Happy National Shortbread Day!! Really? I just find these National Food Holiday Lists fascinating. Who puts these together? Well – I’m not too proud to use these holiday lists to spark an idea.
I absolutely adore shortbread cookies. The short texture, with all that butter makes me want to eat the whole sleeve. My favorite store-bought version of those was Lorna Doones. But, then I started thinking about my favorite airline – Delta. (You’ll get the connection in a minute.) It’s not my favorite airline because they have the most spacious seats or anything. It’s truly only related to the fact that they give out those amazing cookies to everyone – not just the passengers in first class. And, if you’re lucky, the person next you doesn’t want theirs (not truly likely) and you get TWO packs of Biscoff Cookies – which is the ultimate version of a shortbread cookie.
And, it doesn’t end there. Because Lotus, the company that makes Biscoff, then turned it into the best Cookie Spread ever. Of course, Trader Joe’s has their version of it, Speculoos Cookie Butter, which seems to have a cult-like following.
So, what is all the fuss about? Oh My Goodness – first of all the texture is divine. The high ratio of butter to flour in this cookie makes, what bakers refer to, as a ‘short’ dough. Basically the fat interferes with the protein structure so it can’t become elastic. Of course, in gluten free doughs, there is no gluten to form an elastic structure, but you get some of that from the xanthan. So, what you get is this perfectly flaky, crisp cookie.
Next comes the flavor. I’ve heard some refer to the spices in this cookie as similar to a ginger snap. But, there is no ginger in speculoos. The spice that reminds people of ginger snaps is cardamom – a common ginger snap ingredient. If you want more info on this, the world’s third most expensive spice, take a look at what I had to say about it in this prior post here. So, the cardamom combined with lots of quality cinnamon and cloves is what gives this cookie it’s unique spice personality.
So, my end goal here is to make divinely decadent Speculoos Cookie Butter, but first things first. We need to make the Speculoos. I started by going to my “go to” Pastry Book that I’ve used since I went to culinary school – Professional Baking by Wayne Gisslen. I have the Sixth Edition. Not sure if there’s a later one. But, all I know is that every recipe in this book simply works. Unlike some that I’ve bought from well-known people where not many do. So, his recipe for Speculoos is close to classic shortbread, but he has one departure – it includes an egg. Hmmm?
Then I went to another of my favorite classic books – The Fannie Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham. Also a must have book in your library of books. Well, her book doesn’t have speculoos, but it does contain several different versions of shortbread. I settled on her recipe called Shortenin’ Bread because it contains brown sugar and Biscoff has a caramel hint to it. So, I had to see what the difference between the two was.
So, I converted both recipes to gluten free. And, after two batches of each with some tweaks, I have to say that each of them is great and you can’t go wrong with either. The Fannie Farmer version allows all the spices to come through, whereas the Wayne Gisslen version contains confectioner’s sugar and that cornstarch in the confectioner’s sugar seems to slightly mask the flavor of the spices. That could be solved by increasing each of the spices a bit, but I ran out of time to try it one more time – National Shortbread Day is fast approaching, after all. I’d recommend you make it the way it’s listed first and see what you think before increasing spices though.
I’m going to list both recipes. You might want to go with the Fannie Farmer version (Version 2) since it doesn’t contain egg. But, as I said, both of them are fabulous.
So, I have my favorite – Version 2. I would love to hear from you as to which one you tried and how you liked it.
And, now I just can’t wait until next week where we tackle the C.o.o.k.i.e. B.u.t.t.e.r!!! I’ve seen quite a few different versions of this as well, but, here’s a hint where I’m headed – Organic Coconut Butter. I love that stuff and can eat it right out of the jar. It’s embarrassing.
Until next week, Mangia! Mangia! xoxo