Michigan Windmill Cookies

My niece and I made these cookies in a Zingerman’s Bakehouse Detroit Classics class back in June. We used a windmill cookie cutter instead of a speculaas mold (see pictures below). I have provided instructions for making molded cookies or using cookie cutters. First a little history…

Back in 1926 the Steenstra family immigrated to the US bringing this family recipe for making Dutch Windmill Cookies. Β In 1947 the Steenstra’s opened a bakery in the now city of Wyoming, Michigan. They made cookies until it burned down in 1988. This tragedy did force them to move to the neighboring Dutch community of Hudsonville. Michigan has a very large population of Dutch immigrants living mainly in the western part of the state.

Also, Gene was the President and CEO of a Dutch-owned company here in Michigan, so there was a lot of fun traveling to the Netherlands for a number of years πŸ™‚

The cookie cutter die used for shaping the cookies goes back to the early 1900’s and shows five different shapes telling the legend of St. Nicholas. The shapes are; St. Nick on his horse, a windmill where he lived, a rooster that would wake him up, an owl that made him wise and a boy and girl that benefited from St. Nick’s cookie treats. These are called Ductch Speculaas (Spekulatius) cookies. These famous cookies are still being made today.

Treat yourself to something special with these delicious spicy cookies. This is a cookie to make year round! Below are the cookies, long john coffee cake (I have yet to make and post) and Detroit Pizza that we made in class. Β Go here for the pizza recipe.

I am sharing these crispy, spicy cookies with Angie, Elaine and Jhuls. A little bit of Michigan coming your way…

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Michigan Windmill Cookies

  • 1 cup butter, softened; .50 lbs., 227 g.
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1-1/2 cups brown sugar; .75 lbs., 341 g.
  • 2-3/4 cups flour; .82 lbs., 372 g.
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup almonds, sliced; .09 lbs., 41. g (I cut them into smaller pieces)

Preheat the oven to 350Β°F 30 minutes before baking. The dough can be made in your Kitchen Aid mixer on 3 or 4 setting if desired. In a bowl, beat the butter until soft; add the egg and mix until egg is partially combined, just about 10 seconds. Add the brown sugar to the butter mixture and beat until well combined. Break up any clumps of brown sugar.

In a separate container combine all of the dry ingredients and the sliced almonds. Add these ingredients to the butter mixture and stir until a firm dough starts to form. Gently knead the dough until the dry ingredients are incorporated and the dough starts to hold together.

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic, pressing into a 1/2-inch thick disk. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before making cookies.

We used a cookie cutter for half of the dough in class and I also used a cookie cutter to make more cookies at home. The following are the directions for cutting the cookies. See below for molding instructions for speculaas wood molds.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and while still in the plastic wrap, tap it firmly across the surface with a rolling pin until it is pliable yet still chilled.

Unwrap half of the dough and place it on a floured surface and flour the top lightly.Roll the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, with a 14-inch diameter. Turn the dough to ensure even rolling. With your desired cookie cutter, cut shapes and place on a sheet. Reroll the scraps and cut out more.

Chill the cookies for 10 minutes before baking. Β This will help the cookies to keep their shape while baking.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until slightly browned around the edges. Allow to cool completely.

The dough can be frozen for up to 6 months. The baked cookies will keep for up to 2 weeks in a covered container.

Recipe by cookingwithauntjuju.comΒ 

We got to take home half of the cookie dough and I made some simple ones using a round cutter.

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I have since made another batch (the dough will keep for up to 6 months). You can see how important it is to chill the cookies before you bake them. We did not do that in the class and the cookies lost their shape. I also used light brown sugar instead of dark with the cookies below and you can see the difference in color. There is also less of a molasses flavor but not much.

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I have a few wooden molds which are hand-carved by a local artist, Gene Wilson. These are a little tricky to make as you can tell from all of the detail of the molds and the directions for making molded cookies (speculaas) below.


Michigan Windmill Cookies - Molding

Molding instructions:

Dust your mold with flour thoroughly with a pastry brush or by hand. Tap the mold to remove the excess flour.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and while still in the plastic wrap, tap it lightly with a rolling pin across the entire surface until the dough is pliable.

Using a bench knife cut the dough into rectangles slightly smaller than the shape of the windmill inside of the mold.

Roll one rectangle of dough to form a log and warm slightly with your hands. Flatten the log and place it down the center of your floured mold.

Using the bottom of your palm, apply pressure to the dough to push it down into the mold. Be careful that the dough does not stick to your hand. You may need to use small pieces of dough to fill in more detailed spots.

Use a sharp knife to remove any excess dough around the mold. Flip the mold over and firmly tap it onto your sheet tray to knock the cookie out of the mold. It may take a few taps to release.

Chill the molded cookies for 10 minutes as it will help the cookies to retain their shape when baking.

Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely.

Recipe by cookingwithauntjuju.comΒ 

25 thoughts on “Michigan Windmill Cookies

  1. I recognise these babies..these are speculaas πŸ™‚ how lovely, they bring back memories of when I lived in Holland. My Mum has an old wooden plank (for want of a better word!) speculaas mould, with all of the shapes running down it, but I never knew what they represented. So, thank you πŸ™‚ lovely to see these at Fiesta Friday πŸ™‚ x


    • Saugatuck is in a beautiful area on/near Lake Michigan – a popular vacation spot. I’ve been there a few times over the years – it’s worth it to stay on the water. The fall colors should be still good then. Holland is not too far away and the area I was referring to in my post. They even have an authentic windmill! If you like spicy and crisp you will enjoy these cookies.


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