It’s the subject of heavy debate from time to time. Like today…
Lunchtime. A news item on Flemish TV about another Belgian delight which is about to conquer the world: speculaas.
Huh? What was that? Speculaas, right, I heard it correctly. And yet the item was dedicated to speculoos instead, illustrated with footage from Lotus Bakeries, Belgiums biggest speculoos manufacturer.
It may be a detail to the blissfully unaware… but there’s a significant difference between speculoos and speculaas. Oh yes, siree! Let me explain.
Speculaas is a typically Dutch (as in Holland) spiced biscuit made with flour, a dark brown sugar called basterdsuiker or cassonade and so-called speculaas spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, kardamon and white pepper. This forms a dense, rather dry dough which only rises by adding baking powder, which is then baked in special speculaas moulds. Some of these date back to the Middle Ages. The oldest known mould in Holland was carved around the 1600′s. Speculaas is commonly found in a large variety of shapes and sizes around the name day of Sinterklaas (Saint Nicolas, December 6).
Note: l will elaborate on the story of this childfriendly saint in one of my future posts.
In fact Belgium and Lotus Bakeries are not known for speculaas at all. What we make is called speculoos. According to our chauvinist neighbours from across the north border, it is nothing but a variation to their speculaas. Do not be fooled, however, for speculaas is a truly Belgian cookie, much more sophisticated and refined than its Dutch counterpart. In the USA these are known as Biscoffs: a combination of words Biscuit and Coffee, simply because their caramel flavor and crisp texture make these cookies the perfect accompaniment to a cup of coffee or espresso drink.
So once again, a fine Belgian product is fighting its way out of the shadows and into the international spotlight… Not with the help of our fine local media though.
But hey, that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, isn’t it?