Did you know that speculoos biscuits stem from an ancient tradition?
For almost 26 years, Salem Sassi has worked at Maison Dandoy. Now in charge of monitoring the production of speculoos, this professional offers a behind-the-scenes insight into this company and recounts its history, from its creation in 1829 by Jean-Baptiste Dandoy, a Belgian baker, to the present day.
Where does the tradition of Saint-Nicholas shaped speculoos come from?
Every true Belgian knows speculoos, this local speciality in warm colours that brings to mind brown sugar and spices that we enjoy dipping in our coffee all the year round and savouring with the family during the festive period. But do you know where the biscuit comes from?
Speculoos, speculos or speculaus comes from the Latin "speculum", which means "mirror", in reference to this biscuit's manufacturing process: when the wooden mould is coated with speculoos dough, it is struck against a table and the speculoos gently becomes unstuck but maintains the shape of the mould, thus forming a mirror.
This Saint-Nicholas shaped family biscuit is eaten for Advent and particularly on Saint-Nicholas Day, the very popular children's celebration organised here on 6 December. According to legend, the great Saint-Nicholas, who, among other things, is the patron saint of children, is said to have resuscitated children and given them a speculoos, this hard biscuit that keeps very well. Since then, speculoos has become a part of Saint-Nicholas Day as have children: no 6 December passes without family's enjoying speculoos. For the occasion, Maison Dandoy prepares trays of speculoos measuring up to 80 even 90 centimetres for the pleasure of all the family.
Although, for some, speculoos biscuits all seem to have the same taste, Salem Sassi confirms that it is easy to distinguish between good and bad speculoos. Why not try for yourself: "Try dipping your speculoos in your coffee for a few seconds. If the speculoos remains intact, even if it is saturated, it is a good speculoos. If, on the contrary, it breaks and drops into your coffee, it means that it is not good quality."
To achieve this result, good quality ingredients and know-how are ideally handed down from generation to generation and from professional to professional, thus guaranteeing the quality and authenticity of speculoos. "Quality should always come before quantity", confirms our expert.
A few words about Maison Dandoy
Maison Dandoy is a family history that spans six generations, perpetuating the art of the tradition with its basic recipes. That is how quality and authenticity have travelled through time. Out of interest, it is worth noting that even during the war, the Dandoy bakery remained open, offering products such as crackers, according to the ingredients available. Today, speculoos biscuits represent 50% of the entire production of Maison Dandoy. In order to meet demand, some five tonnes of speculoos are produced each year. Alongside this star product, Maison Dandoy offers a multitude of other delicious treats, such as waffles, pain à la grecque, marzipan and delicious flavoured biscuits. Find out more here: https://maisondandoy.com/shop?type=assortiments.