If you've never tasted a Speculaas cookie, the most commonly known of which are the Delta Airlines' Biscoff cookies that come in a sweet red package, you might not understand what the fuss is all about.
But… let me tell you! While these gems look all simple (maybe even humble), and while you might not like crispy cookies (I don't usually, either), and although they aren't really lookers…
They're buttery. The crisp crunch when you bite into one (or six) is gratifying. The spices and dark brown sugar bring the cookie to another level. Although I'm no supporter of Delta Airlines (bad experience, don't ask), I must say, Biscoff cookies have earned a good reputation for a reason.
Baked authors and bakers, Matt and Lewis, say these cookies are the closest they have found to Biscoff cookies, and I would have to agree; they taste just like the Dutch Windmill (Speculoos) cookies we always get when we go to Aruba. Granted, I didn't have a windmill/ rectangular/ oblong cookie cutter, but we made do ;)
Adapted from Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented (Matt Lewis, Renato Poliafito)
Makes about 2 dozen cookies
1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
½ tsp baking soda
1 ½ TBSP ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves (I didn't use them)
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp salt
10 TBSP (1 stick + 2 TBSP) butter, cool but not cold, diced
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp freshly grated orange zest
Coarse sugar (I used demerara)
In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, and salt. Add the butter pieces and cut in with the paddle attachment, a large fork, or pastry cutter. The mixture should look like coarse sand when you're done. Add the egg and orange zest and mix again to create a uniform dough.
Knead the dough on a clean work surface to form a ball. The dough will be slightly sticky and break apart easily. Cover in plastic wrap and let chill at least 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350F with rack in the center. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats. Unwrap and divide chilled dough in half. Place one half on a well-floured work surface and rewrap and return the other to the fridge.
Roll dough to ¼-inch thickness. The dough is a bit tricky/ sticky, so make sure rolling pin and work surface are well-floured at all times. You may have to re-roll dough a few times, and make sure it's cold. Use any cookie cutter to make the cookies (rectangular is most traditional), and transfer them to prepared baking sheets, leaving about 1 inch of space around them. Repeat this process with the second ball of dough. I like to refrigerate the cookies on the baking sheet after they've been rolled out and cut.
Sprinkle tops of cookies with coarse sugar and bake 15 minutes, until crisp around the edges and dark brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheets a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely. The cookies will crisp up when cooled.