Speculoos or speculaas? These crunchy, spicy biscuits are loved throughout Europe’s Low Countries—the Netherlands, Belgium, the low-lying parts of Germany—and what you call them depends on where you come from. If you’re Dutch you’ll call them speculaas but if you’re Belgian there are reasonable odds you’ll say “speculoos” instead.
For this exercise we’ve taken the possibly controversial step (apologies, Dutch readers!) of going with the Belgian spelling, if only because we’re offering you the option of using your finished biscuits to make a very Belgian guilty pleasure—speculoos spread.
Back in the day, so one story goes, Belgian blokes used to insert a speculoos biscuit or two between slices of buttered bread and take the resulting sandwich to work. By the time lunchtime rolled around, the soft butter would have caused the biscuit to break down into a delicious paste. Another narrative has it that Belgian mums would give their children sandwiches made from crushed speculoos as an after-school treat.
Regardless of which version you prefer, speculoos spread (best eaten on toast or furtively, with a spoon, when no one’s looking) got its start as a commercial product after a contestant on Belgian reality show The Inventors suggested that speculoos manufacturer Biscoff move into producing a spread. It hit the European market in 2009 before spreading, cult-like, through the United States. It’s now such a staple that it has its own Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavour.
Yolaine Corbin is not surprised that the spread gives Nutella a run for its money, saying simply that “it’s amazing”. You’ll find her spread recipe on the opposite page. It will only take five minutes but first you’ll need to make these biscuits.