When you get coffee in a café in the Low Countries (Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg, parts of Germany,
France, and even Denmark), you get a little ginger biscuit, usually in a cellophane wrapper. These are variously
called Speculoos or Speculaas and similar names, and you can buy them in the supermarkets in big packets, usually
moulded to an oblong or gingerbread-man shape.
Brussels has a long-standing relationship with this cookie.
The best place to witness this is the Dandoy shop in the old city, run by the Dandoy family since 1829. Their most
famous cookie is the Speculoos (from the Latin word for "mirror"), made with a hand-carved wooden form
in the image of St. Nicholas. In Brussels it is traditionally given to good children on St. Nicholas Day, Dec.
We had an oppurtunity to sample this very cookie from the Dandoy shop thanks to our friend Paul.
This is someone else's family recipe for speculaas cookies that I found on the web -
1 cup dark brown sugar
3 tablespoons milk
3 cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons ground cloves
1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ground ginger
¾ teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of baking powder
pinch of salt
1¼ cups butter
¼ cup slivered blanched almonds
Prepare the dough the previous day:
In a small bowl combine the brown sugar and milk, and stir until smooth.
In a large bowl, sift the flour with the cloves, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder, and salt.
With a pastry blender (or two knives), cut the butter into the flour mixture until it is like cornmeal.
Add the brown sugar mixture and the almonds and mix well.
Wrap in foil or cling film and refrigerate for one hour.
If using a wooden mould:
Brush the carvings in the mould well with a stiff brush, but do not wash. Dust well with flour. Heat the oven
to 350°F (175°C). Lightly grease a baking sheet. Press enough chilled dough into the mould to fill it completely,
then with a small knife cut around the edge of the pattern, removing the trimmings. Invert the baking sheet over
the mould, then turn both over together so that the mould is on top. Tap lightly to rlease the dough onto the sheet.
Repeat until the sheet is full, then bake 20–30 minutes or until light golden brown. Leave to cool.
Without a mould:
Shape the chilled dough into two rolls, wrap again in foil or cling film and refrigerate overnight. The next
day, using a lightly floured surface, cut each roll into ¼" slices and bake on a baking sheet at 350°F
(175°C) for 15 minutes.
Keep in an airtight container