Why It Works
- Briefly cooking the cookie crumbs in water dissolves their sugar, for an ultra-creamy base.
- Refined coconut oil is odorless, flavorless, and solid at room temperature, giving the cookie paste a thick and firm consistency, like peanut butter.
- The volume of water and refined coconut oil dilutes the sweetness of the cookies, but a bit of golden syrup brings the flavor back into balance.
When I think of Belgian cuisine, I'm left with an overwhelming impression of elegance and sophistication—Liège waffles, moules-frites, and blonde ale come to mind. Speculoos, too—those crispy, caramelized cookies made famous by the Biscoff brand.
So I was shocked to discover that cookie butter, a dessert spread made from puréed Biscoff crumbs, isn't a cheap American marketing trend, but rather a true Belgian innovation. What's more, cookie butter is a key ingredient in all sorts of proper pastries as well, used in European bakeries the way ours rely on peanut butter. It makes a lot of sense, if you think about it: cookie butter is everything we love about speculoos in general (or Biscoff in particular) in spreadable form. It's spicy and rich, with a deep caramel flavor and the toastiness of freshly baked cookies, but with a creamy, buttery consistency.
Cookie butter is readily available wherever Biscoff are sold, and you can buy similar versions from brands like Roland and Trader Joe's. But, as with most anything, there's something special about making cookie butter entirely from scratch (and it's a heckuva lot cheaper, too).
If you've been tempted to try a batch of my homemade Biscoff for yourself, cookie butter is also a fun way to use up the scrap pieces left over after rolling and cutting the dough.
Of course, it's totally fine to start off with a package of real Biscoff instead. The recipe works well either way, so don't overthink it.
Regardless of how you go about obtaining the crumbs, mix them with an equal amount of water (by weight) in a stainless steel saucier, along with a drizzle of golden syrup to add back some of the caramel sweetness that would otherwise be lost in dilution.
At first, the mixture will be a little gritty from the brun foncé or toasted sugar in the speculoos. But after a few minutes over medium heat, the sugar will dissolve. (You can rub a pinch between your fingers to check.)
Pour the sauce-like mixture into a tall, narrow container, and allow it to cool until the steam subsides, about five minutes. Add a bit of refined coconut oil (roughly 50% of the mixture by weight), and process with an immersion blender until silky-smooth. While the mixture is still warm and fluid, pour it into a glass jar.
Using an immersion blender emulsifies the crumbs and water into a rich and silky paste, obliterating any lingering crumbs and slightly aerating the mixture as well. By offsetting the natural density of the oil, aeration prevents the cookie butter from feeling greasy on the tongue.
Cover the jar and refrigerate until the mixture is cold and hard, about two hours, then let the cookie butter stand at cool room temperature until glossy and soft.
Because its consistency is governed by coconut oil, which melts at 75°F (24°C) and grows increasingly hard as it cools below 69°F (21°C), cookie butter has the best consistency when it's between 70 and 74°F (21 and 23°C).
Above that range, the cookie butter will begin to melt, breaking the emulsion and allowing a greasy layer of coconut oil to rise to the top. Below that range, the coconut oil in the cookie butter will be too cold and hard, making the "butter" impossible to spread and resistant to melting on your tongue, where it will sit like a waxy lump. But when it's in the zone, homemade cookie butter will have a consistency like creamy peanut butter—wonderfully thick and spreadably smooth.
You can store and serve homemade cookie butter at room temperature for much of the year, but you'll need to take some precautions when your kitchen gets especially hot or cold. In warmer months, you may need to keep it in the fridge, then allow the cookie butter to soften at room temperature prior to use. In colder months, it may need to be set in a warm place until spreadably soft. But the same is true for the plain ol' butter we spread on toast, so that's not really such a big deal, is it?
Besides, a little mindfulness is a small price to pay for easy access to a cheap, delicious, and totally homemade alternative to pricey store-bought cookie butter. Whether you love it as a dip for fresh apples, a cinnamon-spiced addition to French toast, or the secret ingredient in holiday bourbon balls, next time you get a craving for cookie butter, try making it yourself.
3 1/2 ounces finely ground speculoos crumbs (about 3/4 cup; 100g), store-bought or homemade
3 1/2 ounces water (about 1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon; 100g)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ounce golden syrup (about 2 tablespoons; 30g), such as Lyle's
3 ounces refined coconut oil (about 1/2 cup; 85g), solid but not cold, between 70 and 74°F (21 and 23°C)
Combine cookie crumbs, water, cinnamon, and golden syrup in a 2-quart stainless steel saucier. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until crumbs have dissolved and mixture feels smooth between your fingertips, about 90 seconds. Remove from heat and transfer to a tall, narrow container, stirring occasionally until the steam subsides, about 5 minutes. Add solid coconut oil and process with an immersion blender until homogeneous and smooth.
Transfer to a glass jar (the cookie butter will readily absorb odors from used plastic containers), seal to prevent moisture loss, and refrigerate to re-solidify the coconut oil, about 2 hours. From there, store and serve at cool room temperature as a spread or dessert topping.
2-quart stainless steel saucier, flexible spatula, immersion blender, glass jar
If your grocery doesn't stock golden syrup alongside maple syrup and molasses, plain corn syrup will get the job done. The results won't taste quite as caramelly, but it's not a make-or-break ingredient.