I think there are two types of cooking happening during this pandemic. One type, what I’m mostly doing, involves cooking easy, comforting things with whatever you have the cupboard because it’s been ten days since you ventured out to the grocery store. The other type is ambitious. Big cooking or baking projects that you’ve always wanted to try, and now you have the chance! These are the sourdough breads, the elaborately decorated cakes, the croissants. This recipe definitely falls into the second category.
Speculoos cookies are Belgian in origin, but you may have had them at your Trader Joe’s, or on your last Delta flight (remember when we used to be allowed to fly places?!). They’re crisp, sweet, and lightly spiced. We were just finishing a box when I looked at the ingredients and realized they have palm oil in them – so it was time to make our own!
That’s where things got a bit complicated. You see, speculoos cookies are made with something called candi sugar. It’s white sugar that’s been very slowly toasted, so that it caramelizes without melting. And it’s a huge pain to make. But, what better time to make it than now! It acts very differently when baked compared to brown sugar, so you can’t substitute in this recipe. It has a lovely golden brown colour, and a caramel taste that definitely makes these cookies unique.
The result is perfect – light, crispy, spicy, and great for dipping in your coffee or tea.
I think you can buy candi sugar online, but if you’re stuck at home, why not try making it yourself! Give yourself a lot of time – it takes about 5 hours, and should be made the day before you start on these cookies.
Makes about 30 cookies, and you’ll have a little leftover candi sugar too!
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tbsp butter, softened
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground cardamom
1-2 tbsp water
1 1/4 cup flour
To make the candi sugar, pour the sugar into a small glass or ceramic baking dish – the sugar should be at least one inch deep, or it’ll cook too quickly and liquify. I used a small glass oven-safe tupperware container. Heat oven to 300 and toast the sugar. You should stir it every 20-30 minutes, more frequently if you find it’s starting to liquify. If you do get any liquid sugar, scoop it out and keep roasting. After about 2 hours it’ll start turning lightly golden and smell amazing – keep going until it’s been toasting for 3-4 hours. Let cool completely.
To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 and line a few baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter, sugar, baking soda, spices, and salt together, until fluffy, about 10 minutes. Add 1 tbsp water and mix until combined. Add flour all at once. If it’s too dry and crumbly to hold together, add a bit more water (I ended up needing about 2.5 tbsp water) – you want the dough to be holding together in one ball.
Roll out the dough so it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Using a pastry wheel (or a pizza cutter, that’s all I had!) I also stamped each cookie with a piping tip to make them a little fancier. Transfer to baking sheet and bake until edges are golden.