* A portmanteau of the words ‘biscuit’ and ‘coffee’, the original caramelised Lotus Biscoff cookie was first produced in 1932 by a Belgian baker named Jan Boone Sr
* In 2007, contestant Els Scheppers of a Belgian TV show called De Bedenkers (The Inventors) came up with a spreadable product made out of the original speculoos cookies
* Right now, it would be hard to scroll through the social media feeds of any confectioner or home baker in India and not find a dessert that highlights cookie butter in some iteration or the other
On my last attempt at a tally, there were at least a hundred accounts and millions of hashtags on Instagram solely dedicated to Biscoff. Almost every second YouTube video tutorial these days seems to be about myriad ways to use the product. Cashing in on the new ‘plant-based’ foods craze, the vegan cookie butter spread has amassed a cult-like following.
From Kenya to Melaka in Malaysia, the spread has well and truly spread far and wide, especially at a time when the home-baking frenzy is at its peak, with trends of all kinds jostling for table-top space.
Nipping close at the heels of dalgona coffee, focaccia art and the perennial favourite aka sourdough bread baking, the spread that many are calling the ‘new Nutella’ is finding a firm footing in India and is all set to be the buzzword of 2021!
So what exactly is Biscoff? Interestingly, the spread is far from being the nubile 2021 débutante it seems to be. A portmanteau of the words ‘biscuit’ and ‘coffee’, the original caramelised Lotus Biscoff cookie was first produced in 1932 by a Belgian baker named Jan Boone Sr. Also known as ‘speculoos’ (which is what all thin, spiced biscuits in Belgium and the neighbouring Netherlands are called), the biscuit found itself crushed up into an all-new product — the spreadable cookie butter — decades later.
In 2007, contestant Els Scheppers of a Belgian TV show called De Bedenkers (The Inventors) came up with a spreadable product made out of the original speculoos cookies. It was then that Lotus bought her idea and produced it under the original brand.
Soon the US got in on the action and co-opted the idea, with several brands like Trader Joe’s coming out with their own versions of what they call ‘speculoos cookie butter’ — all deceptively similar in both taste and texture to the original Belgian one.
Desi does it too!
Right now, it would be hard to scroll through the social media feeds of any confectioner or home baker in India and not find a dessert that highlights cookie butter in some iteration or the other — be they cakes, pies, brownies or anything else one can think of using the caramel-tinged spread. A few months ago, during Durga Puja festivities, a Kolkata-based home chef even came up with a Biscoff sandesh of all things.
Swheta Mutreja Aggarwal, who owns Kookie Cake Crumble, a confectionery business in Mumbai, first came across Biscoff-based desserts a few years ago on a family vacation to Europe. “The slightly spicy, cinnamon flavour appealed to me and that’s when I decided I could incorporate it into my desserts too,” says Agarwal who came out with her version of a spiced pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving late last year using the spread.
Speaking of pies, the newly launched Pie And Co in Mumbai, too, has a Biscoff pie on their festive menu. “We added Biscoff to our baked cheesecake and it soon became one of our top-selling items for the festive season,” says Chef Aditi Goel, the brand’s founder. However, she does warn of its potential drawbacks. “When baked for too long, the spread loses its flavour, and we did have a few rounds of errors before we could come to our final Biscoff pie recipe.”
Cookie vs Nut butter
Putting it down to the ingredient’s versatility, home baker Anjali Mirchandani of online baking company Brownie by the Bay feels confident in incorporating it in several of her recipes be they cheesecakes, dessert jars or her speciality, brownies. All three that would earlier have had Nutella in them. “Take a cheesecake for instance. Biscoff and cream cheese work superbly together given their similar creamy profile. It most definitely is the new Nutella and has taken everyone’s taste buds by storm,” Mirchandani says.
Despite the fact that the brand new Silver Beach Café in Mumbai has a Biscoff milkshake on the menu, its executive VP Twinkle Keswani still believes in the unshakeable popularity of Nutella in India. “While Biscoff is definitely popular, Nutella, according to me, is iconic with its bottle and taste, of course. It is much ahead of Biscoff in the race of sweet spreads”.
Almost gives the phrase “war against the spread” a whole other meaning!
Raul Dias is a food and travel writer based in Mumbai
- 1/2 cup cold milk
- 2 tsp Biscoff spread
- 2 scoops vanilla ice cream
- 2 Biscoff cookies
- Blend milk, Biscoff spread, vanilla ice cream and one cookie in a mixer.
- Drizzle a little melted spread into a tall milkshake glass, swirling it around to coat the sides.
- Pour blended milkshake into the glass and garnish with a whole cookie.