The Belgian biscuit, and spread is has established itself as the new favourite treat
In 1932, a local Belgian baker Jan Boone created a biscuit in Lembeke. He named it Lotus (after the flower) in homage to the natural ingredients used in it, and biscoff (‘bis’ for biscuit and ‘coff’ for coffee). The idea was to introduce it as a snack paired with coffee.
Today, Lotus Biscoff is a double whammy of deliciousness, a spread and a biscuit, offering caramel flavour and hints of cinnamon. Think of it as a speculoos with spice notes. It’s an ingredient that has captivated people the world over.
Lotus Bakeries’ was started by Boone and his brothers. In the 1950s, they started selling individual biscoff, persuading cafés and restaurants to serve this ‘coffee break biscuit’. It was the first step towards ensuring the worldwide popularity of this biscuit. From Europe, it then spread to the USA as an in-flight treat after Delta Airlines added it to their meals.
The spread is a recent addition. Many people would use biscuits as a filling for sandwiches, placing them between buttered bread so they would soften into a paste. In 2007, a Belgian mum Els Scheppers created a biscoff spread for the TV show: De Bedenkers (The Inventors). She worked with Lotus Bakeries to create the biscoff spread to counter the popularity of Nutella.
Now, this biscoff is available in India. It’s the new Nutella, a spread that’s dipping its way into fudge, mousse and cookies, pairing up with Rocky Road, kitkats, and milkshakes. People are eating them plain, or baking them into cakes and other creations like the popular Lotus Biscoff Cheesecake. It’s the new molten lava, oozing out of cakes, cookies and dripping down pancake sides.
Biscoff is an obsession with some, who theme their weddings around it, or colour their hair to reflect the warm caramel tones of the biscoff. And the cherry on the (cheese)cake is always a one perfectly formed biscuit as decoration. And bakers across India are finding that the caramel flavour and hints of cinnamon work well in all kinds of treats. Mumbai-based pastry chef, Sasha Ram of aJAR says ‘the caramelized flavour works really well in baking’.
Krutika Kukreja, founder of Mumbai-based Indulgence by Krutika, calls it the ‘new rage’. She uses biscoff in place of caramel in her creations, or to layer cheesecake, tea cakes, delche coffee cakes, or frosted cakes.
In Mumbai and Delhi, sisters Anushka Mehra and Ananya Anand of An with a Pan have been selling biscoff cheesecakes and Biscoff ice-cream like hot cakes. “I think just the flavour of biscoff is something that people have picked up on. Mostly people are actively looking out for it,” says Mehra.
Anushi Chadha first tried biscoff while studying in London last year. “I got inspired to use it in different things,” she says. Chadha started adding it to the desserts that are part of her Delhi-based venture, Whisk-it by Anushi. She makes cheesecake, and uses the spread in the icing for cupcakes. Biscoff is part of her signature sweet shot desserts, cupcakes boosted with a ‘shot’ (a syringe) of the actual flavour. “It has a very different caramel-ly taste that’s not chocolatey or mainstream. It tastes like cookie butter balanced off with a salty aftertaste,” she says.
Seema Punjabi, founder of The Sugar Fairy in Bengaluru discovered Lotus Biscoff during the lockdown because customers were asking for it. “I got so many queries, I decided to go and find out more about this product,” she says. She started with a cheesecake and soon branched into making biscoff doughnuts, papa roti buns with biscoff flavour, and cookies.
Elsewhere some bakers are experimenting with biscoff in different ways. Ram has created a Biscoff Shahi Tukda jar. “I wanted to do something like a fusion. I add it when making the rabdi [thickened sweetened milk]. The jar has a biscoff layer, rusk instead of the typical fried bread, another biscoff layer on it, and rabdi.” She says the addition of biscoff to rabdi makes it creamier and reduces the cooking time; rabdi general involves slow cooking milk for hours till it thickens. To temper the sweetness of the biscoff, she doesn’t add any additional sweetener.
In terms of functionality, biscoff pairs well with most ingredients. “It is easy to use but not that versatile. You have to pair it with something light and neutral as it has a strong flavour. With chocolate is a little overpowering,” adds Punjabi. Kukreja balances things out by eliminating sugar in the baked treats that include biscoff. “Coffee balances it out really well too,” she says.
Mehra faced a lot of difficulty with biscoff initially. “It gets hard if refrigerated, and difficult to mix or fold into something else. It stays well at room temperature, but it is not pliable, so you have to heat it a little to create a topping. It also burns quickly. You have to be careful with it.”
Can biscoff provide competition to the current favourite, Nutella? It remains to be seen. Punjabi thinks it will certainly sustain people’s interest. “This is ideal for those who don’t like chocolate, or chocolate desserts.”
Mehra’s biscoff cheesecakes are so popular, she has to make them every week. “I thought it is was a fad, but it doesn’t seem to be going away.”