Before getting into the Christmas spirit, the French from Alsace and Lorraine first get ready for the feast day of St Nicholas, on December 6. Just like in Germany and most Western Christian countries, St Nicholas Day is a big celebration in Alsace – almost as important as Christmas.
Bakeries and home kitchens fill up with delicious treats such as mannalas (men-shaped chocolate-chip brioches), spiced breads and bredeles, an assortment of small cakes and Alsatian biscuits. And while there are so many of them (too many to be counted!), a classic bredele table will usually include the classic Butterbredele (classic butter sables), Zimsterne (cinnamon stars), linzer cookies, chocolate-dipped spritzs, vanillekipferl (croissant cookies) and of course, speculoos cookies.
Not to be confused with gingerbread cookies (there is no ginger in them!), these delicate spiced bread cookies carefully showcase a crafted mix of spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom and anise- which gives them an unmistakable taste. Their texture is crisp, but with some softness in the middle.
They are perfect with a cup of freshly brewed coffee…
- This recipe can be done with a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment) or by hand, with a spatula.
- I have indicated here the spice measurements in teaspoons and in grams. I personally use a small scale to weight each spice to prepare the mix. The unique taste of speculoos cookies relies on a precise spice mix, so if you have a scale on hand, use it! If not, use measuring teaspoons and make sure each portion is full and leveled.
- If you wish to avoid using cornstarch, you can replace it with rice flour or soy bean flour.
- Speculoos cookies are traditionally rectangle with fluted edges. I chose to use a round cut-out with fluted edges, and cut a hole in the center too, to shake things up.
- Some people like to apply a coat of icing on the cookies, but authentic speculoos cookies are left as is. I chose to sprinkle a pinch of demerara sugar on top of each cookie, to add a little extra crunch (and because it looks pretty too!).
Speculoos Cookies from AlsacePrint This
¾ cup (150g) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (85g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon baking soda (4.75g)
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (1.5g)
1/4 teaspoon ground or freshly grated nutmeg (0.25g)
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves (0.15g)
1/16 teaspoon ground cardamom (0.10g)
1/16 teaspoon ground anise (0.10g)
1/2 teaspoon corn starch
A pinch (1/8 tsp) salt
1 tablespoon water (about 1 tablespoon; 15g)
1 ¼ cup (155g) all-purpose flour
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine brown sugar with baking soda, cinnamon, cornstarch, nutmeg, salt, cloves, cardamom, and anise. Add in the soft butter and cream together until fluffy and pale in colour, about 10 minutes.
While still creaming the butter and sugar, slowly splash in the water a little at a time. Once the water is incorporated, add the flour all at once. Mix until the dough begins to gather around your spatula (or paddle attachment, if using a stand mixer).
Turn the dough onto a clean surface, and knead gently to form a ball. Dust with flour, above and below, and roll to the thickness of about ¼inch
Cut pieces with a cookie cut-out of your choosing, and transfer the cut-outs with a spatula to a parchment-lined half sheet pan – leaving an inch between each piece to account for spread.
Bake until cookies are golden brown, about 16 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, if needed, to ensure even browning.
Cool to room temperature directly on the baking sheet (the cookies will not crisp until fully cool).
Speculoos can be kept in an airtight container for up to 1 month at room temperature.