Iced Easter Speculaas Biscuits
These shortbread like Easter biscuits are an adapted version of the Dutch Speculaas biscuits, which are heavily spiced, flavoured with candied peel and traditionally eaten at the beginning of December. To give a fresher, more spring like taste, I substituted the candied mixed peel with fresh lemon zest, but kept all of those lovely spices to give a slightly lighter, but still just as delicious result.
Also, with all the extra time of for Easter, I decided to go to town with decorating the biscuits, using piping, runout icing, fondant and stencilling. These biscuits can be decorated in whatever way you like but I think a sense of humour and having a bit of fun is very important here – I even went as far as making the little gnomes from my banner in biscuit form.
100g or three and a half oz plain flour
teaspoon of cinnamon
half teaspoon ground ginger
half teaspoon nutmeg
half teaspoon baking powder
half teaspoon salt
50g or one and three quarter oz soft brown sugar
75g or two and three quarter oz cold unsalted butter
zest of half a lemon
dessert spoon of milk
Preheat the oven to 170°C (fan oven)/ 180°C/ gas mark 4 and line your baking tray with greaseproof paper
Sieve the dry ingredients into a large bowl to thoroughly mix them and then add the cold butter cut into small cubes. Rub in the butter using first two fingers and the pads of your thumbs until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs. Just using the tips of your fingers will keep the dough cold and the biscuits nice and crunchy.
Add the lemon zest and the milk and bring together the dough. At this point, you might want to chill the dough for five or ten minutes, as this will make it easier to roll out. I stuck mine in the freezer whilst I clearing up the work surface.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface, giving it regular quarter turns to prevent it from sticking, until half a centimetre thick. Now the creative bits start. How you cut the biscuits will obviously affect how you can decorate them so I like to give myself a lot of choice and use quite a few different cutters. If the shape of the biscuits is really important, for example if you are cutting the biscuits into animals, then you can chill the cut dough at this point to prevent the biscuits spreading when they bake.
Bake for twelve to sixteen minutes or until golden brown. The biscuits will still be slightly soft at this point, but carefully transfer to a wire rack and allow them to cool fully, which will harden them up. You need the biscuits to be completely cold before icing them.
For piping and runout icing, you’ll need royal icing, which I explained about in the post about brush embroidery. For my gnomes, I piped the outline and then used a different coloured runout icing to create a two tone effect, but this can also be created by piping and using a runout in the same colour to give an invisible edge, and then piping over in a different colour. Runout icing is essentially a more watered down version of royal icing. Whereas you want royal icing to hold soft peaks, runout icing should settle and any ribbons in it should disappear after ten seconds.
For the fondant icing and stencilling, I created a marbled effect by half mixing two colours of icing as well as creating a feathered effect by laying stripes of alternating colour of icing next to each other and pulling them up and down using the back of a paintbrush. The stencilling uses royal icing and you simply spread it over the stencil and then carefully lift it up to reveal the design. I’ve gone more into detail about stencilling in the post about making gum paste flowers.
You can decorate these biscuits in any way you like. You don’t even need to go overboard with decorating as I think the most successful decorating is always simple and with a sense of fun. Hope you enjoy these and Happy Easter.