This is the first of three recipes I presented as an honoree at the 2016 Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America presented by Dessert Professional Magazine. As promised, I’m sharing them all with you lovely cooklings. Enjoy!
Ok so first, speculoos…
Not long ago, a heated battle was waged in the quiet European countryside. Lives were lost (not true), Kingdoms came crashing down (also not true), lots of feelings were hurt (probably true). What could cause so much pain and strife? Love? Revenge?? Power??? No, friends. Something so, so much worse. Cookie spread. That’s right, the licensing rights to cookie spread. And when the dust settled it didn’t really matter who won, because they all live far away in Europe and a bunch of other companies stole the idea anyway so now we can enjoy cookie spread whenever we want. God bless America.
But what is cookie spread, that peanut buttery stuff that, unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed popping up in your local grocery store (Trader Joes has jumped on the early bandwagon with their “cookie butter”)? Give me a moment to open a jar so I can eat all of it in one sitting, and I will tell you.
Cookie spread made its way to us via Benelux (what an awesome word), the little enclave of the countries of Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. The spread is made from speculoos cookies, a traditional spiced shortbread and a popular Christmas treat in parts of Eastern Europe. Speculoos is kind of like a linzer cookie, kind of like gingerbread.
Among the big dogs (maybe the biggest) in the world of Euro cookie spreads is Lotus, the Belgian brand that makes Biscoff. Biscoff is Lotus’ version of the speculoos spread (which is f*cking amazing by the way. The crunchy version is like canned crack). Lotus was in the center of the controversy and battle as to who owned the rights to the spread. Long story short, basically no one does, and now spreads are turning up all over. How about we make our own?! Magnifique!
I set out to recreate the Biscoff version of cookie spread, my personal favorite. I started with a traditional speculoos cookie recipe and then worked it into a spread (I know what you’re thinking: genius). It was good, but old school speculoos recipes are way too spicy compared with modern Biscoff.
More research was needed, so I ate a lot of Biscoff. Like, a lot. It was hard work, but someone had to do it, and in the end it paid off because in a moment of clarity I realized that Biscoff tastes almost identical to Teddy Grahams, those loveable little cookie bears we all decapitate with our teeth. Eureka! So I switched gears and worked on a Teddy Graham analog and what do you know, it tastes pretty damn close to Biscoff.
For “Top Ten” I decided to make a speculoos sandwich cookie as one of my offerings. The cookie itself is my analog Biscoff recipe. I’ve paired it with a speculoos ganache that uses actual Biscoff and a raspberry caramel center. Good pastry is all about contrast and balance so the acidic and bitter notes of the caramel offset the sweetness of the cookie and ganache. Textural contrast comes from the cookie crunch and the creaminess of the filling.
The honey in these cookies means you have to bake them thoroughly or they’ll be chewy. It also means they’ll get soft quickly, which isn’t what we want (that’s what she said). So, be sure to wrap them tightly as soon as they’re cool. In my kitchen at work we use silica packets – yes those things in your new pair of shoes that you’re not allowed to eat – to keep the cookies nice and crisp.
For the raspberry juice I show you a method for extracting it from frozen raspberries. The yield of juice from the raspberries will vary since fruit isn’t always the same, but in general you can expect to get about a 2.5:1 berries:juice. Not great, I know, but it is what it is.
speculoos sandwich cookie
yield: 1 x ½ sheet pan; 17 cookies at 40mm round
215g all purpose flour
100g whole wheat flour
3g baking powder
3g baking soda
155g butter unsalted
6g vanilla extract
Combine and cream the butter, sugar, honey, salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract in a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
Combine and sift the all purpose flour, whole wheat flour, baking powder and baking soda. You’re only sifting to break up any lumps in the flour, not remove an ingredient. You’ll notice that the larger pieces of whole wheat flour won’t pass through the sifter, but don’t get rid of them! Just toss them on the pile of sifted ingredients.
Add all of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, mixing until combined. So easy!
Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and rest it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.
Roll the dough out to 1/8in/.3cm thick. I almost always bake on a non-stick baking mat, and in this particular case it makes rolling dough really easy. Since you’re baking on the mat, just roll the dough right onto the mat. That way you don’t have to worry about the dough being floured underneath or sticking. I only lightly flour the top of the dough when needed.
Start by rolling the dough lengthwise to the ends of the mat. If the dough is still a little cold and starts to crack, just mash it together by hand and keep on rolling. After you’ve rolled lengthwise, turn the mat 90 degrees and roll the dough out to the corners.
Trim excess dough off with the back of a paring knife (so you don’t accidentally cut the mat). I even lift the corner of the mat up so it’s easy to strike off the dough from the edge.
Now you have a sheet of dough perfectly sized to the sheet pan and easy to move!
Dock the dough before you bake it. A fork does the job just fine at home.
Last, and this step is optional, I place a baking mat made specifically for baking bread on top of the dough. This mat is porous, so it allows steam to escape during baking. The benefit to placing the porous mat on top of the dough is that it will help the product bake evenly, especially one that tends to puff up. Trying to do this with a standard baking mat won’t work because all steam will be trapped by the non-breathable mat.
Bake: convection; 350F/176C; 10-12min
Remove the sheet of baked cookie from the oven and punch cut it with a 2.16in/55mm round ring cutter while the dough is still warm and pliable. Be careful not to press too hard or you may cut the baking mat. Be gentle, you’re trying to cut through warm dough, not cinder blocks. I like to cut out my dough this way instead of when it is raw since almost all dough spreads during baking. By cutting it after its baked, you know the shape you punch out will stay exactly as is.
speculoos ganache ingredients
400g chocolate 31%
35g glucose can substitute with light corn syrup
157g heavy cream
40g butter unsalted
80g speculoos cookie spread
speculoos ganache method
Combine the chocolate and speculoos. This ganache recipe has a high ratio of chocolate to cream, because we want it to be stiff enough to hold its shape when it’s piped. Because of this high ratio, it’s usually a good idea to melt the chocolate slightly before the cream is added. Just give the chocolate 15 – 20 second bursts in the microwave followed by a little mixing until it’s about half melted.
Combine the glucose and heavy cream and bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat. This recipe is pretty small, so I usually just microwave the mixture until it starts to simmer rather than dirty a sauce pot on the stove. To do this I use another pro kitchen standby: the deli. We use these every minute of every day to measure ingredients, store finished product and mise en place, and drink water.
Pour the heated heavy cream mixture over the chocolate and speculoos spread and let it sit for about 2 minutes.
Add the butter and salt and whisk or hand blend the mixture together until fully emulsified.
Transfer the ganache to a container to cool. Place a layer of plastic wrap onto the surface of the ganache to avoid forming a skin. My favorite method is using a sheet pan lined with plastic wrap. This creates a lot of surface area which will cool the ganache faster.
raspberry caramel ingredients
58g heavy cream
150g clarified raspberry juice
2g vanilla paste
raspberry caramel method
First you need to extract and clarify the raspberry juice. Start with frozen raspberries, either purchased pre-frozen or fresh berries you’ve frozen yourself.
Why frozen? Because when you freeze a berry, the water trapped in its cells expands into sharp, jagged crystals that tear the cell walls apart. Once the berry thaws, the water turns back into its liquid phase and can easily escape the cells that are now torn open. That’s why strawberries that have once been frozen are so mushy when they thaw out.
Place the raspberries in a metal mixing bowl over a sauce pot filled with about 1 inch of water (called a double boiler or bain marie). Heat the water in the sauce pot until it’s just barely simmering and allow the raspberries to slowly heat up and thaw.
As the berries warm and their juice is extracted, occasionally strain them through a fine mesh strainer to isolate the juice then place the raspberries back over simmering water. Repeat this process until the raspberries have cooked down and there’s no more juice to extract (the raspberries will basically just be pulp by this point).
Let the raspberry juice settle for an hour or two up to overnight to allow any remaining sediment to settle. Carefully pour off the clear raspberry juice, leaving the sediment behind. Whew! Clarified raspberry juice.
Heat an empty sauce pot over medium-high heat (at the same time start to heat your raspberry juice until it’s steaming, either in a separate sauce pot or in the microwave). Add your sugar to the dry hot sauce pot, a little at a time, and allow the sugar to begin to liquify before adding more sugar. Repeat this process until all of the sugar is added. This method will ensure you don’t have any lumps in your caramel.
When working with caramel, be careful! Should you get any hot caramel on your skin you’re getting burned, no doubt about it, but DON’T TRY TO PULL IT OFF or you’re likely to take off skin to boot. Instead, go immediately to cold water to both neutralize the burn and dissolve the caramel.
Cook the caramel to a medium amber and add your butter, mixing immediately. Continue to stir until the butter is almost completely incorporated. It’s very important to mix the butter thoroughly into the mixture, fully emulsifying the fat so the caramel doesn’t separate after it has cooled.
Add a small amount of the hot raspberry juice, immediately mixing the juice into the caramel with a spatula. Careful! It’s going to steam a lot. Mix the addition of juice until the bubbling dies down, and only then add more juice. Continue this method, adding slightly more juice each time, until all of the juice is added. If you add too much juice at a time without mixing well you will rapidly cool and seize the caramel creating lumps that are a pain to dissolve.
Add the heavy cream, vanilla paste and salt. Switch to a whisk and cook the mixture to 230F/110C, whisking the whole time.
Let the caramel cool for a minute or two before you transfer it. Once transferred, let it cool fully at room temp with plastic wrap placed on it to touch so it doesn’t develop any condensation or skin.
Transfer the speculoos ganache to a piping bag fitted with a 10mm round piping tip and transfer the raspberry caramel to a second piping bag. No piping tip needed for the bag of caramel.
Pair the speculoos cookies, leaving one face up and one face down. Pipe a ring of speculoos ganache onto the face up cookie leaveing the ganache about 1/4in/.6cm from the edge.
Pipe the raspberry caramel into the center of each ring of ganache.
Sandwich the cookie halves together, giving a slight twist. The pressure of sandwiching the cookies together will push the ganache closer to the edge of the cookie, right where we want it.
To decorate the cookie like I have (totally optional) start by wrapping a 1.5in/40mm ring cutter in plastic wrap.
Using the wrapped ring as a stencil, place it onto the center of each cookie, and dust with powdered sugar.
If you plan to dust a lot of cookies, I recommend placing them on a second ring cutter. That way, the build up of powdered sugar doesn’t mess up the bottom of the cookie.
So there you have it! We’ve made it through the first Top Ten recipe. If you’ve kept a cool head and worked through everything step by step I’m in no doubt that you are about to eat some bomb-ass speculoos sandwich cookies. I’d say I’m jealous, but I’m about to do the same thing.