Speculoos cookies are a must-bake this holiday season! Slightly browned, thin and very crunchy, these spiced cookies are easy to make and even easier to eat.
A cookie that tastes like Christmas!
Cookie baking season is still in full swing over here.
And today, we are talking all about one of my favorites: speculoos cookies! To me, they taste like the holidays.
Cozy up by the fire with a few speculoos and a cup of coffee, and you are bound to feel the Christmas cheer! Gee, Santa might even smell them all the way from the North Pole and come down the chimney sooner than expected.
There’s a reason these cookies are also called St. Nicholas Cookies after all!
What are Speculoos?
Speculoos, pronounced “speck-you-lows”, are Belgian spiced cookies, also popular across Europe (especially in the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Germany and Austria).
These cookies are traditionally baked for the holidays, and are sometimes called St. Nicholas cookies or Dutch Windmill Cookies because of their shape.
Speculoos cookies make their way to America
Americans probably know these cookies because of Biscoff, a product of the Belgian company Lotus Foods, the largest commercial manufacturer of speculoos. The cookies became popular in the U.S. after Lotus did a partnership with American domestic airlines, in the 80s, to serve speculoos to the passengers.
Because the name speculoos would be hard for Americans to pronounce, the cookies were rebranded to Biscoff.
Passengers loved the cookies, started calling the airlines to find out how to get them and soon a mail-order business was set up so people could buy them! It was only about 10 years ago that supermarkets started carrying Biscoff.
The good news is that even if your grocery store doesn’t carry them, you can still enjoy speculoos, because what used to be a well-kept Belgian and Dutch secret recipe is now available for every home baker out there through many blogs, including this one!
Speculoos VS Speculaas
While you will often find the names used interchangeably, a little research showed me that there’s a difference.
According to the Van de Loo’s website (a Dutch Speculaas brand), speculoos is the less flavorful version of speculaas, and is what is commonly found in the U.S. today.
Apparently, speculoos was developed as a less expensive alternative to speculaas, as the blend of exotic spices used in the original cookie was quite costly. Therefore, it says that the speculoos cookie relies mostly on sugar caramelization for flavor and lacks the depth and richness that comes from using the authentic spices (nutmeg, pepper, coriander, mace, ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and cloves).
Here’s what I think: speculoos or speculaas, a bazillion spices or just cinnamon and sugar caramelization, the cookie is delicious regardless!
You will see below that I recommend some products for a more authentic taste, but you absolutely do not have to buy them. This cookie can be easily made with what you already have in your pantry!
Ingredients for Speculoos Cookies
- All-purpose flour
- Brown sugar – Get Belgian Candi Brown Sugar if you can!
- Baking powder
- Spices: ceylon cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cardamon and cloves
Ceylon VS Cassia Cinnamon
What? There are two types of cinnamon?
Most people (myself included, until recently) don’t know that there are two types of this popular spice: ceylon and cassia.
Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum tree. The bark strips are dried until they curl into rolls, which are what we know as cinnamon sticks. These sticks can then be ground into cinnamon powder.
Cassia cinnamon, the cheaper and most common variety, comes from he Cinnamomum cassia tree. It is usually dark brown-red in color and has a rougher texture than ceylon cinnamon. It is considered lower quality and is the variety found in supermarkets.
Ceylon, or “true cinnamon” as it’s called by cinnamon snobs, is made from the inner bark of the Cinnamomum verum tree. Tan-brown in color, it is less common and more expensive. It’s described as having a delicate and mildly sweet flavor suitable for cooking and baking.
While you can make speculoos with either kind, if you are after the authentic taste, the floral character of ceylon cinnamon will help you achieve that!
Candi Sugar VS Brown Sugar
Candi sugar is a Belgian sugar commonly used to brew beer.
Brown sugar gets its flavor from the addition of molasses after refinement, while Candi sugar is cooked and subjected to the Maillard reaction and caramelization, so the flavor produced has more of toasted marshmallow, caramel tones.
For that deep caramelized sweetness from the Biscoff cookies, I recommend your order some Candi sugar online!
How to make speculoos recipe
There is no special secret to make this speculoos recipe. You can use a stand mixer, a hand mixer or mix it by hand (If you have the muscles for it!).
And while it’d be fun to shape them like the traditional windmills, it is not necessary and you can cut them in any shape you like! I cut mine in 2-inch rectangles, similar to Biscoff, mostly because I don’t own any special cutters.
But if I ever get my hands on those windmill cutters, you can bet I will be updating the photos with windmill shaped cookies! I’m extra like that. :)
Here’s the rundown for my speculoos recipe. As always, you can find the printable version at the end of this post!
- Combine dry ingredients: Add the flour, spices, salt and baking powder to a bowl. Mix until combined.
- Cream the sugar and butter: In a stand mixer, beat the sugar and butter until fluffy, about 10 minutes, scraping the bowl and paddle as needed. Creaming for a long time adds air to the dough, making it lighter and easier to handle.
- Add the egg and flour mixture: Add the egg and beat until incorporated. Then, add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough begins to come together.
- Chill the dough: Transfer the dough to a clean counter, and knead it gently to form a ball. Pat into a disc and refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Roll the dough: Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest for about 15 minutes, so it’s easier to roll. Place it in between two sheets of parchment paper and roll it out until about 1/12-inch thick.
- Cut the cookies: Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough in 1-inch strips, then cut crossways to form 2-inch rectangles. You can use a ruler to help you or just wing it, like I did! Use an offset spatula to loosen the dough from the parchment paper and place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, leaving some space in between them to account for spreading.
- Bake at 350 degrees F until they are golden brown, rotating the baking sheet halfway through for even browning. Remove from the oven and let them cool slightly on the pan, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
How long will these cookies last?
Speculoos cookies stay crisp for up to 2 weeks at room temperature, if stored in an airtight container.
Do Speculoos cookies freeze well?
Yes, both the dough and the baked cookies freeze really well.
You can freeze the dough for up to 2 months or bake the cookies, wait for them to cool and freeze for about 1-2 months.
- 1 1/2 cups (265g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ceylon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/16 teaspoon ground cardamon
- 1 cup (120g) brown sugar (light brown candi sugar preferred)
- 1/2 cup (113g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 large egg
- Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and spices in a bowl. Reserve.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter and the brown sugar, and cream on medium until smooth and fluffy, about 10 minutes, scraiping the bowl and paddle as needed.
- Add the egg and mix until combined.
- Add the dry ingredients and continue mixing until the dough begins to come together. Transfer the dough onto the counter and gently knead to form a ball. Pat into a disc, wrap with plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or up to 1 day.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack adjusted to the lower middle position.
- Place the dough in between two sheets of parchment paper and roll to a thickeness of 1/12-inch.
- Using a fluted pastry wheel, cut the dough in 1-inch strips lengthwise, then cut crossways to form 2-inch rectangles. You can use a ruler or free hand. Use an offset spatula to help you loosen the dough from the parchment paper and transfer to a parchment paper llined baking sheet, leaving about 1 inch space between the cookies to account for some spreading.
- Bake the cookies until they are golden brown, about 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through for even browning.
- Remove the baked cookies from the oven and let them cool slightly on the pan before transferring to a wire rack so they can cool completely.
If your room temperature is too hot, you might want to chill the cut cookies for about 30 minutes, before baking, to prevent them from spreading too much in the oven.
- Belgian candi sugar - While that will give you the deep caramelized flavor that is characteristic of speculoos, you can use regular brown sugar instead.
- Ceylon cinnamon - You can use cassia cinnamon if that's what you have on hand.
The cookies will keep at room temperature, stored in an airtight container, for a couple weeks,
Freeze the cookie dough for up to 2 months or the baked cookies for about 1-2 months.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 24 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 35 Total Fat: 1g Saturated Fat: 0g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 0g Cholesterol: 8mg Sodium: 69mg Carbohydrates: 6g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 0g Sugar: 0g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 1g
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats.