Do you remember the first time you tasted speculoos? Can you still remember the initial confusion your tastebuds had to the sugary, spicy and buttery taste? Maybe you thought it was a familiar flavor, and tried to pin it to something. But you couldn't, because it wasn't quite caramel and it wasn't all cinnamon. Or did you immediately exclaim (mouth still full and all), "you've got to try this!!" to everyone within ear-shot? If you haven't tasted it before, go go go. Stop reading this post now and go find some to try!
I met speculoos during my first trip to Europe. That summer, right after I finished some brutal law school exams, I hopped on a plane eyes full of wander. Europe! I had dreamed of going there for years! A few days into the trip, just as it was finally sinking in that I really was on a Greek island gazing at the Mediterranean and thinking life couldn't get any better, speculoos snuck in my life and blew my taste buds away.
The waiter brought over my coffee, and there it was, a thin brown biscuit sitting next to the cup on the saucer. I took my first bite and that crumbly buttery spice melted in my mouth. I needed more! Yep, I actually stole my traveling companion's biscuit that day. And then, being a shameless American traveler, I asked the waiter for more.
This was in 2009, before speculoos hit America, and before it became front page on every food blog. For months after, that spicy sweetness lingered in my mind. But I couldn't find it anywhere back home. I actually didn't even know what it was called until much later on when I started seeing it again all over the internet.
Fortunately, speculoos butter is pretty easy to find these days, and works great in some recipes. But recently, I discovered a dry speculaas spice mix (thank you Steven for sending me a sample). Because it's quite similar to cinnamon (but mixed with 9 different spices), it's easy to sprinkle into any recipe, or on top of anything (and everything)! This recipe for speculoos popcorn is essentially a caramel popcorn recipe, but I just added in ½ teaspoon of speculoos spice mix to it.
And now that I've got speculoos powder in a shaker bottle, tee hee... I can sprinkle speculoos on anything and everything! >:) (That is indeed my evil grin. And yes, I had to wiki how to make it because the lawyers I worked with didn't use emoticons.)
Speculoos Popcorn Recipe
- ½ cup popcorn kernels
- 1 teaspoon oil
- 45g (about 3 tbs) butter
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla
- ½ teaspoon speculaas mix
Preheat oven to 120°C / 250°F.
In a large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add in three kernels and cover. When you hear the first kernel pop, add in the rest of the kernels. Cover the pan, and keep gently shaking the pan until you count at least three seconds between every pop, about 3-5 minutes. Transfer the popped popcorn onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Discard any un-popped kernels. (Note: I only have one baking sheet so I only used one. But if you have two, you can spread the popcorn across both baking sheets to allow more room.)
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium-high heat. As soon as the butter is melted, add in the sugar, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan continuously, until the syrup is a light golden color, about 3-5 minutes. if you have a candy thermometer, you want it to reach between 120°C and 150°C / 250°F and 300°F. Otherwise, immediately take it off the heat if you see wisps of smoke rising.
Once off the heat, immediately add in the vanilla, speculaas mix and baking powder, stirring continuously. The syrup will bubble up vigorously, so you may want to do this step next to a sink.
Slowly pour syrup over the popcorn, and use a spatula to toss and coat the popcorn (I don't use all of the syrup, but its personal preference).
Place the popcorn in the oven, and bake for about 30 minutes, stirring the popcorn occasionally and breaking up any large clumps. Remove from oven and let cool. Enjoy your homemade speculoos popcorn!