The recent, extended period of warm, wet and humid weather has made a lie of the calendar. It really is Fall though, and soon it will hopefully start to feel like Fall. The days are already growing shorter and the trees are slowly yielding their green canopies for the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows that we in New England expect from Autumn. For bakers there is no better time than Fall. Actually going to bed early after the sun has gone down makes us feel like we aren't really missing out on something. And the cool, dry weather is especially great for baking all yeasted products. All the work is good and being productive in the kitchen doesn't drain our energy. The kitchen is once again a pleasant, humane environment, the oppressive heat and humidity of the Summer a fading memory.
Fall is also a precursor to the coming holiday season, and nothing characterizes that more than the introduction of spices into our baking program. Today we started making two spicy Fall products that will be familiar to many of our regular customers.
The first are Spekulatius Leaves. We use our own maple and oak leaf cookie cutters, created by bending tin metal bands around the shape of found leaves. The dough we use for these cookies is a Spekulatius dough, a plain version and a chocolate version; it is a thin shortcrust dough made with butter, brown sugar, almond flour, eggs, milk and spices (cardamon, cloves and nutmeg.) The chocolate dough uses cocoa powder. There is no leavening used in our version of this traditional cookie. The cookies are baked on a bed of sliced almonds, which lends an interesting and signature character to the bottom of each cookie.
Spekulatius cookies are traditionally found in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. In the Netherlands they are called Speculaas, in Germany they are called Speculatius and even in France they are called spéculoos. In the USA we associate the flavor, texture and the shape of this cookie with the ubiquitous Dutch Windmill Cookie. Mostly baked in Europe from St. Nicholas Day (December 5th) until the end of the holiday season, Spekulatius cookies have become so popular that they are available now in some places year round. Usually Spekulatius cookies are imprinted with a design, mostly of people, but also of buildings such as farmhouses or windmills. For our Fall cookies we leave the imprinting aside and let the leaves' shape convey the message. Later, during the Christmas season, we make the imprinted version of Spekulatius. The use of hand-carved, wooden molds to achieve the imprinted result is a fascinating process, one that we will blog about as the season progresses. So stay tuned for that and for photos of the unique wooden molds we use.
Our second spicy product is familiar to many-the Hermit Cookie.
I have no idea of the origin of this bar cookie, but it shares some of the textures and spicy flavors of German or Swiss Lebkuchen. It is a decidedly American invention, but probably one that was conceived by European immigrants using the local ingredients available to them to recreate a favorite baked good from the old country. These cakey bars are moist and chewy, rich in flavor and spicy sweetness. We use unbleached, all-purpose flour, sugar, molasses, baking soda, salt, eggs, butter, margarine, raisins and almonds. Our choice of spices for this version of the Hermit is allspice and cinnamon.
Baked in long bars, they are cut into single serving portions immediately after baking.
Come in and get them while they last. Each serving is large enough to share.