Made from flour, butter and brown sugar (which gives it a deep brown colour), the spéculoos is a typically-Belgian biscuit. It has been attributed several origins: one claims the name comes from the Latin « species », meaning spices, hence the reason why several bakers add a mix of spices to the basic spéculoos mixture (cinnamon, cloves, ginger, sesame or orange zest) to create a unique and distinctive flavour. But the name spéculoos could also stem from the old Latin word « speculator », meaning «bishop». This would explain why the biscuit is an integral part of regional folklore, being offered to well-behaved children as a reward each year on the festival day of bishop Saint-Nicolas.
Whichever origin they may have, spéculoos are no ordinary biscuits: they usually have a special shape, either that of a person or an animal. The shape is given by using a mould, called a "planche à spéculoos". In the region many ancient "planches", or boards for making spéculoos have been discovered which are so finely sculpted they are true works of art. Today, the spéculoos is ideal taken with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate, but can also be enjoyed with desserts, or as a sweet accompaniment to foie gras.