A bit over a month ago, on a busy Friday straight after work, I took the train and bus to go to the airport. With just some time to eat a pretty bad and soggy sandwich at the airport, I made it in time for my flight to the Netherlands. Landing in Amsterdam was quite a strange and exciting feeling; this was the first time in exactly a year I came back to my home country. I like the airport in Amsterdam, even though I am generally not a fan of airports, but I left it quickly to go to Utrecht and meet up with my friend. When I finally arrived, starving after the trip and the bad sandwich, it was time for some glasses of red wine and “bitterballen”, which are amazing, small, meat-based, deep-fried snacks. My friend promised me we would have some more typical Dutch specialties later, which I was craving after a year.
The next day was one of those typical late autumn, early winter days in the Netherlands. It wasn´t really foggy, but the clouds were low enough to block the view on the main church tower. There was this slight drizzle the entire day that doesn´t exactly make you wet, but does make you feel cold through and through. At the same time, this gloomy weather combined with the traditional architecture made for a perfect setting for the Christmas decorations. And of course a great time for drinking a glühwein on the small Christmas market to warm up again. Fortunately, warming up was not such a problem since all houses have central heating. This made for a nice change from Spain where houses can be quite chilly inside in winter. On one of our pit stops we had a coffee in a small café in one of the old buildings with a view on the canal that goes through the city, and on all the people doing their Christmas shopping. Of course I could not resist trying a Dutch classic, “gevulde speculaas”. It´s a soft type of biscuit with special spices, with almond paste in the middle and shaved almonds on top. Delicious and comforting! Later on, strolling through the city, there were some other types of Dutch food. One of my favourite things to eat again after quite some years were the “oliebollen”, a pastry that is special for New Year and that consists of balls of deep-fried dough, optionally containing raisins, and served with icing sugar. Basically a Dutch version of the donut. Probably not healthy, but very satisfying. And surely I could not resist buying some of the typical Dutch Christmas chocolates to take home.
So all in all, this recipe is to celebrate those chilly winter days in my home country, when you need some comforting food to keep you warm. Since most of the typical food I had this time was sweet, it had to be a sweet recipe.
Chocolate mousse with speculaas cookies
This recipe for chocolate mousse is very simple and delicious, but it does contain raw eggs. So don´t try to make it far in advance, it doesn´t keep very long.
For the “speculaas” spices, if you can get them readily combined it is the easiest. If not, you can mix the spices yourself.
Ingredients (for 6 portions)
For the chocolate mousse:
- 200 grams of chocolate – a type with at least 55% cacao, but don´t take one that is too strong
- 6 eggs
- A pinch of salt
- 75 grams of almonds, unsalted and without skin
- 70 grams of sugar
- 1 egg white
- 2 oranges
- 2 heaped teaspoons of “speculaas” spices:
- 8 parts cinnamon
- 2 parts nutmeg
- 2 parts cloves
- 1 part ginger powder
- 1 part cardamom
- 1 part coriander seeds
First of all, make the chocolate mousse because this needs to sit in the fridge for a few hours. Separate the egg yolks from the whites. Place the egg whites in a large bowl and whisk them until they are stiff and you can turn the bowl around without the egg whites falling down. In the middle of the process, add a pinch of salt. I would advise using an electric mixer if you have one. If not, it´s a good training for your arms.
Break the chocolate in pieces and add them with a few drops of water to a wide pot. Place the pot over a very low fire, as low as possible, and let the chocolate melt while you keep stirring. The melted chocolate should be beautifully shiny. In case you are afraid of letting the chocolate split, you can melt it over a double boiler (au bain marie) as well. Once the chocolate has completely melted, add the egg yolks one by one and stir them through. After adding the yolks, you can add the whipped egg whites. Be very careful when you mix the chocolate mixture with the egg whites to not stir too much, otherwise you risk taking the air out of the mixture. So carefully fold the whites through until it is well mixed. Pour this mixture into six glasses. Cover with some plastic foil, and place them in the fridge for at least around 4 hours to stiffen up.
Next up are the cookies. First of all, pre-heat the oven to 190°C and cover a baking tray with baking paper. Then there are the spices. The easiest is if you can buy such a spice mixture already mixed. But if not, you can use the spices in the ingredient list to create your own spice mixture. You can make as much as you like, sticking more or less to the ratios mentioned. Just make sure that the spices are all finely ground, and mix them well.
When you have the spices ready, add the almonds and the sugar to a blender. Blend this until the almonds are a fine powder. Add the egg white to the almonds and sugar and blend all together until it is a smooth, sticky batter. Then mix the speculaas spices in as well. Scoop the batter in a piping bag, and divide in long stripes over the baking tray. If you don´t have a piping bag, the easiest way is to use a normal small plastic bag. Fill it with the batter and just cut off the tip of the bag to be able to pipe. This is what I always use, it´s maybe not as easy as with a real piping bag but it still does the trick! Place the cookies in the oven for 10 minutes and let them cool down.
Just before you want to serve the mousse, take the skin off the oranges with a sharp knife. Cut off the top and the bottom of the oranges and then follow the skin with your knife from the top to the bottom. Make sure there is no white of the skin left on the fruits. Use your knife again to cut the parts of the oranges from in between the thin membranes that separate the parts.
Take the mousse out of the fridge and divide the slices of orange over the mousse. Place a cookie on top, and enjoy!