We first came across Speculoos (or Speculaas, Spekulatius) when we were in Northern France and Belgium in April 2018. Not only were they addictive, but the crumb was used in plenty of other dishes – from cheesecakes to Carbonnade – the Belgian meat stew. In the supermarkets, you can even buy a Speculoos spread. No, I didn’t try it. Apparently, it’s available here now too – and in the US. Cookie butter, it seems, is a thing.
The biscuits are thin, crunchy, and usually flavoured with spices like cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger and anise – all exotics that were available in the 17th and 18th centuries due to the Dutch East Indies trade.
They were traditionally baked in Belgium and the Netherlands for St Nicholas’ Day (December 6), and in Germany and Austria around Christmas, but you can buy them all year round these days.
Being Christmas we decorated ours with icing and little silver balls, but traditionally these are made using fabulously intricate folk arty moulds – most likely one that would have an image or a story about St Nicholas – that has probably been handed down for generations. I wish now that I’d brought some of those wooden moulds home.
Anyways, these are the biscuits I make every year for Sarah and I to (badly) decorate. As the scent fills the house with Christmas, it takes us back to Christmas markets in the UK. You can find the recipe here.