activity but I don’t own rubber boots. I did attempt to buy a pair yesterday but it turns out, they are not really stocked in shoe shops. The adult version, that is, kids boots are available everywhere. But guess what, today we woke up to blue skies. It has since clouded over a bit but the rain has stopped. And so has my search for boots.

Next time it rains, I will of course end up with wet feet again. P. will point out that I should really get proper footwear for the season. I will tell him that he is right and that I will order some online tonight. We have had this same conversation for the past 3 autumns here in Berlin…

Traditional speculaas cookies

So we’ve had our first week of proper awful autumn weather in the city and this can only mean one thing. People are moving indoors in search of comfort and cosiness. Tables outside of restaurants are empty and iced coffees are swapped for hot chocolates and ginger teas. And since the ice cream shops have closed for the season, sweet temptations have to be found elsewhere. When was the last time your home smelled of freshly baked cookies? More to the point, has your home ever been filled with the smells of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and my favourite, mace?

Speculaas (or speculoos, or Biscoff cookies) are spiced cookies which can be found all year round in Belgium. The spice mix needed to make them comes ready-made and can easily be bought in shops or bakeries. I started making my own speculaas mix because these packets are not available in Berlin and maybe where you live either. The cookies will not taste like the Lotus brand of Biscoff cookies though. They are the kind you would buy at the traditional bakery on the corner of the street.

Cardamom, mace, cloves, cinnamon and ginger

A quick note on the spices:

– Cardamom comes in pods or already ground. If you can only find the pods, ground the seeds with a spice grinder or coffee grinder until you get a fine powder.

– The same applies for the cloves. If you can’t find the powder, grind them into a thin powder.

– Use only ground ginger and nutmeg.

– Mace is a spice derived from nutmeg. You will also need it in powder form. I find this spice tricky to find where I live. It can be left out.

Speculaas – Speculoos – Biscoff cookies

(makes 15-20 depending on what cookie cutter you use)

Ingredients:

250g flour

150g butter, softened

140g dark brown sugar

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

4 tbsp milk at room temperature

1 tsp ground cardamom

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1/4 tsp ground mace (optional)

Method:

1. Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.

2. Add the milk and the butter and kneed until the dough stops sticking to your hands or the dough hook of a standmixer.

3. Roll the dough into a ball them flatten into a thick disk. Wrap it in baking paper (or clingfilm) and chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Overnight is even better as the flavours will really develop.

4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

5. Lightly flour your work surface and roll out the dough until 5 mm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Transfer the cookies to a baking tray lined with baking paper.

6. Bake the cookies in the middle of the oven for 12-15 minutes.

7. Let the cookies cool on a wire rack and store in a airtight container.

ENJOY!

Stacks of crunchy, spicy speculaas cookies

No churn cookies and cream ice cream

cookies and cream ice cream with cookie crumbs and spoon

16 years ago I was a couple of months away from turning 20 and my ambition was to become an airline pilot. I had just spent a year in the classroom taking notes, studying all sorts of weather phenomena and mechanical machines, figuring out the difference between propellors and jet engines and on top of that taking the hardest exams ever to prove I had the theoretical knowledge to fly a plane. I passed.

And so I traveled to Scottsdale, AZ in the U.S.A. to complete 6 months of intensive flight training. One of the first days there, my good friend  C. and I walked the 10 minutes from our flat to the nearest supermarket to buy several large bottles of water. I think we emptied an entire bottle after getting home. We were not used to desert heat at all.

scoop of cookies and cream ice cream and a spoon

Our time in Scottsdale was tough and intense. We worked really hard. Our time off was usually spent relaxing by the pool, shopping in P.V. Mall or Fashion Square, drinking coffee at Coffee Plantation and eating our weight in M&Ms and Skittles. But our most favourite treat was Dreyer’s Cookies and Cream ice cream. I don’t think our freezer was ever without a tub of it.

A good Cookies and cream ice cream seems to be a luxe flavour here in Europe. I have only ever seen it as part of the Haagen Daz range which is not cheap in this part of the world. So when I stumbled across this recipe I couldn’t resist. It is simple (no ice cream maker needed) and the possibilities are endless. The ice cream is very smooth and creamy. And with the temperatures here in Berlin having been above 30C these last 2 weeks, it only seems right to sit down and eat this ice cream while remembering my time in the Arizona desert. I made 2 versions of this ice cream, one with the original Oreos and one with my favourite Belgian cookie: Speculoos or Biscoff.

Spoonful of biscoff ice cream

No churn cookies and cream ice cream 

(ever so slightly adapted from the original recipe by Kirbie’s Cravings)

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

1 x 400g tin of sweetened condensed milk

400ml whipping cream

4 Oreo cookies

6 Biscoff cookies

Method:

1. In a stand mixer with whisk attached (or use an electric hand mixer), whip the cream until stiff peaks form.

2. Pour the condensed milk into a second bowl. Gently, fold in the whipped cream until it is completely incorporated.

3. Divide the mixture into 2 bowls. Crumble the cookies and add the Oreos to one bowl and the Biscoff to the other. Gently mix.

4. Divide the mixture into 8 small pudding pots and put them in the freezer.

If you prefer to use just 1 type of cookie, use 8 Oreo cookies or 12 Biscoff cookies. Or any other cookie you like. Just crumble a few, mix it into the mixture and see of it you want more or not. Then use a cake tin to freeze the mixture.

5. Let the pots sit in the freezer for at least 8-10 hours. I left them for 24 hours as after 10 hours I found the taste of the condensed milk was still a bit too overpowering.

ENJOY!

left over melted ice cream and cookie crumbs

This recipe is my version of Kirbie’s Cravings No Churn Cookies and Cream Ice Cream

Speculoos (Biscoff) milk with almond crumbs

The rain hasn’t stopped all week. And the icy wind seems to cut its way through every piece of clothing I wear in an attempt to stay warm. It’s the sort of day where you want to sit on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket holding a cup of something warm. Perhaps it’s a fruity tea or maybe you’ve opted for a hot chocolate. But consider this: cookies and milk in a cup. Yes, it is real and it is Yum (with a capital Y)!

Get yourself some speculoos (Biscoff cookies) or some gingerbread cookies. Get yourself some milk. Put the two together in a saucepan and heat it all up. Simple as that.

If you want to make it extra special, add some almond crumbs. Sit, sip and forget the greyness outside your window.

IMG_2939

 

Speculoos milk with almond crumbs

(Serves 2)

5-6 speculoos cookies

500ml (or 2 cups) of milk

optional:

2 tbsp ground almonds

1 tbsp dark brown sugar

Put the milk in a saucepan. Break the cookies in 2 and add to the milk.

Heat on medium heat and stir.

Don’t let the milk boil.

When all the cookies are dissolved and the milk is warm, pour into 2 cups (you can use a sieve to get rid of any last bits of cookie crumb).

Top with almond crumbs.

IMG_2930

Almond crumbs:

Put the ground almonds and brown sugar in a pan on medium heat.

Keep staring until the sugar melts and the ground almonds start to stick together in large crumbs.

Take off the heat and spread on a piece of baking paper to cool.

Sprinkle on top of speculoos milk.

Enjoy!

IMG_2945

Pear with speculoos (Biscoff cookie) crumble

Happy 2015!

So, who has a new year’s resolution? More specifically, who has a new year’s resolution that revolves around food? I do. My new year’s resolution is to BAKE MORE 😉

I spent Christmas with my family in Belgium and brought back lots of Belgian goodies that I showed you in this post. On our last day, we went to the seaside and visited my grandmother’s childhood home. She was a marvellous woman my grandmother, and sometimes the only one who really understood me. We used to visit her and my grandfather every Sunday and she would make meatloaf and pears stewed in brown sugar. An absolutely beautiful combination.

This dish is inspired by my grandmother’s pears and by my Belgian roots. Introducing: Pear with speculoos (or biscoff cookies as they are called in some countries) crumble.

IMG_2858This is a lovely, sweet dessert that can be put together in the space of 30 minutes. Baking it takes about the same amount of time.

IMG_2808I would like to talk about brown sugar for a minute . In Belgium and in the UK where I used to live,brown sugars are available in every supermarket. In Germany, which is my current home, I struggle to find them. They come in several shades depending on the amount of molasses. They are soft and not grainy at all (unlike the brown coloured unrefined sugars which are grainy). In this recipe I have used both light and dark brown sugar which I “imported” from Belgium.

IMG_2812Making the crumble is easy and quick. Just use your hand to rub it all together and remember to use cold butter.

IMG_2846My crumble came out a little darker than I wanted. I recently bought an oven thermometer and have tried baking according to its indications… I think I need to send it back… Yours will no doubt come out nice and golden!

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Recipe for 6

6 pears

50-75g dark brown sugar (depending on how sweet your pears are)

for the crumble:

100g light brown sugar

100g plain flour

50g speculoos/biscoff cookies (or any other crunchy ginger or cinnamon cookie)

100g cold butter cut into cubes

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.

Butter an ovenproof dish.

Peel the pears, core them and cut them into cubes.

Add the dark brown sugar and mix until all the pear cubes are coated.

Put the mixture in the ovenproof dish and set aside.

Crush the cookies by putting them in a plastic freezer bag and bashing them with a rolling pin or the back of a wooden spoon. Small chunks amongst the crumbs are OK.

In a bowl, add the cookie crumbs, the light brown sugar, flour and butter. Use your finger tips to rub it all together until it resembles breadcrumbs. Again, some bigger chunks are OK.

Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the pears.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until the crumble is a golden brown colour.

Leave it to cool for a couple of minutes before serving.

Enjoy!

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