"Traditionally enjoyed in the Netherlands and Belgium on the 5th December as a festive sweet, these spiced cookies pair well with the richness of the cheese and acidity of the berries," says Luke Burgess. "You can use a top-quality full-fat ricotta instead of making the cheese and pair other fruits such as peach or plums." Makes 12 biscuits.
- 300 gm blackberries
- 1 litre (4 cups) unhomogenised milk (see note)
- 150 ml pouring cream
- ½ tsp vegetarian rennet (see note)
- 2 tsp filtered or mineral water
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp each ground nutmeg and ground cloves
- ½ tsp each freshly ground white pepper, ground ginger and ground cardamom
- 125 gm (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened
- 250 gm dark brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
- 1 large egg
- 260 gm plain flour
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1For fresh cheese, place milk, cream and 2 tsp fine sea salt in a very clean saucepan and gently warm, stirring continuously, over medium heat to 85C (10-15 minutes). Remove from heat and stand saucepan in a bowl of cold water, changing water a few times to keep it cool, until mixture reaches 35C (45 minutes to 1 hour). The milk will form a skin; don’t remove it. Add rennet to the filtered water and gently stir into the milk for 5 seconds, then stand at room temperature without stirring until coagulated (30-40 minutes). Cut curds into 5cm cubes and gently ladle into a sieve (or cheese-straining basket) lined with muslin. Refrigerate until cheese forms a soft curd (5 hours or overnight). Discard whey.
- 2For speculaas spice, combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
- 3For speculaas dough, beat butter, sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer until light and fluffy (3-4 minutes). Add egg and beat well to combine. Sieve flour and bicarbonate soda into a bowl, add 1¼ tbsp spice mixture and ½ tsp salt and whisk to combine (you may have a little spice mixture remaining). Gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture and mix until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Halve dough and roll each piece between 2 sheets of baking paper to about 25cm x 35cm, then refrigerate to chill (4 hours).
- 4Preheat oven to 175C and line 3 large oven trays with baking paper. Remove baking paper from dough sheets and cut out rounds with a 10cm-diameter cookie cutter and place 4 on each tray with 4cm space between them to allow for spreading and bake until dark golden brown (10-12 minutes). Cool completely on trays (20-30 minutes), then store in an airtight container. Speculaas will keep in an airtight container for 14 days.
- 5To serve, spread curd on biscuits, top with blackberries and sprinkle with sea salt crystals.
Note Luke Burgess recommends Country Valley or Barambah unhomogenised milk for a good curd set. Vegetarian rennet is available from select health food shops and online cheesemaking equipment suppliers such as greenlivingaustralia.com.au.