What's the deal with... speculaas (and why are so many Sydney cafes serving it)?

Lotus Biscoff ice-cream sundaes at  Devon in Barangaroo.
Lotus Biscoff ice-cream sundaes at Devon in Barangaroo. Photo: Supplied

If you've been out brunching on your weekends, or scrolling through Instagram at home, you've probably seen a certain biscuit pop up on your table, or screen. Lotus Biscoff is having a moment in Sydney, paired with practically any cafe food you can name. Pancakes? Yep. Waffles? You bet! Cheesecake? Absolutely. Burgers? Yes, even burgers. So, what's the deal with this crunchy, golden, spice-laden biscuit?

The biscuit that the company Lotus Biscoff made famous is called speculaas. Hailing from the Netherlands, the biscuit was born around 1650, shortly after the Dutch spice trade began. They quickly became associated with the European Sinterklaas holiday (celebrating Saint Nicholas) on December 5 and 6. Speculaas biscuits were imprinted with motifs from Saint Nicholas' life with wooden stamps before baking. Some think their name derives from the Latin word for mirror, 'speculum', as a mirror image of the stamp is pressed onto the biscuit.

In time these biscuits became readily available year-round, and today, they're hugely popular world-wide. But why? Enter Jan, Emiel and Henri Boone, the brothers who founded the Lotus Biscoff company in Lembeke, Belgium, in 1932. They convinced cafes that speculaas were the perfect biscuit to accompany a cup of coffee. This proved to be a wild success in Europe –and by the end of 20th century – the world. Today, most diners are unaware that they're enjoying a speculaas Christmas biscuit.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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"It's like asking someone what cookies and cream is, but they only know Oreos," says Morris Baco, who is whipping up Lotus Biscoff ice-cream sundaes as head chef of Devon in Barangaroo. "We served a [speculaas] dish two years ago, and we just called it speculaas… now, Lotus Biscoff has just gone off."

In 2008, Lotus Biscoff started to sell the now-iconic eponymous spread. However, the spread's beginnings date back to the Low Countries in the 17th-20th century, when rural workers lunched on speculaas crumb and butter sandwiches, which turned into a spread by midday.

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Fast-forward to the spread's release, and it was being incorporated into every dessert on Instagram. But 2008, and the birth of Insta-food, was a long time ago – so what's the big deal now? Lotus Biscoff spread only became available down-under as of November last year, and our cafes were keen to get their hands on it.

"We love making new, fun dishes," says Lauren Yehezkel, chef and owner of Wild Flour Cafe in Redfern. She's currently serving up a Biscoff cheesecake that customers are going crazy for. "Some people don't actually know what Biscoff is, so for them it's unique."

Speculaas biscuits.

Speculaas biscuits. Photo: Isabel Cant

Speculaas biscuits

With December approaching, here's how to enjoy these biscuits the good old-fashioned way.

INGREDIENTS

Speculaas Spices

  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp ground cardamon

Dough

  • 140g salted butter, softened
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1¾ cups self-raising flour

Method

  1. Cream the butter and brown sugar together using an electric mixer until smooth.
  2. Add the speculaas spices to the creamed butter and sugar and stir through with a wooden spoon.
  3. Add the flour to the butter sugar and spice mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or spatula until dough-like, being careful not to work the dough too much.
  4. Shape the dough into a ball and dust with flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel, and place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour-overnight.
  5. Remove dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 180C (170C fan-forced). Dust your working surface and a rolling pin with flour. Place baking paper on your baking trays.
  6. Once the dough is near room temperature, working in halves, roll it out to 3-5mm in thickness. If your dough seems dry, add a splash of milk before rolling out.
  7. Use a cookie-cutter to cut shapes out of the dough, and place each biscuit on the baking tray.
  8. Dust a biscuit stamp with flour, and press into each biscuit with the stamp (optional).
  9. Place in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until a deep golden-brown colour. Let cool.

Where to find Speculaas dishes in Sydney

At Sixty Park, Sydney

Bad Habits, Annandale

Bak & Bak, Crows Nest

Cafe Bella Dee, Sans Scoui

Cheat Day Sydney, Peakhurst

Coffee and Crackles, Smithfield

Devon Cafe, various locations

Donut Papi, various locations

Dopa By Devon, Haymarket

Fresko Gelato House, Marrickville

Glenorie Bakery, Glenorie

Peanut Butter Bar, Leichhardt

Pokeo Bowls, Alexandria

Preach Cafe, Bondi

San Churro, various locations

Tella Balls Dessert Bar, various locations

The Tiny Giant, Petersham

Vine and Grind, Liverpool

Wild Flour Cafe, Redfern

XS Espresso, various locations

Zanya's Cafe, Kingsgrove

Z.I.A Kitchen, Brighton Le Sands