What are Speculoos Cookies?
Origin of the Name
If you are wondering what the heck are Speculoos, they are a traditional Belgian and Dutch spice cookie eaten all year round yet primarily made for Saint Nicholas day (6 December in Belgium and 5 December in the Netherlands) and the winter holidays.
In some Anglo-Saxon countries, these traditional cookies are known as Biscoff. Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, they refer to these cookies as Speculaas. In Germany, where these cookies also have deep roots, they are known as Spekulatius. Many countries in Europe and the Americas follow their own favorite version of a spice cookie that can be rolled and cut into different holiday forms.
In recent years the term Speculoos or Biscoff has become known internationally because of the delicious sandwich spread made under this name, principally by Lotus Bakeries. Many people may not realize that this spread is made to taste like the beloved spice cookie.
How do Speculoos Cookies Taste?
Speculoos taste primarily of caramelized beet sugar and cinnamon. Many makers add other spices, such as ginger, nutmeg, cardamom or cloves, to round out the flavor.
The Speculoos dough is made in advance. Keeping the dough cool allows the spices to permeate the dough and helps prevent the cookie from losing its form during baking.
How are the Speculoos Cookies Shaped?
Bakers roll out the dough fairly thin. They then use cookie cutters to make special shapes or cookie stamps to leave a design on the top of the cookie. Traditionally bakers used a wood stamp with a very elaborate design to cut each cookie by hand. If you visit Brussels, walk into one of the Maison Dandoy stores near the Grand Place to taste the traditional flavor and view several wood stamps for display and sale.
How an you Use the Speculoos Flavor?
In Belgium, the Speculoos flavor can be found in all kinds of desserts, such as tiramisu, ice cream, crumbles, and cheesecake, to name a few, as well as in savory dishes, for example to accompany foie gras, in a cottage pie or other delicious dishes.
For comparison’s sake, Speculoos can be found all over Belgium, especially during the autumn and winter seasons, in the same way pumpkin can be seen in the United States during the same seasons. It’s probably no coincidence that similar mixes of spices are used in Speculoos cookies in Belgium as with pumpkin in the United States during the fall and winter holidays.
How are Speculoos Cookies used to make a Speculoos Pie Crust?
Speculoos cookies are grounded down to a fairly fine crumb for this pie crust. You can either put the cookies in a food processor until you reach your goal, or use a rolling pin to crush the cookies. To do so, you put the cookies inside a Ziploc bag. You then roll the pin over the plastic bag until you succeed. Personally, I find this rolling pin method a bit messy, as my bag often opens up in the process.
I usually make my own Speculoos cookies about a week before making the pie. Click to view How to Make Authentic Speculoos Cookies.
You may follow this recipe to make your Speculoos Pie Crust instead of using store-bought cookies. However, when pressed for time, I use the Lotus Speculoos cookies that can be found everywhere in Belgium. They are slightly more oily than my own so I would suggest reducing the butter a little to compensate.
Are there Alternatives to Speculoos Cookies in the Crust?
You may substitute gingerbread cookies, graham crackers, or any other sugar cookie for the Speculoos cookies if you cannot find them. When I lived in the United States I used Ginger Snaps. I would thus reduce slightly the amount of ginger I added to the pumpkin pie filling. If you were to use graham crackers, I’d recommend adding spices to your crumbs before mixing in the butter.
Improvising to Make New Creations
Use this recipe as a faithful guide, yet feel free to experiment with ingredients you have available. You may need to adjust the flour, butter or spice quantities depending on the type of cookie you use. The dough should hold together without sticking to your hands when you knead it lightly on a hard surface. If you’ve worked with other pie dough, fresh pasta or bread, you probably know what I mean.
How to Use the Speculoos Pie Crust
Try this Speculoos Pie Crust for pumpkin pie (see Speculoos Pumpkin Pie to Die For), cheesecake, or any other custard filling that blends well with the spices in these cookies.
The recipe below is for two 10 inch / 26 cm round pies. I always prepare two pie crusts since I usually make two pies at a time. If you don’t need two pie crusts, simply freeze any leftover dough for another occasion. Remove the dough from the freezer and place it in the refrigerator the night before you need it.
The Prep Time and Cook Time indicated in the recipe below is to bake two Speculoos Pie Crusts separately. If you have two ovens, the Prep Time will be the same, but the Cook Time will be only 45 minutes.
I’d love to read in the comments below your experiences with this crust as well as the ways you have used it. Please share this recipe with your friends via the social media buttons below. Enjoy it!
Speculoos Pie Crust
- 700 g Speculoos cookies ground to crumbs
- 200 g flour to start with but you may need a little more (see notes)
- 4 g baking powder
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 280 g butter
- 6 egg yolks
Pie Crusts by Food Processor
- Prepare the dough a little in advance since it must sit in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before using. Depending on the size of your food processor you may need to divide the ingredients into 2 parts and follow the steps below for each part.
- Grind the Speculoos cookies in a food processor until you have a fine crumb.
- Add the flour, baking powder and brown sugar into the bowl of the food processor. Mix a couple pulses so ingredients are blended.
- Cut the butter in small cubes and add to the flour mixture
- Blend the butter with the flour mixture until you get a grainy texture such as cornmeal. In a food processor this usually takes about 20 seconds
- Add the egg yolks into the dry mixture and mix until you get a smooth dough. In a food processor this usually takes about 30 seconds. Wait until the dough forms one piece and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead it a couple times with your hands on a clean surface with a little flour. If you are able to knead the dough without it sticking to your hands, the dough is ready. If the dough still sticks, add a little more flour until it no longer sticks.
Pie Crusts by Hand
- Prepare the dough a little in advance since it must sit in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before using.
- Roll the Speculoos cookies into crumbs. Put some cookies into a Ziploc bag and lock the opening. Careful not to overstuff the bag. Use a rolling pin to roll over the Ziploc bag until you have a fine crumb. Continue until you have the amount of Speculoos crumbs that you need. You won't have as fine a result as with a food processor, but it will be sufficient. With your thumb and forefinger, break down any lumps of cookie that still remain until you have a relatively fine crumb.
- Mix the flour (keep about 1/4 cup for mixing/kneading stage), baking powder, and brown sugar.
- Cut the butter in small cubes and add to the flour mixture. Blend the butter with the flour mixture until you get a grainy texture such as cornmeal.
- Add the egg yolks one by one into the dry mixture and mix until you get a smooth dough. If you need, add some of the reserved flour and mix some more. Continue this process (adding flour and mixing) until the dough forms one piece and starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead a couple times with your hands on a clean surface with a little flour. If you are able to knead without the dough sticking to your hands, the dough is ready. If the dough still sticks, add a little more flour until it no longer sticks.
Pie Crusts by Food Processor and by Hand
- See below for common instructions for hand and food processor.
- Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes. You can let this sit a few hours if you want to make ahead of time. I've used dough up to 2-3 days after it had been made.
- While the dough is in the refrigerator I usually prepare the filling (see below) and preheat the oven to 175°C / 350°F
- Remove the dough and start rolling out on a floured smooth surface (I use a very large cutting board). You will probably not be able to roll it out in one piece. That is ok. Try to roll it out as much as possible, keeping the thickness about a rim of a coffee cup. Put the pieces into the pie pan and press lightly. Continue until the bottom and sides are covered. I find a smooth sided pan works best (such as a pan you would use for cheesecake about 2 inches / 5 cm high with a removable bottom). When all sides are covered use the flat edge of a knife to even out the crust and smooth it over.
- Put the pie tin into the oven and leave about 10 minutes until brown. I've tried to put baking paper over the crust and then fill with uncooked beans, as many suggest, but found that the sides cook before the bottom does. Try it therefore without the paper and beans. If the crust rises in parts or bubbles while cooking you can flatten it out when it comes out of the oven.
- Repeat for the second pie tin.
- Leave the pre-baked pie crusts to cool before filling.