06 January 2010

Spice Cake Stuffed with Almond Paste

Gevulde Speculaas
Speculaas (with title)
Chinese settlers have been in the Philippines since before the Spanish colonization, and as a result we've inherited a bit of the cuisine and ingredients (yum) and traditions (and for a certain percentage of the population, genes). Much of the latter has to do with superstition, of which I'm not a fan. Sometimes it's harmless things like having to eat noodles on your birthday, to less harmful things like following feng shui principles for your home to harmful things like firecrackers. However, new year's eve is when we witness nearly all of them in one night. It's apparently crept over to Filipino communities here in the States. I'm not even sure if all of these are based on Chinese superstition, but we would've done them proud in our ingenuity if it turns out they aren't.

1. Make noise (weapon of choice: coins in a can. Some people use an actual weapon, but casualties have forced the government to clamp down on this, not to say it doesn't still happen, sadly.)
2. Children must be jumping as high as they can to grow as tall as possible (I did this as a kid one year and I ended up on my face. That explains so much.)
3. All the doors must be open
4. There must be coins on all the windowsills
5. All your pockets must be full of coins
6. All your vehicles must be running
7. All your lights must be open (new year: brought to you by National Power Corporation, and Shell)
8. You must set off fireworks (we don't do this anymore, after a near-tragedy involving a foot.)
9. You must have 13 kinds of round fruits at home (new year: brought to you by Whole Foods)
10. You must wear dots (we don't do this anymore past 1990, because polka dots are hideous and useless. Instead we wear plaid (rectangles="bills") or red. This year I wore argyle ("diamonds").)

Add on top of that anything you still want to do at midnight, like kiss your loved ones, drink champagne, or eat. The bottom line is, of course, for prosperity in the coming year.

There are a bunch of things I do before something important, besides prepare like hell. If anyone sends me a message saying good luck or God bless or any encouragement, I keep it for the day. I choose a (er) particularly comfortable pair of underthings, but that's more for not being distracted by discomfort during a crucial time. There's prayer. A handkerchief given by someone dear. A pen that won't bleed. A good haircut (helps me think).

I've two interviews down and one to go. The match is in mid-March. I was going to say that I'll need spectacular luck to get it this time, but those who truly believe in themselves just know. So I know. :)
Speculaas (close)
This recipe is from the beautiful book Warm Bread and Honey Cake, which I just reviewed at The Gastronomer's Bookshelf (click to read).

Click here to view all my gingerbread posts!

Gevulde Speculaas adapted from Warm Bread and Honey Cake
The original recipe for this asked for 285g (10 ounces) of almond paste for the filling, but I found even 200g (7 ounces) very rich. The funny thing is that Pagrach-Chandra says she already reeled the filling amount in as she found the competition by local bakers to put as much filling in as little pastry as possible unnecessary. For me, it's obscene to overpower gingerbread in any way!
Spice Mixture
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
(the book uses 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon aniseed, 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, and 1/8 teaspoon mace)

  • 250g (1-2/3 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 200g (1 cup packed) dark brown sugar
  • 170g (1-1/2 sticks or 3/4 cup) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1 large egg, well beaten
  • 200g (7 ounces) coarse almond paste
  • about 1/2-3/4 of a beaten egg (reserve the rest for the glaze)

Sift the spice mixture, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar together into a large bowl. Toss the butter cubes in this and use your fingers or a pastry blender to rub the flour into the butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs (alternatively you could pulse this in a food processor). Add the beaten egg and knead for a minute or two, until homogeneous (the dough will be very soft; don't be discouraged). Shape into a ball, then wrap in cling film and chill for 1 hour or up to overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F). Prepare a 23-cm (9 inch) round cake (or springform) pan by spraying and lining the bottom with parchment.

In a medium bowl, mix the almond paste with enough beaten egg to make a soft, spreadable paste. Take the dough out of the chill and divide into 2 pieces, one being roughly 1/3 the dough mass. Roll the bigger part into a 28-cm (11 inch) circle between two pieces of parchment or cling film and transfer the dough (without the film/paper of course) to the lined pan, with the excess dough clinging to the pan's sides. Spread the almond paste mixture over this evenly and fold the excess dough over the top of the paste. Roll out the smaller dough part into a 21.5-cm (8.5 inch) circle. Trim the edges so they're fairly neat. Moisten the folded edge of the dough in the pan with water and lay the second dough circle over this, pressing the edges a bit to seal. Brush the top with the remaining beaten egg (from the almond paste) and prick with a fork in several places.

Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cool 15 minutes in the pan, then carefully transfer to a serving plate. If you've used a round cake pan, a second paper plate or tart pan bottom can support the whole cake when you invert it (instead of your hand) so it doesn't fall apart.

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