St. Nicholas Day (December 6th) is right around the corner, and that means it is time for speculoos! These crispy brown sugar and spice cookies, popularized in the US by the brand Biscoff, are extremely popular in Belgium and the Netherlands at this time of year. Though you can get speculoos stateside, if you are Brussels, you can try a taste of the original old-style speculoos at Maison Dandoy, who has been baking them up since 1829. Speculoos are traditionally eaten with tea and are associated with advent time and especially St. Nicholas Day.
There are Maison Dandoy locations sprinkled throughout Brussels, and we went to the Tea Shop location (Rue Charles Buls 14) in the center of the old town. The tea shop has a restaurant upstairs (another post on this to follow) and a lovely store on the first floor filled with beautifully displayed and packaged Belgian cookies. The speculoos at Maison Dandoy are stamped with a windmill, shaped by traditional molds or even by special springerle rolling pins with designs imprinted on them. You can also get a vanilla or chocolate version of speculoos at Dandoy if you are so inclined, though we are purists and prefer the original. Though of course the original recipe is secret, you can try an imitation Dandoy recipe from Un déjeuner de soleil (in French – auto-translated here. Eat the Love has another speculoos recipe and even more history. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate St. Nicholas Day than with cookies and tea!
One of our favorite treats to have at tea-time are Biscoff cookies, which are kind of a riff on Dutch/Belgian Speculoos. However, we have recently been made aware of an amazing new Biscoff product – Biscoff spread! Basically, this is a peanut-butter like spread made OUT of Biscoff cookies. Though it seems to have been available in Europe for a while, the product has only recently become popular in the states. Trader Joe’s even has a knock-off version called Cookie Butter. Enchanted by the Biscoff spread, naturally our first order of business was to make a Biscoff sandwich, combining 2 Biscoff cookies and Biscoff spread, which even though it seems hopeless redundant, was very delicious. For the more ambitious, you can make your own spice cookies with Biscoff filling or Biscoff truffles. M will also be happy to note that they make a crunchy Biscoff spread, which I have never seen in the wild, but is available on Amazon.
Belgians are known for their chocolate, but maybe they should be known for their cookies as well. Belgian-made Biscoff cookies are so addictive it is ridiculous. In Belgium they are known as “speculoos” (This site – On Food and Wine – also has an easy recipe).
The only ingredients in the cookies are Flour, Sugar, Oil, Brown Sugar and Cinnamon. Deceptively simple. The cookies are very crisp -almost graham cracker-esque- and taste of cinnamon, but not too strongly. Speculoos are great to eat alone, or, as we have found, to dip in chocolate fondue. Happily, they are pretty easy to find in America – even Walgreen’s has them.