Speculaaskruiden is a fragrant mix of spices that includes cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, aniseed, white pepper and cardamom. It is the main ingredient in Dutch treats such as speculaasjes (windmill cookies), speculaasbrokken (thick, rustic cookie slabs), gevulde speculaas (soft bars filled with marzipan) and kruidnoten. There is even speculaaspasta (spreadable paste), which children love on bread.
But where did the name speculaas originate? Some say it is a bastardization of the Latin word ‘speculator’, literally meaning ‘one who sees everything’, and thus might hint at how St. Nicholas (Sinterklaas) keeps an eye on children and sees who is good or bad. The name may also be derived from the Latin word ‘speculum’ (meaning ‘mirror’) and hints to speculaas cookies being a mirror image of the wooden form from which they are molded. Yet another interpretation is that the word is a combination of two words: ‘spek’, a Flemish word for confectionery, and ‘Klaas’, short for ‘Sinterklaas’.
During the Golden Age, when the United East India Company (VOC) had a monopoly over the spice trade, spices were extremely expensive and considered the epitome of luxury. Therefore, serving a cookie made with speculaaskruiden was a sign of affluence.
Speculaaskruiden are readily available in the Netherlands premixed, but can easily be made at home and varied according to your personal taste. For a stronger flavor, increase the quantity of pepper, and for more warmth and sweetness simply add an extra pinch or two of ginger or aniseed. We will feature delicious recipes with speculaaskruiden in our blog, but first, here’s how to make the mix yourself:
For 2 ½ tbsps of spices, in a small jar mix:
- ¼ tsp cloves
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½ tsp ginger
- 2 tablespoons cinnamon
- a pinch of white pepper
- a pinch of cardamom
Taste and adjust the mix to your liking.
For four delicious recipes with speculaaskruiden, read Issue 56 of Dutch the magazine.
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