Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

speculaas are thin, crisp, light-brown spice cookies, usually with a raised design imprinted on the top. Speculaas are thought to have originated in the Netherlands several centuries ago, and their popularity soon spread to other regions near the Rhine River, including Belgium (speculoos), northern Germany (Spekulatius), and northeastern France (spéculos), where they are a traditional holiday treat for St. Nicholas Eve (5 December) and St. Nicholas Day (6 December).

The cookie dough is made of flour, butter, brown or white sugar, and sometimes milk or eggs, with seasonings such as cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cardamom, coriander seed, white pepper, mace, anise, and grated lemon zest. The chilled, stiff dough is pressed into an elaborately carved wooden mold that shapes the outline of the cookie and imprints a raised design on the top. See cookie molds and stamps. Before the dough is baked, flaked almonds are often pressed onto the back of it. A rich variation is “filled speculaas,” with a layer of marzipan baked between two layers of the spicy dough. See marzipan.