It was many years ago that the airlines began to cut expenses by  throwing their bored passengers only a small bag of peanuts or pretzels to tame their hunger.  But, once on a Delta flight I got a different type of snack. Ripping open the package I found two small cookies inside, and told Phil:  “We don’t even deserve pretzels anymore, look at these tiny cookies”!   But, with the first bite I fell madly in love!  Delta, whenever possible, became my airline of choice, and I stepped inside the plane  with one goal in mind: charm the stewardess into giving me two packages. Maybe three… 😉

I kept my passion for these cookies a secret, thinking that professing love for airline cookies would be similar to admitting a weakness for Velveeta (don’t ask, I won’t tell).  But one day, I posed a discreet question in a cooking forum trying to find out more about them.  All clouds dissipated in the horizon: those are speculaas, very special cookies that originated in Europe centuries ago.  Many versions exist, sharing in common a mixture of spices, brown sugar, and butter.  Traditionally, they have beautiful, complex designs on the surface, requiring special molds to shape them.  I used ceramic molds (highlighted here)that were a bit more affordable than the real McCoy.  As to the recipe,  my friend Gary shared the method he learned in culinary school.   The teacher, chef  Gabriel, gave me permission to publish his very own recipe, so you can fall in love with these cookies right in your own kitchen, in the safety of firm ground!   Isn’t that awesome?

(Recipe courtesy of  Chef Jeffrey Gabriel
Schoolcraft College)

8 oz butter at room temperature
11 oz brown sugar
1 + 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 + 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs milk
13 oz flour
2 oz almonds, finely chopped in a food processor.

Place the butter and the brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth (about 3 minutes).  Add the spices, egg yolks, and milk.  Continue beating until it is all well blended.

In a separate bowl, mix the flour with the ground almonds, add them to the butter mixture and mix on low speed until a dough forms.  Chill the dough for at least one hour, preferably overnight (easier to work with next day).

If rolling the dough,  remove from the fridge and work on a floured, cool surface.  Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thick, cut in the shape you want, and bake.  If using a mold, pull small amounts of dough, press into the slightly floured mold, and delicately remove it, placing the cookie with the design up on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake the cookies in a 350F oven until golden brown.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  I will not lie to you.  Working with these molds requires patience. I can see that with a lot of practice, it could be a soothing, relaxing activity. Not much Zen was happening in our kitchen, though.  Gary recommended  this book  to speed the learning process, and I have it on my wish list at   All reviews are stellar.   But, if you don’t have a mold, don’t let it prevent you from making speculaas.  They may become your favorite type of cookie, perfect for this time of the year, when we all need the warmth of cinnamon, the nice heat of cloves and nutmeg, the sweetness of sugar and molasses.

Note added after publishing:  for a great take on speculas, jump here to see Celia’s version, that includes thinly sliced almonds. From what I’ve been reading, that type of recipe is common in Belgium.  Check it out!

ONE YEAR AGO: The Unbearable Lightness of Baking

TWO YEARS AGO: Pain a l’Ancienne

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35 thoughts on “LOVE AT 30,000 FEET

  1. Sally, I make these too! My friend Maureen has come up with a wonderful recipe. I make it into long logs and freeze them, then slice them and bake as needed. The recipe is on my blog if you feel like comparing – M’s recipe has ground anise in it, which I love, but Pete doesn’t… xxx


  2. Oooh…I love hearing about special, unique recipes! I’m putting this on my list to try and also seek out those cookie stamps!! I immediately was thinking that this would be a time consuming process and smiled when I read your last comments!! You never know what kind of food you’ll find at those hidden restaurants….and airplanes!!


  3. Have you ever used the springerle rolling pin? I wonder if it is easier to use than the mold….I bought one years ago at an estate sale but never used it…maybe I ought to give it a try with your recipe!


    • I saw those for sale – terribly expensive, you should go and kiss the one you have, caress it a little and tell it you love him (her?) 🙂

      not sure if they are easier or harder, I think until you do it a few times both methods might be tricky. Let me know if you use it, ok?


  4. Sally I just made the dough and will give this german made rolling pin a try tomorow. Can I send you a picture somehow? (if they are worthy that is…) 😉


  5. So I yelled over to my wife, “Honey, I’m gonna make you speculaas!”


    So instead I’ve decided to make your Bolo de Fuba instead. I think it will go over better.

    But I have a question: what grind cornmeal did you use? I have course grind, corn flour, and everything in between.

    Thanks Sally! (And those really do look like good stirrup cookies.)


    • You’ve got a vivid imagination…🙂

      had to show your reply to Phil so I could understand where you were coming from… you know, these non-native speakers can be a bit dense!

      back to cornmeal – use a “middle of the road” type – definitely not corn flour, but if you have a fine cornmeal it will work wonders.

      lemme know how your dear wife likes it – I mean, the bolo de fuba, of course! 😉


    • Deal! But, you will have to promise not to direct derogatory terms to me while you work on the cookies, ok? If you have enough self control to fulfill this simple request, I’d say GO FOR IT! 😉


    • But you definitely should! You may remember from my exchanges at the forum, that I have a legendary bad luck with the post office? Well, believe it or not, after searching for a long time for a nice deal on ebay, I found a stamp made of wood, with a nice pattern, and bought it. Can you believe that it arrived broken? I got a full refund, but still…

      the ceramic molds were affordable and nice enough to play with, but these cookies are so delicious, if you just roll them, cut them with a cookie cutter or even just free form, they will still be amazing! No sense buying molds just for this


  6. Pingback: Christmas Gifts for Friends

    • I spent quite a lot of time mesmerized at the different molds available – some people collect those things and they DO cost a small fortune. Authentic ones are handmade, real works of art! Of course, I have no idea how anyone would be able to peel the cookies off of those, but… maybe it comes with time


  7. And there’s those adorable cookie molds! I just love those. These cookies sound heavenly – there’s not a single ingredient that I don’t love. I imagine that these would be a bit dangerous in my house.😉


  8. I have been in love with these cookies for years, but ironically have never made them. Always buy them at Christmas. And I NEVER buy cookies! You have inspired me to try them this year. Thanks Sally.



  9. Okay Sally…the verdict…the Springerle rolling pin was too much of a challenge..I think I will order that book you mentioned above as there was a section on this rolling pin. I tried 3 times rolling and it just wasn’t rignt so I rolled in a log and cut and oh my!!! What a decadent breakfast I just had😉 THanks for the recipe but my mision is to master this rolling pin! lol


    • I suspected it would be a bit tricky… those things make me nervous just to look at them! I guess that’s why people go to culinary school after all!

      thanks for letting me know how it went, I’m glad that at least you managed to enjoy them in a “roll and cut” type of approach! Now I am craving some…


    • They would be nice small gifts for sure, inside cute plastic bags, with nice labels, and a beautiful ribbons… I’ve never been too good at pulling this sort of stuff, but admire those who do. I was born with two left hands, and they don’t always get along nicely (sigh)


  10. I have seen someone on an american site who makes these moulds – I looked at them quite recently mmmm… hang on… i will go and have a look and see if I bookmarked them…. how about these? My stepmother who is part dutch has old ones hanging in her kitchen but I don’t recall her baking with them, I think she keeps them as decoration. My friend Andrew at the Loaf Bakery made special cookies for a Cathedral with a specially comissioned mould. Lovely story about it here

    At this point I confess I have never EVER made them… but I think about making them xx


    • Yes, that’s the site I was flirting with for a long time… I could not bring myself to buy them, knowing how much trouble they would represent… but it’s all so gorgeous!

      I’ll check the other link right away for the Cathedral mold


  11. Ha-ha, airline cookies, I love it! (and I’m quite sure we all have our hidden food passions….). I don’t think I’ve ever had airline cookies before… must be flying on the wrong wings! These look great – the moulds are so fun and I really like the use of almond in the batter (along with all those wonderful spices… mmmm….). Very fun post Sally!


  12. Pingback: JUMPING ON THE BISCOFF BANDWAGON | Bewitching Kitchen

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