When my three sisters and I were kids, our mother would occasionally buy packages of Dutch windmill cookies. They were not my favorite cookies. My favorite were homemade chocolate chip. However I do remember enjoying the novelty of these hard, crunchy spice cookies.
It was kind of fun to read this recipe for Speculaas, or Belgian Spice cookies, in The Joy of Cookies and realize they were basically the same cookie as those packaged tooth-chippers. Spiced with fresh lemon zest, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, ginger and white pepper, these are a kind of shortbread with egg and ground almonds. I don’t have a Speculaas mold which are traditionally shaped like windmills or Sinterklaas, so I used my Springerle pin for some and my new sheep and moose cookie cutters for the rest.
My brief internet research tells me that Speculaas are a treat at St. Nicholas day celebrations in the Netherlands, Belgium and parts of France and Germany in early December. According to Sharon Tyler Herbst, Speculaas means mirror, and the cookies are so named because they mirror the mold that shapes them. Alternatively, according to Google translator Speculaas means biscuit. Either way? Yum!