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The Dutch are very good at biscuits and pastries. And one of their specialities is called speculaas – this is often translated as gingerbread into English, but it’s more of a biscuit that gingerbread generally is. One of the features of speculaas is the very detailed shapes that are imprinted in the biscuit. And this is made by using a speculaas plank – rather than a cookie cutter you have a board with an indentation which you push the biscuit dough into and then peel out to bake. You need to oil the plank before use, and keep it floured as you use it, so that the dough doesn’t stick in it.

We have got a simple one, which I have tried to use. The thing is that in order to get the detail of the pattern to stay while you bake it you need to make a really stiff dough. As otherwise the pattern is lost. And I haven’t got it quite right yet. When I’ve tried it they taste nice, but are missing the detail of the pattern. I will have to try again!

Another thing about speculaas is that you can buy it as a paste (called speculoos in Dutch). It is literally the biscuits mushed up, probably with some oil or something added to make it smoother. The children love it on toast for breakfast, as do I. It is sold in the UK as ‘Caramelised Biscuit Paste’, which sounds much less appealing but do try it if you see it and haven’t tasted it!

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