Monday, December 5, 2011


Because there's nothing quite as exciting as seasonal cookies, I present to you a recipe for speculoos, ripped wholesale from the pages of Baked Explorations.

Just like its precursor, this cookbook is solid gold. Almost every recipe has an interesting backstory or a tantalizing gimmick, and the entry for speculoos (alternately "speculaas," as they're called in this cookbook) is no exception. The idea was to recreate those Biscoff cookies you're sometimes lucky enough to get on Delta flights. Biscoff are in fact a brand of speculoos, a Dutch sweetcrust pastry that is traditionally made the day before St. Nicholas' Day, which is celebrated on December 6.

As you can see from the recipe, most of the flavor here comes from cinnamon, with lots of cloves, ginger, and nutmeg to round things out. Obviously such a spice-forward recipe really benefits from using freshly-ground spices. Since these are "shortcrust pastries," sugar is cut into what amounts to biscuit dough (flour, leavener, and cold fat cut into the dry ingredients), which impedes gluten formation and results in a tender yet crunchy cookie. I found that a small cookie cutter (2" diameter at most) ensures that these bake past the soft cookie stage and into more of a ginger snap territory. As you can see, I cut this batch a little too large.

I suggest that you roll these out on a work surface dusted with powdered sugar instead of flour -- you get the same effect, without the taste and texture of unincorporated flour, or you could just use a couple layers of wax paper and save some time on cleanup. Best of all, using cookie cutters means you get to eat all the scraps that bake alongside the deliverables (see also the amazing jam sandwiches from last year). Happy St. Nick's Eve!

  • 1 3/4 c AP flour
  • 1 c packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 10 Tbsp butter, cool but not cold, cut into 1/2-in cubes
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp grated orange zest
  • coarse raw sugar
  1. Pulse flour, brown sugar, baking soda, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt in a food processor.
  2. Drop the butter over the flour mixture and pulse until the consistency of coarse sand.
  3. Add beaten egg and orange zest, and pulse once or twice to combine.
  4. Turn batter out onto a floured work surface and knead the dough until it forms a ball, taking care not to overwork the dough. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two jelly roll pans with parchment paper.
  6. Unwrap and divide dough into halves. Roll one half out on a work surface generously dusted with powdered sugar to a thickness of about 1/4 in. Cut out cookies using a small round cookie cutter and transfer to prepared pans. Repeat with second half of dough.
  7. Generously sprinkle the cookies with coarse sugar and bake for 15 minutes, rotating halfway through. Cookies should be dark brown and appear dry on top.
  8. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and cool completely before storing in an airtight container.