Belgian Spice-Almond Cookies (Speculoos)

Another advantage of weighing dry ingredients, particularly flour is that one recipe writer will consider 1 cup to be equal to 4.5 ounces. Whereas, another writer will decide that 1 cup of flour equals 5 ounces. However, if you weigh the flour it will always be the same amount regardless of how many measuring cups you use.

In my recipes 1 cup of flour equals 4.5 ounces using the spoon and sweep method (using a whisk fluff the flour in your flour bin, spoon flour into a dry measuring cup to overflowing and sweep off the excess with a bench scraper or the back of a flat edged knife).

The same is true when measuring sugar* if you weigh the sugar, 6 ounces will always be 6 ounces. Get yourself a scale and start weighing ingredients instead of using measuring cups!

David Schmit Photography

1 2/3 cups (7.5 oz/215 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour
½ cup (2 oz/55 g) almond flour
5 teaspoons (10 g) ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cardamom 
¼ teaspoon ground cloves 
¼ teaspoon baking soda 
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt 
¾ cup (6 oz/170 g) turbinado sugar*, Belgian candi sugar, or 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
8 tablespoons (4 oz/113 g) unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces and chilled
1 large egg, beaten
¼ cup sliced almonds (preferably blanched)

Using a sharpie and a ruler, draw 10 x 12-inch rectangle in the center of each of 2 large sheets of parchment paper, crisscrossing lines at the corners to use as a guide when rolling out dough. Set sieve over medium bowl and sift together the flours, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

If using turbinado sugar, process in food processor for 30 seconds (the end result grain size may be different than granulated sugar, and that’s okay). If turbinado sugar is not available, use light brown sugar, and skip the sugar grinding step. Add butter pieces and process until a uniform mass forms and no large pieces of butter are visible, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add egg and process until smooth and paste-like, about 10 seconds, again scraping down sides of bowl as needed.

Add sifted flour mixture and process until no dry flour remains but mixture remains crumbly, about 30 seconds, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Tip out dough onto a smooth surface and using the palm of your hand, smear the dough away from you, then gather it back with a bench knife. (This is a french baking technique called fraisage.)

Place 1 piece of parchment paper on counter with sharpie side lines facing down. Place dough in center of marked rectangle and press into 6 by 9-inch rectangle. Place second sheet of parchment paper over dough, with sharpie side lines facing up, so dough is in center of marked rectangle. Using the marks as a guide, use rolling pin and bench scraper to shape dough to the 10 x 12-inch rectangle of even thickness.

Remove the top piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle sliced almonds evenly over the dough. Replace parchment paper and gently roll the almond slices to press into the dough. Transfer dough with the parchment paper to a rimmed baking sheet. Refrigerate until dough is firm, at least 1½ hours (or freeze for about 15 minutes). Rolled out dough can also be wrapped in plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 5 days.

Transfer chilled dough to counter. Gently peel off top layer of parchment from dough. Using fluted pastry wheel (or sharp knife or pizza cutter) and ruler, trim off any rounded edges of dough that may have extended over the marked edges of the 10 x 12-inch rectangle. Cut dough lengthwise into 8 equal strips about 1¼ inches wide. Cut each strip crosswise into 4 equal pieces about 3 inches long. Return dough to the refrigerator or freezer (for another 15 minutes or so).

When ready to bake off, adjust oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 300 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats (or even better, perforated silpats).

Using an off-set spatula, transfer the chilled cookie dough to prepared sheetpans, spacing them at least ½ inch apart. Bake until cookies are lightly and evenly browned, 20 to 25 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking. Let cookies cool completely on the sheetpan, about 20 minutes. Cookies can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 weeks.

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