|Type||Shortbread cookie, Biscuit|
|Place of origin||Netherlands, Belgium|
|Main ingredients||Flour, sugar, butter, pepper, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, nutmeg|
|Cookbook: Speculaas Media: Speculaas|
Speculaas (Dutch: Speculaas Dutch pronunciation: [speːkyˈlaːs], French: spéculoos, German: Spekulatius) is a type of Indian-inspired spiced shortcrust biscuit, traditionally baked for consumption on or just before St Nicholas' feast in the Netherlands (December 5), Belgium (December 6), and around Christmas in the western and southern parts of Germany. Speculoos are thin, very crunchy, caramelized, slightly browned and, most significantly, have some image or figure (often from the traditional stories about St. Nicholas) stamped on the front side before baking; the back is flat.
Speculaas dough does not rise much. Dutch and Belgian versions are baked with light brown (beet) sugar and baking powder. German Spekulatius uses baker's ammonia as leavening agent. Spices used in speculaas are cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper were common in the 1400-1500's due to the Dutch East Indies spice trade. Family recipes may also include other small amounts of spices like anise, etc. Traditionally, speculaas were made from Frisian flour and spices. The name speculoos was coined for Belgian wheat flour cookies with hardly any spices. Nowadays most Speculaas versions are made from white (wheat) flour, brown sugar, butter and spices. Some varieties use some almond flour and have slivered almonds embedded in the bottom. Belgian Speculoos varieties use much less or no spice.
To make the dough; butter, sugar and spices are beaten and combined. The flour and leavening agent are mixed separately and then added. Bakers carefully ensure the dough doesn't overworked so it will rise slightly. The dough is stored in a cool place overnight to give the spices time to permeate the dough and add extra flavor.
An excellent book on Speculaas molds is "Prenten in hout: Speculaas-, taai- en dragantvormen in Nederland (Dutch Edition)" Hardcover – 1985 by J. J Schilstra. It is out of print.
There are several interpretations for the origins of the name Speculaas. It may derive from Latin speculum, which means mirror, and refers to the fact that the images are cut as a mirrored bas-relief into a wooden stamp which is then used to decorate the Speculaas. Another less likely word origin refers to the Latin word speculator which, among other meanings, could also refer to a bishop or St Nicholas' epithet "he who sees everything". Specerij, the Dutch word for spice, is another possible source.
The Belgian city of Hasselt is known for a local variety of speculoos. On January 13, 1870 Antonie Deplée, a baker from Hasselt, acquired a license for Hasselt speculoos: "une espèce de pain d'amandes connu sous le nom de spéculation" (A kind of almond "bread" known under the name spéculation.) He sold this version locally and abroad.
Spread or paste variant
By 2007, several Belgian companies began marketing a paste variant of speculoos, now available worldwide under various brands and names: as Speculla, Cookie Butter, Biscoff Spread. As a form of spreadable Speculoos cookies, the flavor is caramelized and gingerbread-like with a color similar to peanut butter and a consistency ranging from creamy to granular or crunchy. The spread consists of 60% crushed speculoos cookies along with vegetable oils.
In the low countries workers have traditionally made a sandwich in the morning with butter and speculaas or speculoos cookies. This would develop into a spread-like consistency by lunchtime. In 2008, two competitors entered a contest on the Belgian television show, The Inventors (de Bedenkers), with a spread made from speculoos cookies — Els Scheppers, who reached the semi finals, and the team of chef Danny De Mayer and Dirk De Smet, who weren't selected as finalists. Spreads made from crushed Speculoos cookies would subsequently go into production by three separate companies became popular.
- Springerle, a thicker, anise-flavoured, moulded Christmas cookie from Germany
- Ginger biscuits
- Cookie butter
- "What You Need to Know about Speculaas Cookies.". About.com Food. Retrieved 2016-01-14.
- "Speculoos Cookie Butter". Trader Joe's.
Speculoos Cookie Butter is, in its most simplistic terms, spreadable Speculoos cookies. Speculoos cookies are classic Belgian cookies with great crunch, and a slightly caramelized, almost-but-not-quite-gingerbread flavor. After the cookies are baked to a fabulous finish, they’re crushed into a fine powder and mixed with magical ingredients (read: vegetable oils) and turned into a smooth, spreadable substance we call Cookie Butter. It resembles peanut butter in color and consistency.
- "A Cookie Paste Squeezed in the Middle of a Debate". New York Times, Steven Castle, February 15, 2011.
In an earlier era, blue-collar workers used speculaas and speculoos as a sandwich filling (cheaper than cheese or meat) between pieces of buttered bread. By lunchtime the cookies would have softened into a paste.
- "Belgian’s popular bread spread not longer protected". Wolters Kluwer Law and Business, February 2011.