St Nicholas’ Day (December 6th) was a big deal for us growing up in Belgium. The “original Santa Claus” would come into our schools with his frighteningly politically incorrect pageboy (the excuse was that he was a chimney sweep) and hand out sweets and the beautifully caramelised spiced biscuit known as speculaas or speculoos.
As young schoolchildren, we would eagerly anticipate this arrival, and the day was (and is) a national celebration of the saint, a bishop known for leaving money and gifts in the shoes and homes of poor children, and for his immense generosity to all. There were all sorts of legends surrounding him, and those stories would be shared in excited whispers as we munched our way through the delicious cookies associated with the feast day.
My family is Catholic, and we love the beautiful traditions of feast days that allow us a day to eat truly decadent and delicious food (we especially love the fact that they come around often at this time of year ;)).
But, perhaps because of my upbringing as a Catholic in Belgium, St Nicholas’ Day is my favourite (aside from Christmas Day and Easter of course…oops!). And it’s never quite the same without those gorgeous spiced biscuits.
So I set out to create my own low sugar version. I made some last year that were yummy but chewy and not completely accurate. This year, I was determined to come up with a version that was crispy, caramelised, sweet and deliciously spiced just like the original. And here they are. My sugar free speculoos cookies.
One word guys: AMAZING.
These delicious, lightly spiced but deeply flavoured biscuits have the EXACT flavour of speculoos biscuits. I was transported back to Belgium in the first bite. Cooking them low and slow and leaving them to cool completely made them crispy, but I personally prefer eating them straight out of the oven and soft but at their peak flavour, and I loved the batch that came out only slightly crispy, but perfectly flavoured. (If you would rather have the crispiness than the exact flavour, try baking them at 190C/325F/gas 3 for 20-25 mins instead.)
I hope you’ll agree they are pretty awesome. Bake a batch with the kids this Christmas (or St Nicholas’ Day!), they’ll thank you for it! 🙂 And if you do, why not take a picture and tag me in it on Instagram (@raisingsugarfreekids)?
My sugar free version of the spiced St Nicholas' Day biscuits (cookies).
- 100 g (1/2 cup) xylitol
- 1 tsp molasses
- 150 g (1 cup) plain (all purpose) flour
- 100 g (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 and 1/2 tbsp mixed spice
- 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- pinch salt
- a little milk to bring the dough together
Mix the xylitol with the molasses to make a mock "brown sugar" (I find it easiest to do this with my hands). Add it, along with all of the other ingredients except the milk, to a food processor and blitz to combine. Turn the food processor on and add the milk a tiny bit at a time through the funnel until the mixture just starts to come together as a dough. Turn off the food processor and finish bringing the dough together with your hands. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 mins or the freezer for 10 mins.
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 3mm thick (or as thin as you can without it tearing), and use cookie cutters to cut your shape (or use a knife or pizza cutter to make more traditional rectangles if you prefer). Lay out on a baking tray lined with baking paper, making sure the shapes don't touch each other (use more than one baking tray or cook in batches if need be). Bake for 15-20 mins, until a deep golden colour and starting to harden at the edges.
Allow to cool for a few mins, then transfer gently with a large spatula to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely (they will harden as they cool). If you don't mind (or prefer) them a little soft, I personally feel the best flavoured cookies are the warm ones, whether that is fresh out of the oven or warmed through slightly once cooled. 🙂