The Biggest Speculoos in the World

The Biggest Speculoos in the World

Speculoos are a specialty from the North of France and Belgium. Originally baked as a treat for St-Nicholas’ day, those thin, crunchy little cookies, flavored with spices, are baked in long rectangular molds that form a pattern on them : a saint’s figure or, more commonly nowadays, the brand name. They are baked year-round now, and are widely available in supermarkets all over France.

There are many versions of the recipe, some calling for cinnamon only, some also using ginger, cloves and nutmeg. But the cookie’s distinctive taste comes from the use of vergeoise brune : this is a delicious kind of brown sugar made from beet syrup, very common in Belgium, with thick crystals that look and feel as if they were slightly wet.

Depending on whom you ask, the name “speculoos” may come from the latin species which means spice, or speculator which means bishop. They go particularly well with coffee, and you are often served one with your espresso in cafés in the North of France and Belgium. They are also what I use to make the crust of cheesecakes on this side of the ocean, to excellent results.

The Biggest Speculoos in the World was brought back to us by Maxence’s mother, who recently went to Lille, a city in the North of France, in the French Flanders. She bought it in a small pastry shop, as indicated by the little golden sticker on the speculoos’ wrapper. The observant eye will notice, in passing, that the phone number on the sticker has only eight digits, which means that they were printed a good eight years ago, before we switched to ten digits in 1996. Either they ordered a truckload of these stickers back then, or they don’t sell quite as many speculoos as they had hoped.

Bigger and also thicker than the regular small ones, this giant speculoos has the same spiciness and crunchiness. It is slightly less sweet than the store-bought version, which is very pleasant, as it allows you to get a better taste of the spices. It is also extremely enjoyable to break off a chunk to nibble on, and I must admit to a huge soft spot for things which are on a widely different scale than their usual version, either gigantic or minuscule.

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  • http://su-lin.blogspot.com Su-Lin

    For some reason, I always thought speculoos were Dutch. They wouldn’t happen to sell them with a picture of a windmill, would they?

    But that speculoos is huge!

  • Jennifer

    Mmmmm. How deliciousand gorgeous would a cheesecake be with a cinnamon-y, ginger-y, clove-y, nutmeg-y, brown sugar-y crust.
    I think that the windmill cookies (mentioned by Su-Lin), may not be exactly Speculoos, but are very similar and I am SO making a cheesecake with those next time! I never would have thought of it…thanks, Clotilde!

  • Josie

    Mmm, I love Speculoos. And I love your blog, Clotilde; you must write a book on food! Food essays and your delicious recipes…

  • hilary

    Su-Lin — Speculoos are the Belgian spice cookies, while Speculaas are the Dutch version. I read somewhere that speculoos are sometimes drizzed with white chocolate and then sprinkled with red sugar crystals, but have never seen any.

  • Peter

    Let me comment on speculoos from Flanders. it has become a very popular ingredient in Belgian cuisine, from adding it to rabbit and preparing some excellent desserts with it. In Flanders, you will find several varieties from the paper-thin (and delcious) Furnes speculoos (with almonds) to the Limbourg 2 cm thick cookie variation.

    It’s very easy to bake your own speculoos. (These are adapted recipes from http://www.labonne cuisine.be but you can change at your will)
    You need:
    500 gr flour
    150 gr butter at room temperature
    1 egg
    3000gr dark brown sugar or cassonade (if you can get it)
    1 teaspoon mixed and ground groove and clove

    Warm the oven to 175°C.
    Mix the butter, sugar, spices and eggs. Slowy incorparate the flour. When thick, divide into pieces of your own choice of about 1,5 cm thick. If you have a mould, you can press the dough in it and sort the moulded pieces.
    Put the pieces on a baking plate or baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Let it rest for 24 hours. (That’s the difficult part ;-) )

    One of he best ways to enjoy speculoos is in ice-cream (yes!!!!)
    You need:
    4 egg yolks at room temperature
    120 gr plain sugar
    40 cl milk at room temperature
    2 bas of vanilla sugar
    1/2 spoon ground groove
    2,5 dl whipping cream
    200 gr speculoos
    a pinch of salt

    Beat the sugar, the salt and the yolks until foamy. Mix gently the vanilla sugar and the milk into the mixture. Thicken it in bain-marie (keep whipping!) and let it cool. (Whip it several times while cooling!). Crunch the speculoos and mix it. Let it cool for 20 minutes. The fold in the whipped cream. Freeze it for at least 5 hours. (Adapt to your ice-cream machine if you have one).

    One of the nicest way to enjoy speculoos ice-cream is to drop it on freshly baked apple-pie. But you already know how to bake them.

    Enjoy and have a nice summer.

    Peter

  • Peter

    Oops. Read 300 gr instead of 3000 gr brown sugar or cassonade.
    Sorry.

  • Alisa

    ahhh, yet another wonderful reason to turn on my computer. Love the history AND I laugh at the same time!

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Su-Lin – Well, Belgian and Dutch cuisines have a lot of things in common, so they may make these delightful cookies in Holland as well! I’d seen the windmill cookies back in the US, but have never tasted them.

    Jennifer – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed, it truly makes a delightful crust. Be sure to report back when you try this!

    Josie – Many thanks, I’m really delighted you enjoy my writing… As for the book, well, I’m working on it! :)

    Hilary – I can certainly see how speculoos would benefit from a little white chocolate drizzled on top, I’ll have to remember that!

    Peter – Thank you so much for these recipes and all the information. I see home-baked speculoos in my near future, and the speculoos ice-cream recipe sounds most excellent — I’ll definitely try it too!

    Alisa – So glad you liked this post!

  • http://culigent.skynetblogs.be Jan Schonk

    Hi,
    As far as I recall, the word ‘speculoos’ comes from the latin word ‘specula’, which means ‘mirror’, as the cookie is the mirror image of the baking form.
    By the way, if you pass in the Netherlands, be sure to buy some ‘koekkruiden’ (spices for speculoos or spicecakes.

    Jan

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jan – Ah, interesting alternate explanation, thanks! And thanks also for telling me the name of that spice mix. Do you know exactly which spices go into it?

  • http://culigent@skynetblogs.be Jan Schonk

    Hi Clotilde,

    I think I have used up all of my koekkruiden :-( Really need to go across border for some more.
    Anyway, I looked in an old encyclopedia of mine (dated 1957) and found an entry under ‘koekkruiden’ and ‘speculaaskruiden’. The difference being one or two spices. Speculaaskruiden contain : gingerpowder, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, cloves.
    On my blogsite, I have posted three recipes for speculaas (in English), :-)

  • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

    Jan – Thanks for the info on Speculaaskruiden. Actually, it happens to be almost exactly the spices in my pumpkin pie spice blend, except my blend has lemon peel and no coriander…

  • Myrte

    Specoloos isnt French, nor Belgian. Its originally from Holland, Amsterdam to be precise. As a result of the trade in spices. The orinigal speculAAs has the picture of a windmill, later it travelled to Belgium and Northern France and was renamed speculoos. Sorry for the history lesson, but as a Dutchie, i just had to defend our cookie haha. Good site btw, makes me seriously hungry.

  • Myrte

    Sorry, just read the other comments, someone already said something about Dutch and Belgian cookies.

  • patrick

    Hallo, hallo, a little word from a Flemish Belgian living abroad. I like your discussions about from where speculaas/speculoos originates and where it sufferend adaptations.
    I would like to rectify one thing though, the official language spoken in Flandres, which is one of the places where they make delicious speculaas, is Dutch, in the same sense that the language of the americans is English and of the Brazilian is Portuguese.

    By the way, I live in Brazil, and although sugercane is plenty here, you can not find cassonade, which is a pitty.

    have a good taste.

  • Ana

    Hi guys, I live in Belgium but I’ll be going back to the states soon and will miss the speculoos ice cream. What is “ground groove”? Is that the same thing as cinnamon? I want to be able to make it back home!

  • Luisa

    Hi,

    I, like Ana, also live in Belgium, but will soon return to the UK. I have sadly only just discovered the gorgeous Speculoos ice cream, which is why I was searching for a recipe on the Internet and found this excellent blog. I too would like to know what ground groove is, and also what is the measurement for the vanilla sugar? Thankyou

  • http://www.laviecevenole.blogspot.com Tammy

    VERY late to the conversation, but I daresay Peter meant ground clove, rather than ground groove. The differences between speuclaas and speculoos are fairly minimal, though some argue that Belgians tend to be lighter on the spices. They are delicous thick or thin, and can be enjoyed filled with almond paste (gevuld speculaas) as well, though that tastes and looks entirely different. Around Christmas in Holland, you can get it in St. Nicholas form as long as your forearm…

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