No. 112: Spéculoos
I don’t think Spéculoos originated in France, but for me it will always remind me of France because this is where I first discovered it. Even though it’s not at its height of popularity en ce moment, it can still be found everywhere, in all its various incarnations.
In case you have been living under a log, Spéculoos / Speculaas / Spekulatius is a thin and crispy spiced, shortcrust cookie, which was traditionally baked around Saint Nicolas Day in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Nowadays you can find the cookies year-round in your local grocery store. Spéculoos biscuits always have some sort of impression stamped on the front of the cookie, originally related to Christmas, but these days it can be a branding swoosh, an animal, a figure, or really anything your heart desires.
The combination of ginger, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and white pepper, along with plenty of butter, I’m sure, is what makes these cookies so addictive. They are an excellent accompaniment to hot chocolate or coffee. Sometimes French cafés serve them, in lieu of a small piece of chocolate, when they bring your boisson chaud.
Relatively recently, a couple of companies in Belgium decided that the cookie itself wasn’t enough. They decided the world needed a Spéculoos spread. Apparently they were right…people seem to be crazy for it.
It looks like peanut butter and comes in a jar like peanut butter, but it tastes nothing like the good old American standby. It is literally a spread made from crushed cookies and vegetable oil. It’s super high in calories, and pretty darn delicious in small quantities or by the spoonful.
Adding Spéculoos cookies and Spéculoos spread to make desserts even more decadent seems to be the game. As well as flavoring different baked goods with Spéculoos, I’ve also seen savory meat dishes cooked with Spéculoos.
So far this week, I’ve come across a Spéculoos apple tarte, a bacon-kiwi-Spéculoos pancake stack, a friend who eats oatmeal, bananas and Spéculoos before she goes running, Spéculoos covered popcorn, a Spéculoos macaron (bien sûr), Spéculoos ice cream, Spéculoos milkshakes, and the traditional moelleux au chocolat filled with melted Spéculoos instead of chocolate.
Of course Picard and a couple of boulangeries around town are featuring special Galette des Rois filled with chocolate and Spéculoos instead of frangipane.
I see the draw when it’s used in a dessert, but I think only the diehard fans will be inclined to order Stir Fried Chicken and Spéculoos Lettuce Wraps or Roasted Pork Fillets drizzled with a Spéculoos Sauce.
bien sûr: of course
boisson chaud: hot drink
en ce moment: at the moment
Galette des Rois: Kings cake, a puffed pastry cake filled with almond paste and served on Epiphany and during January.
moelleux au chocolat: an individual-sized chocolate cake filled with melted chocolat; lava cake.