If you’re a Le Pain Quotidien spread-aholic, chances are you’re familiar with the delicious spiced taste of speculoos spread —a mix of cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, with notes of caramel and cloves. Yet, you may not know that speculoos is actually the name of a traditional Belgian biscuit, which is the base for our spread.
Check out our list of 6 fun facts about this graham cracker-like cookie and spread!
1. Speculoos cookies are typical treats for Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas Day, celebrations in Belgium and the Netherlands. They often come stamped with images from Sinterklaas stories—or in the shape of Sinterklaas himself. In the days leading up to Sinterklaas, little children leave their shoes by their chimneys overnight, filled with carrots or hay for St. Nicholas’ horse. In the morning, they’ll wake up to speculoos biscuits left in their shoes!
2. There are several theories for where the term speculoos originated. One connects speculoos to the Latin term speculator, which is said to refer to St. Nicholas’ epithet as ‘he who sees everything.’ Another connects speculoos to the Dutch word for spice, specerij.
3. The origin of speculoos itself dates back to the 17th century. While the spices that go into speculoos were available before this time, the Dutch East India Company–a multinational corporation that dominated the spice trade–made these spices more affordable to the general public through their imports. With more opportunity to experiment with spices, bakers created many speculoos cookie recipes!
4. Although Belgian speculoos tend to be heavier on cinnamon and nutmeg, the German version (speculatius) and Dutch version (speculaas) tend to have equally high concentrations of cloves, ginger and cardamom. Even within countries, there is no set recipe for speculoos; the spice mixture added to the cookies differs from baker to baker. Every Belgian has their own favorite bakery where they find their favorite speculoos!
5. Belgians discovered long before the invention of speculoos spread that sandwiches made of speculoos biscuits and butter would melt together into a spread-like consistency! Despite the many varieties of speculoos spread available today, it’s still common to eat speculoos biscuit-and-butter sandwiches.
6. Speculoos spread came to be when Els Scheppers, a culinary enthusiast, competed on Belgian TV show “De Bedenkers” (“The Inventors”). Scheppers entered the show with her recipe for converting speculoos into a creamy cookie butter; despite there being 2,000 other inventors, Scheppers’ delicious spread easily won her a place as a finalist! Soon after the show aired, the spread hit retail shelves. Unsurprisingly, it sold out in Belgium just three hours after its release. Speculoos-mania was born!
With Sinterklaas approaching, we’re thankful to have one more excuse to indulge in speculoos! Do you prefer speculoos cookies, spread or another speculoos infused food? Comment below telling us your preference!
And if you’re a true speculover, Instagram a picture of your favorite way to use speculoos spread with the hashtag #speculover for a chance to win some holiday treats from The Pantry!
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