Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year
When Gretchen, our most gracious Kitchen of the Month, put up the bread for December, I thought everything in the universe has lined up perfectly. Not only did I have six pounds of Granny Smith baking apples on my counter, I had also just mixed up a fresh batch of Speculaas Dutch Spice Mix and I was still deeply interested in all things apple even though I had just baked three different recipes for Deep Dish Apple Pie.
What you ask is Speculass/Speculoss? If you know or read much about the Netherlands or Dutch, you realize how deeply seeped in spices their history and hence their cooking/baking has become.
There are several interpretations for the origins of the name Speculoos. It may derive from Latin speculum, which means mirror, and refer to the fact that the images are cut as a mirrored bas-relief into a wooden stamp which is then used to decorate the Speculoos. Another explanation of the name refers to the Latin word speculator which, among other meanings, could also refer to a bishop or St Nicholas’ epithet “he who sees everything”. Specerij the Dutch word for spice is another possible origin.
In the United States, New Zealand and Australia, speculoos are often sold as Dutch Windmill cookies or Biscoff cookies. from Wikipedia.
This is the recipe I used for my Speculoos:
Speculaaskruiden (Dutch Spice Mix) adapted from About.com Dutch Food
4 tsp [20 ml] ground cinnamon
1 tsp [5 ml] ground cloves
1 tsp [5 ml] ground mace
½ tsp [2.5 ml] ground ginger
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] white pepper
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] ground cardamom
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] ground coriander seeds
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] ground anise seeds
¼ tsp [1.25 ml] grated nutmeg
Gretchen raised the question of what is a Kuchen and her call on this recipe was it was closest to a Pie Kuchen having a thick cake like crust with apple pie filling and a sweet white icing. I found that to be an excellent description of how this bakes. I would also say that if you love pie but the crust is a difficulty for you, this “bread” could be the best pie recipe you’ve ever come across. I could say that I have a hard time calling this bread because of that but then I do subscribe to the idea that “bread” is about yeast and this uses yeast. Is it cake? or bread or pie? I say it is all of those and goes beautifully with a rich cup of coffee for breakfast, tea in the afternoon and dessert for dinner. Call it cake, bread, pie or all of those, whatever you call it, it’s just lovely and lovely enough for any holiday event.
What follows is Gretchen’s recipe with my modifications.
Holiday Apple Kuchen
Recipe found by Gretchen in Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Baking 2009 Magazine
2 1/4 cups flour, divided + 4 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 package active dry yeast
150 ml butter milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
9 cups apple slices (about 4 medium baking apples)
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon quick cooking tapioca
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoon speculoss
Crumb Topping (Make this first)
1/2 cup flour + 1/4 c oat bran
1/2 cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
Cream Cheese Topper
1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
2/3 whipping cream
2/3 cup powdered sugar
1. 1. Grease a 13x9x2 baking pan; set aside. In a large bowl, combine 1 cup of the flour and the yeast; set aside.
2. In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk, granulated sugar, butter and salt just until mixture is warm (120F-130F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture and eggs to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of the bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 2 minutes or until smooth. Beat in as much of the remaining flour as you can without the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour to make a stiff batter.
3. Spread batter into the prepared baking pan. In another large bowl, combine apples, brown sugar, tapioca, lemon juice and apple pie spice. Place apple mixture on top of the batter. Sprinkle with Crumb Topping. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
4. Bake in a preheated 375F oven for 30 minutes or until top is browned and apples are tender. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cut into 12 pieces and serve warm or at room temperature with a dollop of Cream Cheese Topper on each piece.
5. Crumb Topping: 1/2 cup flour 1/2 cup brown sugar 3 tablespoons butter
6. 1. In a medium bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs – I just used my fingers. Set aside. (I may have added extra brown sugar, I may have used 4 tablespoons butter … now why would I do that … hehehe)
I always used to wonder who ever uses a shower cap, I always wash my hair in the shower. Then one day I had the idea that a shower cap is a plastic film just right for covering rising dough in a bowl, a loaf pan or a baking dish.
Now that my dear reader is what I call brilliant.
7. Cream Cheese Topper: 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened 2/3 whipping cream 2/3 cup powdered sugar, oh and I think there was a splash of Calvados (Apple brandy. Why? You can ask why? Because it was sitting on the counter. Why? You sound like a four year old. Because I put it there! Because it needed to be used. Now no more questions please.)
8. 1. In a small bowl, beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Beat in whipping cream and powdered sugar. Really I just whipped it because I set it all out when I started and it was nice and soft.
I think you will find the perfect time and place to share this with friends, family or just all by yourself in a quiet moment. Enjoy.
Can’t believe I forgot to put a few cranberries in with the apples, next time. At least I did think to pretty it up with some pomegranate seeds … just forgot to snap a photo of that. Very nice.
You’d like to be a Buddy with us this month! Oh, we’d be so delighted (and you will be when this comes out of the oven). Here’s how:
1.Bake the Apple Kuchen, snap a pic & share your thoughts about how you liked it (or not liked it).
2.Send an email to Kitchen of the Month. Please note in the subject line that this is for the BBB Buddy Bread.
Gretchen, Kitchen of the Month
Don’t forget to visit my fellow Bread Baking Babes to see how they baked and also… visit our Katie! She is the BBBBB (Bitchin’ Bread Baking Babe Bibliothécaire) who writes up such lovely round ups of all the BBB Breads every month!
This Bread and all it’s iterations goes to Susan for YeastSpotting!
Next bread for the BBB’s will post on the 16th of next month.