Friday, October 17, 2014

American Made Vendor: Little Belgians

I spent my sophomore year of college living and studying in Heidelberg, Germany. (Hilary was next door in Lyon, France, going to school down the street from a little restaurant called Bleu de Toi...). While in Europe, I became enamored with this Christmas cookie called Speculoos--crisp, lighter than gingerbread, but still with a hint of spice: it was the most delicious thing I'd ever had. Every Christmas now, I search international food markets for speculoos, usually settling for some packaged cookies that don't quite hold up to my memory of speculoos magic.

Imagine my delight, then, when we discovered Little Belgians--a company out of Berkeley, California that hand-makes speculoos from quality ingredients: local butter and eggs and fair trade sugar. In fact, Little Belgians doesn't use any preservatives, which means I'm tossing out the packaged cookies I still have in my pantry and buying these fresh, real cookies for the holiday.

Little Belgians was started by Evy Ballegeer, a native Belgian who moved to the U.S. in 2003 to be with her boyfriend, now husband. They moved to the Berkeley area in 2009, where Evy noticed that all the coffee shops sold big, chewy cookies and muffins to go with the coffee. She missed Belgium, where a cup would come with a sweet-but-not-too-sweet and crispy speculoos cookie. So in 2013, she started baking speculoos, using traditional Belgian methods, and in 2014, her company was born.

On her American Made site, Evy notes that, as far as she knows, she is the "only artisanal baker of speculoos baker on the West Coast, maybe even the US." Sharing a kitchen with two other cookie makers in Berkeley, she crafts her speculoos using specially-designed molds with shapes that remind her of growing up in Belgium. 

As Evy mentions on her website:
Speculoos was traditionally made using wooden molds. In 17th- to 19th-century Europe, bakers would commission a carver to create a cookie board with images that reflected popular trends of the day. In honor of that tradition, our speculoos have custom-designed shapes.

The bird, for example, reflects the Belgian national sport of pigeon racing (who knew?!). And the house shape features the architecture of Evy's favorite Belgian city Ghent.

Evy currently sells her cookies in some specialty food stores in California, and you can also purchase them online. We loved the aesthetic of her website and her cute cookie packaging. If, like me, you want some holiday speculoos in your life, Evy is offering Bleu de Toi customers a special $5 discount! Enter the coupon code littlebelgians4bdt at checkout. Thank you, Evy!

Speculoos cookies are a unique holiday present for friends and family, and an ideal treat to snack on at holiday parties. On the Bleu de Toi website right now, we're also featuring special guestbooks for seasonal gatherings. We have Holiday versions of our Signature Conifer Tree (Check out our blog post featuring all the ways you can decorate the Holiday Pine). Our Wreath design, with the right ink colors, can also be perfect for the season.

Thank you again, Evy, for sending us pictures and for offering us the coupon code! Best of luck to your charming company!

Photography credit for Little Belgians:
©Lies Willaert 
©Erin Scott

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