As I mentioned last week, I signed up to participate in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year. It was a massive undertaking by Lindsay of Love and Olive Oil and Julie of The Little Kitchen but in the end it was a major success. Hundreds of people sent and received cookies across the country and today is the day that we get to share the recipe with the talented bakers who participated in the swap.
One of the criteria of the swap was that we had to bake a recipe that we never posted before. That was fairly easy for me, considering my blog is only 6 months old. However, the not so easy part, deciding on what cookie to bake. I already said it, I’m a cookie fiend, I’ve baked a lot over the years and trying to narrow down something that would not only travel well but also keep for at least a week or two proved challenging.
Then it hit me, I am going to make Speculoos cookies! The cookie that everyone has ever had if they’ve flown Delta (aka Lotus) but is really a traditional Belgian cookie baked during Christmas.
I first discovered these gems on our honeymoon to Brussels. Our first few days there, I was sick with a horrible cold and stuck mostly with tea instead of beer as my drink of choice; and in Belgium any place you get a cup a tea at, they serve a package of speculoos cookies with it.
To quote a little history on the cookie from my Belgian cookbook Everybody Eats Well in Belgium by Ruth Van Waerebeeks. “Speculoos are among the oldest cookies Belgians have in their repertoire. They are said to go back to pre-Christian times, when they were small cakes, baked in the shapes of animals or humans, that were offered to the gods in lieu of the real thing. Today they are usually associated with St. Nicholas and are baked in his honor. But the truth is that these thin, crisp, buttery cookies are very popular in Belgium all year round…”
My recipe is based slightly off of Ruth’s version from her cookbook. I decided to keep her addition of cake flour along with all-purpose for a more tender crumb. However, I’ve added some more flavor enhancers to have my cookie taste a little more like the packaged version and chose to roll and cut them into circles so they’d fit into my packing. You are welcome to cut them into whatever shape you desire.
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cake flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground clove
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1 tablespoon molasses
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
Sift all the dry ingredients into a small bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, or using a hand mixer cream the butter and brown sugar and then add the egg until well combined. Finally beat in the molasses. Scrape down the sides and mix in the flour mixture in two parts.
Scoop the dough out onto lightly floured saran wrap and wrap tightly into a disk. Place into the refrigerator to cool for at least an hour. If you have the time, let sit longer for the flavors to develop.
Remove the dough from the fridge and take a small section to be rolled out. Keep the remaining dough chilled while rolling and cutting. Since the dough is a little sticky, I find it is easier to roll it out between two pieces of floured wax paper. Roll to about 1/4 to 1/8 inch thickness and then cut into rounds or your preferred shape.
Place on a baking pan and once the sheet is full return to the fridge or to speed things up, to the freezer for 10 minutes to cool the dough down. This will help the cookies keep their shape when baked. Remove baking pan from fridge or freezer and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until crisp. Cool completely on a wire rack and store in an air tight container.
Finally, a special thank you to Carol from Open Mouth Insert Cookies for her cinnamon pinwheels, to Jill A. from Issaquah, WA for the Cranberry Bars and to the mystery sender for the oatmeal raisin cookies. Everything was delicious!