Uff Da – that’s American Scandinavian for Oh Gee, Oh My, or maybe I’m Overwhelmed. It’s been a haul of a week – too many projects to cram into the days and a studio move thrown in. And Sarah’s in QLD so I can’t entreat her to cook me dinner. So I have been eating miso soup and rice and baking cookies instead. There is a large Scandinavian population in Wisconsin in the Midwest of America. The Scandinavian farmers have leggy, blond daughters, eat lutefisk and traipse through the snow.
When Sarah and I were in Wisconsin and Minnesota at the start of the year, our dear friend Colin, who is half Aussie half ‘merican showed us around his postage stamp sized town as well as giving us personalised tours of Minneapolis. We ate late night egg rolls and mock duck at the ridiculously cheap Vietnamese. African across the river in St Paul. We ate hotdogs at dive bars and tried all the delicious Wisconsin micro brewed beers. We crisscrossed the border between the two states as the snow fell and the lakes froze around the edges.
In Minneapolis there is a beautiful Scandinavian grocer and home-wares shop. We brushed snow from our jackets at the door. There were so many pretty things. Sarah and I purchased little wooden Christmas decorations and a collection of beautiful ceramic cookie stamps: an anchor, a toy horse, leaves, and acorns. Back home now we press these pretty patterns into soft gingery cookies. As I bite into the pretty patterns I remember the frozen shorelines, icy streets and the flat expanse of white out farms.
(I snapped an iPhone photo of this recipe from a magazine in LAX airport in December. Forgive me for not having the name of the magazine. I was in a post 16 hour flight delirium.)
3 ½ cups plain flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
¾ tsp ground cardamom
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp freshly ground white pepper
pinch of ground cloves
¾ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup water
Pre heat an oven to a very low heat 130-150C.
Whisk to combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices in a bowl. In a separate bowl beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in half of the flour mixture until combined. Beat in the water, then the remaining flour mixture until thoroughly combined. Divide into thirds, wrap in cling-wrap and chill for at least an hour.
Now, the shaping and molding of the cookies will depend on what type of stamp you have. We have the ceramic stamps that are simply pressed into the cookie, but traditionally Speculaas are made in pretty wooden molds. To make with the ceramic stamps I like to roll the dough into snakes with a stamp sized circumference, then slice the snakes thinly, to make dainty circles, then stamp. Our stamps need to be oiled with a brush between each stamp. Once you have stamped or molded your cookies place on a lined baking tray and refrigerate again for at least half an hour. This will keep the design in place, otherwise it may melt away in the oven.
Bake for 45 minutes. The cookies should be crisp on the outside, but with a soft ‘chew’ to them. The kitchen will be filled with a beautiful mid winter spices scent as they bake.