What I love about travelling is how easy it is to carry on dreaming about the holiday long after it has finished; flicking through an album of photos on a rainy day, recreating dishes in your own home, or getting really desperate and taking a tour through a city on street view on Google Maps.
My first trip when I arrived in Europe was to Brussels, where I discovered the magic that is speculoos – a bronze coloured treasure that I was delighted to find, accompanied almost any cup of coffee ever served in France. They were so readily available that it never occurred to me that I was more than capable of giving them a whirl in my own kitchen.
I am happy to announce that I have since remedied this problem.
Speculoos, also known as Belgian Spice Cookies, are dark caramel in colour, sweet and gingery in flavour and brittle in texture. Describing them almost as a crunchy piece of gingerbread may not be the most glamourous of definitions, but it is certainly the most accurate. The perfect consistency for dunking into a cup of coffee or steaming hot chocolate, they are also decorated with the cutest little pictures.
For this recipe, you will need:
- 2 cups of flour
- 3 teaspoons of cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon of ginger
- ¼ teaspoon of nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon of allspice (or you could use ground cloves)
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ¼ teaspoon of baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 cup of butter
- ½ cup of white sugar
- ¼ cup of raw sugar
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla
I know it sounds like a bucket load of ingredients but that’s all part of the punch of flavour that comes hand in hand with these biscuits!
Begin by sifting the flour with the spices, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a larger bowl cream the butter with the two sugars and vanilla extract. Even though I have used raw sugar here, you can use brown sugar if you wanted; it will give it a smoother finish but I like them a little granulated for extra crunch.
Gradually combine the dry ingredients with the creamed butter until you have dough that is soft, yet firm. As with any dough mixture; if it’s too dry, add a bit of water; and if it’s too wet, add a bit more flour. You shouldn’t have this problem because it is almost saturated with butter, keeping it smooth and silky.
Form into a ball, wrap in Clingfilm and refrigerate from at least an hour.
On a layer of baking parchment, roll your dough into a thin, flat rectangle. For a nice finishing touch, roll over the layer with a patterned rolling pin (aren’t these so cool?!)
Baking at 175°C for 25 minutes, the dough will still be soft and spongey when it comes out – don’t continue baking it! It will harden as it cools down, and it’s at a perfect consistency to slice into squares with a pizza cutter (or a knife, should that be easier).
Enjoy with a cup of coffee at break, or after lunch, or as an afternoon pick-me-up. Perfect for a bit of happiness when the weather is grey and dreary.