If you haven’t eaten them, I’d bet you’ve at least seen them in the grocery store. You’ve probably passed a box labeled “Windmill Cookies,” wondered what on earth a windmill cookie might be, and hurried quickly on. The content of this mysterious box is, I’ll have you know, [America’s attempt at recreating] one of the most popular cookies in The Netherlands, the speculaas.
I too had occasionally thrown quizzical glances at the windmill cookie, but I became intimately familiar with them when I studied abroad in the Netherlands last spring. These cookies are traditionally eaten around Sinterklaas Day (December 5), an official Dutch holiday that celebrates the birthday of real-life Saint Nicholas, a 14th century saint known for his generous and sneaky gift-giving skills–he’s the guy Santa Claus is modeled after. The cookies have become so popular over time that they are now eaten year-round in the Netherlands. Grocery store shelves are stocked with countless different brands and shapes, McDonald’s serves up a Speculaas McFlurry in the winter, speculaas spread is almost as popular as Nutella.
There’s a reason these morsels have become so popular. A simple, yet deeply spiced cookie is a perfect anytime treat–I like it best with a cup of tea. This recipe, adapted from Saveur, would be sure to bring a smile to Saint Nicholas’s face.
A hand-carved cookie mold, like these.
3 cups flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
12 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup milk
1. In a bowl, whisk together flour, spices, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a mixer, beat together butter and sugar. Add half the flour mixture; mix. Add milk and remaining flour mixture; mix. Form into 2 disks. Chill, covered, for 2 hours.
2. Heat oven to 350°. Working with 1 disk at a time, break off chunks and press into a floured speculaas mold; scrape away excess dough and invert mold to free dough. Brush away flour from mold. Transfer imprinted dough pieces to parchment paper-lined baking sheets, spacing pieces 2″ apart. Bake until golden brown, 16–18 minutes. Let cool.