Most cafés in Northeast France serve a Belgian Speculoos biscuit with every tea or coffee you order. While you can find Speculoos throughout the country, it’s more at home in Lorraine, which shares a border with Belgium as well as the holiday of Saint Nicolas, when bakeries produce giant Speculoos cookies in the shape of the good saint. Whenever I was served a coffee in another region of France and received a chocolate chip cookie, it was a bitter disappointment.
The cookie is a basic spice cookie, which sounds plain but is completely addictive. I’ll prove it!! The flavor is so popular at the moment that you can buy gazillions of speculoos-flavored treats: cereal, pudding, toasts, spreads, and pastries. The spread is at least as deadly as Nutella. I don’t drink espresso all that often in the States, but some clever friends knew that when I did I would feel sad without that Speculoos on the side, and bought me a cookbook to make them at home, along with a ton of other dishes (speculoos pie crust, speculoos tiramisu with chevre and figs, apple/almond speculoos soufflés!) made with the flavor .
The basis of all the recipes is the spice mix “mélange speculoos,” which you can make just for this recipe or too keep in the cabinet:
2 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 tsp white (or black) pepper
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp ground anise*
*I used fennel seed to replace the anise.
From there, the recipe is pretty simple and the hardest thing you will deal with is getting the measurements right! The cookies come out lighter and doughier than the biscuits in the store, but are all the more tasty and good to bring to friends.
Belgian Speculoos Biscuits
Makes min. 60 sm. cookies
-4 to 4 1/2 cups of flour
-3/4 cups butter, or 1.5 sticks (take out hour before)
-1 2/3 c. brown sugar, packed but not TOO tightly
-1 tsp baking soda
-3/4 tsp salt
-1/4 cup milk (this will likely need to be doubled or tripled to make dough)
-2 tbsp speculoos spice mix (above)
1) Mix flour, brown sugar, spice mix, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
2) Add the egg to the middle, and cut in the butter. Mix on low speed, the incorporate the milk gradually to make a dough. Knead the dough briefly.
3) Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours. Take out again 1 hour before baking.
4) Preheat the oven to 340 degrees. Flour the dough and surface, and roll out dough to about .5 cm. Use a cookie cutter, a knife or a mold to shape your cookies.
5) Cover your cookie sheet with parchment or wax paper and lay cookies evenly. They won’t expand much, so you can cram a lot on. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Not too brown!
6) Let cool on a baking rack, prepare your espresso, live in happiness.