Happy New Year! I hope your holidays were merry and bright. It’s a little late, but I thought I’d share our New Year’s Eve treat: it may be holiday-themed, but I think you’ll agree after you read about it that it’s worth eating any time of the year.
I seem to have a fondness for s’mores at the end of the year, and I found myself wanting to make some version of them again this New Year’s Eve. My twist of inspiration this time came from a jar of cookie butter I had in the cupboard – the one with “speculoos” printed on the label.
Speculoos, or speculaas (I’ve seen them spelled both ways), are a crisp, spicy cookie from the Netherlands, traditionally made at the beginning of December for St. Nicholas’ feast. The closest American analogue is the gingersnap, but whereas they have a predominately peppery kick from the ginger, speculoos have a sweeter, more multilayered flavor. The spice mix for speculoos varies but cinnamon almost always dominates, followed by nutmeg, cloves, and ginger. Other spices that can make appearances include white pepper, mace, cardamon, coriander. You can buy speculoos spice mixes online, but I think part of the fun is coming up with the blend that tickles your taste the best.
Of course, speculoos got a huge boost in visibility over here in the states when Trader Joe’s invented cookie butter, a spread made of crushed speculoos (there are similar spreads out there – in the UK it often goes by biscoff spread). I’m willing to bet there’s many more people out there who know about and have tried cookie butter than the actual speculoos. That’s fine – there’s room for both in my dessert playbook, as these s’mores illustrate.
Instead of classic grahams, I decided to make speculoos. Traditionally, they’re rolled and pressed into a mold, but you can simply cut out shapes with a cutter. I made stars for New Year’s, but you can make simpler circles or squares instead (it makes for easier filling as well). I worried about the cookies being too firm to work well as sandwich cookies, so I kept the cookies very thin, and I found that the fillings will help soften the cookies as well, if you let them sit for a bit.
Building on the sweet-spicy speculoos goodness, the fillings include a layer of cookie butter, a dollop of dark chocolate ganache, and a swirl of marshmallow cream. I found the spices and chocolate worked well to play off the fluffy sweetness of the marshmallow, achieving that gooey-crisp-chocolatey amalgam that is s’mores perfection. I made these earlier in the day and we bruleed the marshmallow at the last minute, to enjoy as the last moments of 2014 ticked down.
I’m pretty happy with how this last-minute inspiration came together – I know, it’s hard to go wrong with cookie butter, but it was fun to use it in a new spin on a classic comfort dessert.
Also, with the coming of the new year we’re also approaching Isabelle’s second birthday. I don’t have much to express about her impending two-year-old status except a bunch of exclamation marks, but this last month has been particularly exciting as she seemed to go through a big developmental spurt: suddenly she went from short phrases to full, complete sentences. This increased eloquence was accompanied by a marked burst in independence. Terrible twos about to descend on us? Well, I guess there’s more than one way to view it. For example, she’s been watching what I’ve been doing and trying to imitate me, which led to her very first stint as Mommy’s baking helper, right before the end of the year! She helped me roll out the speculoos dough and cut out the stars – she claimed all the little stars were “Isabelle’s cookies”. Here she is, proudly showing off her first baking project!
I’m really looking forward to doing more baking with my little miss in 2015 – perhaps there will be some more kid-friendly recipes making their way onto this blog. I’m also looking forward to sharing more about my upcoming cookbook when it comes out, and I have so many other projects on my wish list. Here’s to seeing how much I can fit into 2015, and I hope this year is full of excitement and joy for you as well!
- 2 cups (272 g) all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 cup (113 g) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup (100 g) packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 6 oz bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped
- 3/4 cup (173 g) heavy cream
Marshmallow Cream (Swiss Meringue)
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/3 cup cookie butter or biscoff spread
For the speculoos:
- Whisk flour, spices, and salt together in a medium bowl.
- Beat butter in stand mixer with paddle attachment on medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add sugars and beat until light and fluffy, another 3 minutes.
- Add in egg and beat to combine. Add in vanilla and beat to combine.
- Add flour mixture all at once and beat just until combined and dough starts to come together.
- Turn out dough onto a clean surface and divide into two parts. Form into rectangles about 1/2" thick, wrap in plastic, and chill in refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats.
- Roll out one block of dough to 1/4" thick. Cut out 2 1/2" round cookies with a cookie cutter, or use whichever size you like. If the dough is sticking, re-chill in refrigerator before moving cookies to baking sheets. They bake better when cold.
- Bake for 9 to 11 minutes, rotating halfway through, until cookies are golden brown and just set at the center. Be careful if you do a complex shape like a star, the ends can burn first, so watch them carefully. Cool on wire racks.
For the ganache:
- Place chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat cream to boiling on the stove.
- Pour cream over chocolate and let sit for a minute. Stir to combine cream into chocolate. Place ganache in refrigerator to chill while you are making the marshmallow cream.
For the marshmallow cream:
- Combine the sugar, egg whites, and salt in a medium metal bowl and place over a pan of simmering water.
- Whisk the sugar mixture constantly over heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture looks smooth and shiny, about 3 minutes.
- Remove mixture from heat and pour into a stand mixer bowl. Whisk on medium speed for about 5 minutes until the mixture has cooled.
- Beat on high speed until stiff glossy peaks form, about another 5 to 10 minutes. Add vanilla and beat to combine.
- Scrape the frosting into a piping bag fitted with a medium star tip.
- Lay out the cookies in pairs. Spread some cookie butter on half of the cookies. Top with a layer of chocolate ganache.
- Pipe a swirl of meringue on top of the ganache. Place a second cookie on top and press down. Use a brulee torch to brown the meringue.
- Serve immediately, or you can let them sit out for a couple hours - the ganache and meringue will soften up the cookies.