I never thought that chasing a wafel would end with me falling in love with a cookie.
And for once, that's no euphemism.
A few months ago, on a rainy July day, I chased down the Wafels & Dinges truck for the first time. Catching up with it in midtown, eagerly eying the menu, I thought I knew exactly what I wanted. But something caught my eye; a mysterious topped called "speculoos" and marked as the Wafels & Dinges favorite. A simple query led to the presentation of a small, cinnamon-y cookie; and while M1 and I ended up opting for Nutella on our wafel, the enigmatic cookie lingered on both tongue and mind.
A little research led to more information on the spiced cookie; known in the Netherlands as "speculaas" and in Belgium as "speculoos." A cookie associated with St. Nick's Eve (December 5th in the Netherlands and December 6th in Belgium), they are easily identified by the bas-relief image usually pressed into the dough. Seemingly ubiquitous in Belgium, I had never seen the infamous Lotus brand of speculoos anywhere in the US.
But God bless Google. Because a little rummaging led me to none other than Walgreens where Lotus brand speculoos have been rebranded as Biscoff. Yum.
Still, the growing Belgophile in me wanted authentic speculoos. But a reliable source assured me that artisanal speculoos was impossible to get in this country. So in an attempt to achieve the culinary equivalent of the next best thing, I rolled up my sleeves, printed out a recipe, and got to work with the aid of a trusty partner.
Crisp and sturdy, these cookies aren't delicate things that you might carefully pack in a box to prevent them from shattering. They're hard enough to surprise the unsuspecting but absolutely delicious with coffee. Thrown in a ziplock bag, they'll easily fit into a jersey pocket for a mid-ride snack, and with this recipe making so many cookies, there's even enough to pass around at your favorite bike shop.
I'm not done experimenting with this recipe, but here's one for starters...
Adapted from this recipe.
[We accidentally added too much flour and managed to pull together the dough with the addition of yogurt and water. No negative consequences seemed to result but feel free to opt out of using the yogurt and just watch how much flour you're adding.]
500g or 4 cups all-purpose flour
150g or 2/3 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
300g or 1 1/2 cups of dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cloves
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 tablespoons Greek style yogurt
3 tablespoons water
[Makes about 50 cookies]
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/360F
2. In a food processor or stand mixer, mix the butter, sugar, salt, spices, and egg until it comes together. Transfer into a bowl if you are using a food processor.
3. Mix in the flour in batches by hand and knead the dough until it comes together. Use the Greek yogurt thinned with water if you add too much flour and it doesn't seem to be coming together.
4. Divide the dough into two and place one portion onto a piece of parchment paper. Roll it out to a 5mm or 1/4 inch thickness. If you aren't using speculoos molds [we weren't], cut out the cookies into narrow rectangles.
5. Use a knife or spatula to transfer the cookies onto a lined cookie sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes [the center will still be slightly soft when done].
6. Cool on a rack on the parchment paper. Repeat. Eat.