Do you guys remember when, back in the day, you could take a long plane ride to the other side of the world and they would serve you snacks and dinner in cute little trays fitted with tiny plates and cutlery? Oh, how I miss those days! The days when we were all free to travel, and there was no pandemic, and the world was a wonderful place full of charm and adventure and amazing places to discover.
My grandfather was a pilot and I like to think that, in my family, all of us that cherish travel and adventure take after him. My grandpa would wear his crisp, freshly ironed uniform and dashing cap, don his aviator sunglasses, and would climb the airstairs with aplomb. Both of his sons learned how to fly as well, albeit helicopters instead of planes. My mom, my sister and I all love to travel, although by far, my sister is the most veteran traveler in the family. I still have a super-long bucket list of places I’d like to see around the world, and keep a travel book full of photos about the attractions I’d like to visit in India, China, France, Spain, Italy, Mexico, Costa Rica, Morocco, Turkey, and other countries around the world. Right now those dreams feel very unattainable, but I like to keep dreaming. I think it keeps us all looking forward, and we really need that with the pandemic going on. The pandemic won’t last forever. We just have to keep our chins up and put one foot in front of the other and keep our long-term goals in sight.
In truth, even before the pandemic, air travel was already a far cry from what plane rides used to be in the 1960s and 1970s, when my grandpa would cross the skies and bring the most cutting-edge aircraft from the United States to Argentina. Those were the days! Although I love to travel, I actually don’t like flying. I get bored easily and I can never sleep on a plane, and it’s kind of hard to sit for 8 hours if I have a long flight, so I really look forward to the snack breaks provided by the flight attendants. It’s a distraction that makes the plane ride go a little bit faster, and is usually timed just right when I am about to die of hunger, mostly because I have spent hours in a cab, going through the airport security checkpoint, and waiting to board. So while we may not be able to fly much right now, I bring you Speculoos coffee break cookies! And if you’re feeling nostalgic for air travel and really looking forward to when one can explore the world by plane again, making these cookies can bring a little bite of the in-flight experience home.
This cookie recipe is made with cookie butter, which was truly a discovery for me. While I was familiar with the Dutch-style Biscoff spice cookies served as in-flight snacks on planes, I didn’t know there was such a thing as Speculoos cookie butter until Dan and I went shopping at Trader Joe’s together for the first time, while we were dating some years ago. Our apartment was a block away, and our weekly shopping trip to Trader Joe’s was always something that I looked forward to. Yes, grocery shopping counts as a date for me because I love it so much! Bless Dan, who always put up with me trying all kinds of new products and never judged me for my high consumption of lemons and butter and chocolate each week. I suspect it had a little bit to do with love, but also the fact that he benefitted from all my baking endeavors. (Wink-wink!) Anyway, that’s how I discovered cookie butter, and I was really skeptical the first time I tried it. I enjoyed it with bananas, and Dan would eat it on toast or pancakes. It wasn’t until recently that I realized such an incredibly tasty butter spread should really be used in a cookie. If you’re wondering what Speculoos is, you are not alone. The original Speculoos are from Belgium and Holland, and they are thin, crispy, spiced cookies similar to Pepparkakor or gingersnaps, and they are served as a snack, usually with coffee. The cookie butter is made by crushing these cookies and mixing it with condensed milk, evaporated milk, and butter to give it a spreadable texture. The consistency is very similar to peanut butter. The recipe for these cookies will not yield a cookie like the one served on the airplane. Those cookies dry, crunchy, and spicy, which gives them a long shelf life. I tend to like soft, dense, chewy cookies, so I created a Speculoos coffee break cookie that would have a similar flavor but with the texture that I like. Think of this cookie as if the dough of a chocolate chip cookie and the flavor of a Speculoos cookie married and had a baby, and that’s kind of what you get! When I developed this recipe, I tried adding chopped nuts or chocolate chips to the dough, and while it was very delicious, I felt like they detracted from the taste of the cookie dough, so instead, I opted for placing a single chocolate-covered coffee bean in the center for some visual appeal and to get that coffee-break experience in your cookie all rolled into one. If you do not like coffee, I’ve found that you can use half a hazelnut instead; it’s a great addition, and it will not conflict with the Speculoos flavor.
So thank you for flying with Prairie and Pampa today! Make sure your seat belt is fastened and your seat back is in the upright position. I hope you will have a wonderful flight of baking in your kitchen until we reach our final destination, and if you have any questions, you can consult the recipe card here below to make these cookies! Enjoy!
Speculoos Coffee Break Cookie
Prep time: 20 minutes
Chill time: 1 hour, divided
Bake: 12-13 minutes
Servings: 14 cookies
- ½ cup hard-packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup cane sugar
- 1 cup + 3 tbsp all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ½ cup salted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla powder
- 1/3 cup + 2 tbsp crunchy cookie butter
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground ginger
- Chocolate covered coffee beans or hazelnuts
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the brown sugar, white cane sugar, and melted butter, mixing well.
- Add in the speculoos cookie butter, mixing on medium-low speed until no lumps remain.
- Add the egg and vanilla powder, mixing until the batter is smooth.
- Stir in the cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground ginger, making sure they are fully incorporated.
- Using a large sieve, sift the flour and baking soda into the cookie dough, folding in until just combined, but do not over-mix.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will help the cookie bake with a soft and gooey texture.
- While the dough is chilling, line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Put your chocolate-covered coffee beans nearby. If you’re using hazelnuts, halve the nuts. They really go very well with the cookie, and they are a good option if you do not like coffee.
- After the dough has chilled, use an ice cream scoop to scoop out 1 to 2 inch diameter balls of cookie dough, placing them onto the baking sheet. Leave at least 2 inches in between the cookie balls so that they can spread.
- Chill the cookie dough scoops for another 30 minutes, and while they chill, preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Bake the cookies for 12-13 minutes, or until the edges of the cookies start to turn golden. I advise not to over-bake if you want a soft cookie! They will firm up as they cool. If you like a crisper cookie, bake for 13-15 minutes, but they will be crunchy.
- Remove from the oven and press a chocolate-covered coffee bean into the center of each cookie, or alternatively, a halved hazelnut.
- Let cool for 4 minutes on the baking tray before transferring to a baking rack. Enjoy while still warm and store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.