Eurofoods: Speculoos

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Speculoos

In the series of European foods with a link to cycling, next up is the Speculoos biscuit. Speculaas in Dutch but speculoos in French and Flemish some might know this as Biscoff, a brand name.

Product description
Flour and brown sugar mixed with a small amount of spice. The sugar lends the brown colour to the biscuit and usually no or little soda or yeast is used so that these do not rise at all.

They were traditionally a winter food for the Saint Nicholas and Christmas celebrations with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper inside and a pattern stamped on the front, eg a windmill or an animal. But the most common versions are small tablet-shaped biscuits.

Euro cyclist use
These are often served with coffee. Visit a café and the waiter will bring you the drink with one of these nestled on the saucer. The simple flour and sugar mix means instant calories and the spice compliments the coffee very well.

If you’ve been out for a long ride along the Flemish coast and gone into hypoglycemic horror then save a tiny bit of energy to open your front door and then rip into a packet of these and you’ll live to tell the tale. As well as put on weight.

If many of the Eurofoods are based on local and fresh products, these are resolutely mass-produced.

Paste
The biscuits are so popular that their largest manufacturer Lotus Bakeries of Lembeke near Ghent sells a derivative product in paste form sold in a glass jar. Described by Salon as “Europe’s version of peanut butter” this is less common but increasingly available. Lotus tried and failed to patent the product so you might find it in another form.

Speculoos paste

If you like peanut butter and Nutella and imagine a hint of spice – nicer than it sounds – then this could be for you.

This is part of a series on European foods with links to cycling or simply for fuel:
Part I: Nutella
Part II: Pâte de fruits
Part III: Stroopwafels
Part IV: Coffee
Part V: Frites
Part VI: Pasta
Part VII: French Bakeries
Part VIII: Water
Part IX: Sirop
Part X: Pharmaceuticals
Part XI: Summary
Part XII: Esta Thé
Part XIII: Grated carrots
Part XIV: Speculoos
Part XV: Belgian beer
Part XVI: Oman Coffee
Part XVI: Italian Ice-cream

Champs December 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

Dunking those biscuits in coffee might be the best part of all those flights on Delta. With knowledge that it comes in a spread, I will neither confirm nor deny fantasies about slathering it on a stroopwafel with my morning coffee.

TotheBillyoh December 10, 2011 at 9:41 am

Great stuff once again. If Marcel Proust can write a seven volume novel after biting into a single Madeleine ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_Search_of_Lost_Time) I expect some good writing from your Belgian readers!

CyclingBxl December 10, 2011 at 9:45 am

The mass produced Lotus are not the real thing. They are barely good enough to serve as coffee dips. If you are in Belgium, buy the artisanal version from Dandoy or from a local bakery. The difference is simply amazing. As I heard the head of Dandoy say: the price, per kilo, of Lotus speculoos is lower than that of the cassonade/vergeoise you are supposed to use to make speculoos.

Which brings me to my next comment: it is not brown sugar, which is used, but cassonade/vergeoise. In other words moist, un-cristallised, cooked beet sugar. Which you can also use to put on your crèpes or your waffles.

TomH December 10, 2011 at 3:30 pm

I’m going to pick up a jar on the next visit to the supermarket. Thx for the idea Inrng!

Adrian December 10, 2011 at 5:53 pm

“If you like peanut butter and Nutella and imagine a hint of spice – nicer than it sounds – then this could be for you.”

That’s pretty funny. I was in Belgium with my 4 year old this year. He loves peanut butter and Nutella but we couldn’t find peanut butter until we arrived in Oostende. The breakfast buffet had Speculoos paste and I just assumed that was Flemish for peanut butter. We figured it out when my son complained that it tasted like it had cinnamon in it.

Chuffy December 10, 2011 at 6:49 pm

For years my wife and I have referred to these as Eurobiscuits, because they seem to be a standardised product that appears in cafes, conferences, hotels and other places.

I’m craving a pack now…

Owen December 10, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I love the paste and routinely have it on toast with a coffee after a long ride.
I cannot find it in the UK and was moved to contact Lotus who told me that they have no plans to import it here. It can be found on line (can’t everything?) so that will be my next port of call, though a friend of a friend is bringing 5 jars over at Christmas – what a present! try this link:
http://www.coursesenfrance.com/vmchk/Confitures-Miels-Pates-a-tartiner/Creme-de-Speculoos-a-tartiner-400g.html
There’s also this http://www.coursesenfrance.com/Desserts/YABON-CREME-DESSERT-SPECULOOS-400G.html?keyword=speculoos Which sounds very good and VERY bad all at once.

DNJ December 11, 2011 at 1:02 am

Does anyone know where to get speculoos spread in Los Angeles? The only place I found was new York and I paid a zillion bucks in shipping.

Ron December 11, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Excellent article on food and cycling culture. I will try to see if any stores in my city stock them too!

Darren December 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm

When the paste version came out a few years ago I was so happy I constantly pestered my wife to go the supermarket and get some…but it seemed like half of Belgium was just as happy…shelves were empty!!! Gaaaa!!! Had to wait weeks before the shops had stock again, and then bought 3 or 4 jars! Seems that Lotus had dramatically understimated the demand! 1st version was mega sweet, but after about 6 months feedback from consumers forced Lotus to come up with a ‘crunchy’ version which is more like the biscuits!

Did you know that the idea of a paste version came about through a tv show ‘De Bedenkers’ (The Thinkers’) where Belgians are encouraged to present ideas/inventions to a panel of experts. At the end of the season the panel then decide which is the best idea/invention! At the time I thought it was sad that the best idea/invention Belgians could come up with was to turn a biscuit into a spread! But it works!

A teenage friend of my daughter has to be ‘monitered’ when there is a sleep-over as she can clean out a pot at breakfast…and I mean ‘clean it out’!!! :-)

Sinclair December 12, 2011 at 9:05 am

Darren, do you mean “clean it out” or is that a euphemism you horrible pervert?

TomH December 12, 2011 at 10:57 am

Nice post Darren! Especially the part about the television show. :D

Rod Diaz December 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm

Sinterklaas visited my home last week (my wife is part dutch). One bag already down, two to go…

Got to find myself the paste version now…

Rod

TomH December 12, 2011 at 5:43 pm

I just ate some bread with the paste. It’s really Flandrian, the bite is quite sandy and it looks like a jar of mud (slijk for Flandriens). I’m guessing this is what Fabian Cancellara ate before this years E3 prize Harelbeke.

With 8.9gr carbohydrate per 15grs it’s mandatory for hardmen. Wash it down with espresso or lungo for extra Euro-streetcred.

Darren December 12, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Sinclair: Hahaha!!! Careful, the girl has a crush on me! Dangerous with me being a pervert and all! :-) Dont know about ‘horrible’ though…ok, yeah! Worse since I have a weakness for flexibility, and she is a gymnast!!! But I like to think I have a ‘normal’ sane mind! Then again, I like to think a lot of things!

Steve December 12, 2011 at 11:09 pm

Trader Joes is now selling Speculoos spread in the U.S. as “cookie butter”.

Oswald Hamilton January 11, 2012 at 9:38 am

Speculoos is made from caramelized gingerbread cookie which was traditionally baked for consumption on St. Nicholas day in Belgium. Our original Belgian recipe is created with 60% ground gingerbread cookies and ideal for those who want something unique for breakfast, lunch or dessert.

EDnl December 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm

The original Dutch-language term is speculaas. Find recipes and wikipedia entries under that keyword. The modern Belgian speculoos variety reportedly has less spices than Dutch speculaas.

dubtap November 15, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Important UK update; Speculoos paste is now on sale genrally in major UK supermarkets as Lotus “Orginal caramelised biscuit spread” and apparently the biscuits are on sale too

The Inner Ring November 15, 2013 at 8:01 pm

Update… or health warning ;-)

dubtap November 15, 2013 at 9:45 pm

This is not my insulin, I’m just looking after it for somebody

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