If you’ve ever tried the joy that is cookie butter, then you know the flavour of a Speculoos cookie. Speculoos (or sometimes spelled speculaas) is a Belgian cookie. Imagine a gingersnap on steroids. Bolder and much more aggressive than typical gingersnaps, Speculoos cookies are brimming with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, white pepper, ginger, and cardamom.
Of course, you can buy ready made Speculoos cookies, so why would you want to make your own? Um, giant townhouse speculoos cookie snow globe! Need I say more? Can you imagine a more adorable holiday centerpiece?When I started researching for this post, I emailed my Belgian friend Brigitte to ask her for her mom’s authentic Speculoos cookie recipe. I figured every Belgian grandmother has her favourite recipe and I’d use that as my starting point. Apparently, her mom has a speculoos cheesecake recipe, a speculoos ice cream recipe, but no speculoos cookie recipe. She never saw the need to make her own. So, I turned to the King Arthur baking website and found a promising recipe. Brigitte helped me make them. While they were good, Brigitte said that they really didn’t taste like the speculoos cookies she ate growing up.
I tinkered with the recipe and came up with my own version. While they’re not exactly like the storebought, they are very delicious!As soon as the dough is made I divide it into 2 pieces and roll each half between 2 sheets of parchment paper, to a 1/4 inch thickness. Then I freeze the dough for about 30 minutes before cutting it into shapes. So much easier to roll soft dough.The townhouse cookie cutters are from coppergifts.comI also made a batch of my favourite Thick and Chewy Gingerbread dough to create some trees for my landscape.
I was first introduced to Speculoos over 20 years ago by my Belgian neighbour Brigitte. These were the cookies of her childhood. Imagine if you can, a gingersnap on steroids. Bolder and much more aggressive than typical gingersnaps, Speculoos are brimming with dark brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cardamom and white pepper. A few packages of these crunchy thin biscuits always made it into her suitcase to bring back to Ottawa to share with us after a visit home with her mom. Brigitte speaks with a bit of an accent and the first time she served us the cookies I thought I heard her say “Speculum.” Kind of an odd name for a cookie I thought! Sometimes my mind wanders to strange places. Then in 2007, something wonderful happened. Els Scheppers, a very creative Belgian woman, crushed up some Lotus brand Speculoos cookies and mixed them with sugar and oil to create a sweet, creamy cookie butter spread. Hearing about this delicious concoction, Lotus Bakeries got in touch with Els and collaborated to perfect her creation. When it was released for sale to the Belgian market, it promptly sold out. People went bonkers for this stuff. Reminiscent of Nutella or peanut butter, but way more delicious! There is no end to the creative uses for Speculoos Cookie Butter. I have also heard that some people just eat it straight from the jar.
Trader Joes jumped on the bandwagon in 2011 and Speculoos Cookie Butter was born. In 2013 they launched Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl and pretty soon after that they had to start limiting customers to 1 jar each. It got a bit crazy there for a while. Luckily, it has become so mainstream that you can find several brands of speculoos cookie spread on most supermarket shelves, right beside the peanut butter and hazelnut spreads. These oatmeal lace sandwich cookies are the creation of cookie wizzard Nick Malgieri. I may have mentioned him in a previous post! He sandwiched them with chocolate ganache. I decided to use speculoos cookie butter.
The batter for these gossamer thin lacy cookies gets mixed by hand in a bowl. Leave lots of room on the baking sheet as you form them. They really spread. Once cooled, pipe a generous dollop of speculoos cookie spread on half the cookies and then sandwich them.