Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Speculoos : a Franco-American adventure

Way back when, in 2000 when I was working in Paris as an advertising mogul, I discovered the most divine snack in the office vending machine : crunchy, sweet cookies called speculoos. I'd never seen them before but they reminded me of something nice and happy. The perfect cookie to be dipped in hot chocolate or coffee or just to crunch on when you're bored (which I was a lot in those days).

It wasn't until I made trips up to the Netherlands that I found it! The reason I loved these cookies so much was because they were like the "windmill" cookies my sister and I used to eat when we were little. I swear that my mom must have bought them in bulk from the local Shoprite because we always seemed to have "windmill cookies" on hand, so called because they were shaped like windmills. Duh!

The cookies I found in France (speculoos) and the Netherlands (speculaas) are in fact Spanish in origin. They go back to the Spanish occupation of Flanders through someone or other's mariage in the house of Orange (the Dutch) to the Spanish royalty.

For years, I've been using speculoos in my awesome cheesecake recipe (watch this space for the recipe in the near future). Speculoos were the best kept secret ever. really, I mean EVER! Until recently when speculoos seem to have popped up all over the place. First there was speculoos paste which is vile (IMO). You can spread it on bread, crèpes or what have you. But what's the speculoos without the crunch? I used to send them to my sister and my mother : chocoalte coated, giant, mini, whole grain...

But now, you can get them at Shoprite, the very store that used to sell us bulk amounts of windmill cookies. Somehow, the cookies have gone full circle and the windmill cookies and speculoos are sold side by side. BUT, yes there is always a but, they changed the name. If they were trying to move away from the not so nice sound of speculoos (speculum?), they didn't do a very good job when they chose the name biscoff which makes me think of something medicinal.

In the meantime, while you wait for me to publish my Lill'adelphia cheesecake recipe on my new food blog, I will share my gluten free adaptation of the speculoos recipe taken from the amazing Dille and Kamille store. Enjoy! Bon ap'! Smaklijk etten!

• 250 g flour (equal amount of GF flour)
• 150 g butter
• 140 g brown sugar (vergeoise not cassonade!)
• 1 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon speculoos spice (like pumpkin pie spice including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves... )
4 tablespoons milk

For gluten free version, add:
1 egg
1 teaspoon of xanthan or guar gum
50 g almond powder

Instructions:Mix dry ingredents together. Add milk and butter (and egg if using). Mix well. Put in fridge for a few hours, preferably overnight. If making gf cookies, roll into balls and flatten wit the back of a fork. If making traditional cookies, roll out the dough and use cookie cutters to make nicely shaped cookies. (You can buy traditional wooden cookie moulds at Dille and Kamille)

My gf version is softer than the regular cookies because of the egge which is also what keeps them together! If you want them to be crunchy, make them thinner.

Cook for 15 minutes on 170° C (350°F)

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