Monday, 6 December 2010

Festive Speculoos in celebration of St Nicholas

Way back when (so long ago I don't care to work it out exactly...), I spent an amazing 6 months living and working in Brussels. Now whilst I'm not a huge fan of typical Belgian cuisine (apart from those frites...they are mighty fine), on account of most traditional dishes being meat based, I do have ultimate adoration for their strong tasty beers, a piping hot waffle on a cold winter's evening, fine chocolates to die for and the simple biscuit which is the 'speculoos'.

Speculoos are spiced, crunchy biscuits originating in Belgium, Holland and (by some reports) Northern France. I came to know them when I lived in Belgium, not only do they accompany every cup of coffee you buy, they are traditionally made and given to children on the St Nicholas (6th December in Belgium). I remember fondly watching children run out into the street to greet St Nicholas as he passed on his sleigh handing out festive shaped speculoos, as excited as any child here in England on Christmas Eve.

Since then, the 6th December is a date that has always stuck in my mind and I've often spent a few days back in Brussels visiting friends and enjoying the Christmas Markets around this time. It's such a magical place to be in December with the markets on and around the Grand Place, the beautiful decorations and lights in Sablon and the best Christmas decoration shop I have ever been to in my entire life (worth a trip over there alone!).

So with the festive spirit in the air and whilst reminiscing about the good times, I decided this morning that it was about time I had a crack at making speculoos... There are many recipes out there which claim to be 'THE' recipe, but I settled on this recipe which I've translated into English and adapted slightly below.

Traditionally speculoos are made with 'cassonade' which is an unrefined dark moist sugar. The darkest sugar I had to hand was Billingtons molasses sugar which seemed to me to fit the bill nicely.


350g flour
250g butter (at room temperature)
250g dark brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 egg


Beat the butter, sugar and spices together until they form a thick paste. Add the egg and beat again until combined. Then sift in the flour and baking powder a little at a time and mix until you have a soft dough.

Split the mixture in half, wrap each ball of dough in cling film and pop into the fridge. the original recipe says for 12 hours, but those were 12 hours I didn't have to spare, so I just left mine for an hour or so.

Roll the dough out until it is about 3mm-4mm thick. As the dough is sticky (and to avoid using more flour), this might best be done between baking parchment or cling film.

Cut into rectangles or festive shapes and bake in an oven preheated to 180C for around 10 minutes. Leave to cool and then enjoy (with or without children!).


  1. I'm jotting down the ingredients now - they look lovely :-)

  2. I was just thinking to bake some special biscuits for Christmas to give to my friends...and i have one italian friend who particularly love ginger biscuits, a bit rare in Italy!I think i will make her happy now!

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. I love this time of year when all the traditional recipes get a work out. They look great and the ingredients list sounds so Christmassy!

  4. Only this morning was I thinking of finding a recipe for Speculoos as I adore them. I'll certainly have to try this recipe in the next few weeks.

  5. Christine - Do let me know how they turn out if you make them...

    linguinadc - You could add even more spice than I did, or different spices. Some recipes include ground cloves.

    Chele - They taste (and look) really Christmassy! I might add a touch more mixed spice next time.

    Jules - The recipe is the best one I could find after lots of searching and I simply adjusted the spices and left out the salt (as I only had salted butter as opposed to unsalted...). The dough is very sticky, and more so when it warms up, so I found rolling it out in small batches between cling film best.

  6. Definitely seem to be going down well in the office! Not too sweet which makes a change!

  7. Ooh I bet these would make excellent tree decorations(although I'd probably end up eating them all!)Smashing recipe x

  8. Lovely article, great to see "De Speculoos" is getting some attention... I love this biscuit!