Thanks to my Dutch husband who introduced me to a hidden Dutch goodness, the Spekulaas, or the longtime Dutch soul food. When it comes to food, the Dutch cuisine doesn’t boast of a world-renowned foods, but when you take a closer look at what’s in a typical Dutch’s table, you’ll be able to understand why Krentebrood, Kroket, Patat, Poffertjes, and Stroopwafels are humble example why you should taste them at least once in your life, at least if you have the chance! I remember the first time I sat on a Dutch table and devoured with delight some home-made meatballs with Rode kool met appleltjes. It was a delightful meal, my first time ever to taste a red cabbage— with cinnamon-tangy apples!
What is Spekulaas ?
I had Spekulaas was when my parents-in-law visited us in Kuwait and brought us a handful of Spekulaas goodies from Holland three years ago. There were Spekulaas cookies, Gevulde koek spekulaas and all sorts of pastry cakes spiced with Spekulatius. There was no way we can find Spekulaas spice in Kuwait, let alone the genuine spice composed of cinnamon ( zimt) nutmeg ( muskatnuss), cardamon, ginger, white pepper,and ground aniseed. I have seen the Lotus Speculoos cookie spread ( Belgian origin) sold in selected supermarkets like in Carrefour, but then it is not the authentic Spekulaas flavor. Since then, Spekulaas became a favorite of mine among Dutch food, creating a statement of soul food. It is not just a winter food. It’s hard to explain, the taste, the smell, and the rich flavor, it is unique, and I found it to be decadent for me. Here in Germany, fortunately, Spekulaas and spices are widely sold in most supermarket, all year round. But during Fall, and the Autumn baking season starts, Spekulaas, along with Lebkuchen and Stollen floods all the shop.
Last week, my daughter had the Lantern parade celebrating Martinstag (or St. Martin). The kids along with their parents walked in the dark with their lantern and singing songs. Despite the rain, cold and darkness, it was a meaningful experience. Parents are also asked to bring some bakes goodies along with kinderpunsch and glühwein. I wrote “Spekulaas Koek“ for our share! I know I must be crazy, because first and foremost, I have never tried making Spekulaas cake, and secondly, I don’t know how to do it! This is totally something bake from scratch!
But as the saying goes ” When there’s a will, there’s a way! ” so definitely I found a way! I did my research and get the ingredients and then I prepared to bake Spekulaas ahead of time.I got the Spekulatius spices from Holland. Sometimes I even springkle some in my home made waffles and pancakes!
Speculaas or speculoos is one of the Dutch culinary specialties. Normally, it is a spiced biscuit, made with wooden forms or moulds. They are typically winter food, and especially associated with the feast of ‘Sint Nicolaas’ or Saint Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. Along with their infamous Chocolate Letters and Kruidnoten, Spekulaas signals one of the best celebrated feast in the Netherlands before Christmas; the Sinterklaas. This feast is celebrated on 5 or 6 December. Speculaas is very old, the spices used date from medieval times.
The name seems to derive from the Latin speculum (mirror, the biscuits had the carved figure of the mould in mirror image). Old wooden biscuit moulds show biblical scenes, historic events, ships, windmills, mermaids, and of course images of Saint Nicholas with the small children he had saved according to the legend. Single youngsters could receive a ‘vrijer’ (male admirer/lover) or ‘vrijster‘ (female admirer/lover). According to some this could be considered as a marriage proposal from the giver. These large speculaas dolls (Dutch’s version of Gingerbread cookies) were often decorated with coloured icing, silver pills and even leaf gold.
The speculaas biscuits from before, say, 1850, were made with a very hard dough containing rye flour and honey. Be warned though that these biscuits were so hard they could only be eaten if they were dissolved into a sweet (and tasty) porridge.
I enjoyed dipping these hard cookies in my coffee just to make it soft a bit. I noticed that they can also be stored for a long time in an airtight container.
So I brought the baked Spekulaas cake and Gevulde Koek Spekulaas to my daughter’s St. Martin’s party and placed it along the German ‘s trays of Lebkuchen, onion breads, macaroons, pizza breads, pretzel and other home made goodies. Here in Germany, I observed that only healthy options are served to feed the children. the parents of the children in the Kindergarten are giving support to the school staff and this way of potluck is a great thing to enhance social aspects. Junk food and soft drinks are totally absent. I kept on looking if people would eat it or it will be left ignored. I stand there and watch each piece dissappear from the tray. When I only saw two to three pieces left from the Gevulde Koek, I felt relieved. It made me feel satisfied that my Dutch- inspired baking was consumed well and I was able to share some Dutch goodness.
To get the best verdict : The Dutchman himself tasted and devoured the Spekulaas! I gave a few slices to our German neighbor as well and they only replied with “Lecker” ! ( or delicious ).
I guess anything made with Love taste better, Do you agree? Are you also fond of home made cooking.
Do you like Spekulaas? What is your favorite comfort food for winter?
If you are inspired to do some Fall baking and bring some Dutch flavors in your home, you might want to try making the traditional Dutch Apple Pie ( Appeltaart ) and bring some crazy colorful Rainbow cake.
Guten Appetit and wishing you a lovely week !