During a trip to Brussels to delve into the region’s culinary history, I got to sample my first speculaas outside of a packaged Biscoff cookie. The irony of Biscoff is that it’s from a Belgian-based company, but the Belgians invented speculoos (and not speculaas), which typically only has cinnamon (and not the wonderful spice assortment below). Either way, they were delectable and really made me appreciate the attention to detail that goes into high-quality baking.
Technique tip: Really allow your butter, sugar and spices to get nice and fluffy before adding the flour and cornstarch. If your dough ball gets a bit dry in the mixer, feel free to splash more water on it. You can also wet your hands when you remove the dough from the mixer to make the dough easier to work with.
Swap option: Feel free to experiment by swapping the fancy Belgian sugar with dark brown, but I can guarantee that it won't taste the same. You can also play around with the spices and their amounts. Many traditional recipes incorporate ground anise seeds, but I opted for fennel since it's a bit less pungent.
Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.2.
In a stand mixer using a paddle attachment, cream sugar, butter, baking soda, salt and spices until fluffy. Slowly add water until it is fully incorporated.3.
Add flour and cornstarch on medium speed and mix until a dough ball is formed.4.
Turn off the stand mixer and remove the dough ball from the bowl. Begin kneading on a floured surface and roll into a smooth ball.5.
Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a sheet, just 1/4 inch in height. You may need to keep re-flouring to ensure your dough is not sticky.6.
Cut the dough with a knife or pastry wheel into 2- by 1-inch rectangles. Reform the scraps into a ball and continue rolling out until all of it is used. You can also use cookie molds for fun shapes and sizes. I prefer to eyeball my cutting so that the cookies have more of a rustic feel.7.
Transfer dough cut-outs to parchment paper and ensure the dough is spaced at least one inch apart.8.
Bake the first tray for approximately 15 minutes, until cookies are golden brown. Once cooked, bake the second tray. Since these are a thinner cookie, be sure to check on them a few minutes early and ensure they don't burn.9.
Allow the cookies to cool entirely before serving. Enjoy!