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Why the Biscoff reigns supreme in Kolkata’s baking culture

Belgium’s finest luxury import? Or just another flat biscuit? We ask the experts

Ujjainee Roy | Published 27.11.21, 07:58 PM
(Left) a Classic Lotus Biscoff and (right) a Biscoff cheesecake

(Left) a Classic Lotus Biscoff and (right) a Biscoff cheesecake

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The Biscoff domination is unstoppable — it has made its way into every baker’s pantry. Kolkata’s gourmet chefs and patisserie chains are scrambling to improvise more ways to use the Lotus Biscoff for snacking, slurping or styling their desserts. As a baking agent, Biscoff can be used to replace Graham crackers (the go-to base for cheesecakes), while the Biscoff spread can be an alternative for fatty peanut butter.

Biscoff is an amalgamation of the words ‘biscuit’ and ‘coffee.’ Though the caramelised biscuit has no caffeine, it pairs perfectly with coffee. In Belgium in 1932, Jan Boone Jr. baked a caramelised biscuit made of natural ingredients, also known as speculoos. This was marketed in North America as the Biscoff.

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One of the first Indian brands to use Biscoff in their dessert line was the edible cookie dough label Scoopski, founded by Kolkata-based entrepreneur Vedika Tibrewal. “I remember even two and a half years ago when we introduced our Biscoff cookie dough, people were just getting to know the flavour, we were sourcing our Biscoff from Spain. Now, every second place has a Biscoff cheesecake or a Biscoff brownie,” Tibrewal says.

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The key to Biscoff’s widespread appeal lies in its legacy. The Biscoff is still produced by the family-owned Lotus Companies, headquartered in the Belgian town of Lembeke. In 1932, the Boone brothers introduced their first caramelised biscuit (or speculoos) and Jan Boone Sr. named it the Lotus. The Lotus Bakeries was founded by the brothers Jan, Emiel and Henri Boone that same year.

The Biscoff found significant fame across the globe as a posh airline snack. In early 2020, When US-sed Delta Airlines (that had been serving the Biscoff since the ’80s) announced that it was planning to replace Biscoff with Oreo thins, they faced an onslaught of outrage. “You can take my legroom, but you can never have my Biscoffs,” a food writer had famously written.

But how versatile is this Belgian import that’s touted to be the next Nutella?

Shreya Thakker, who owns the city-based label Cookie Tree, uses Biscoff to make a version of Brazilian ‘brigadeiro’, which are soft, hand-rolled bonbons. “I use the Biscofff cookies in the mix and I also use it to coat the pieces. It’s been trending big this year. I still feel it’s the caramelised taste that sets it apart. We don’t have anything like it in India. Texture-wise, however, it’s pretty run-of-the-mill,” Thakker tells us.

Biscoff’s hype may also largely be the result of its logo-driven marketing, which has helped sustain it for more than a century. In many ways, a Lotus Biscoff-topped cupcake is the culinary equivalent of a Gucci-emblazoned t-shirt. Naturally, Kolkatans want this Belgian flat biscuit on their plate and on their Instagram feed.

Another home baker, Tanvi Ghai, started baking with Biscoff a few weeks ago, after receiving multiple customer requests.

“We are getting so many enquiries and orders. It has really caught everyone’s attention. The one thing that’s selling big is the Biscoff cheesecake; it’s a typical New York cheesecake that uses Biscoff flavours. I personally think the Biscoff works better with neutral flavours and milder profiles, so I don’t usually pair it with chocolate,” shares Ghai.

As the quarantined population went in to a baking frenzy last year, sales for Biscoff saw a massive jump. In fact, a 2020 report revealed that Lotus Biscoff cookies, spreads and ice cream sales saw an 8.4% increase in the first half of 2020 and the company began work on a new Biscoff Sandwich Cookie production line in Lembeke, Belgium, to accommodate the volume of demand.

In Kolkata, you can spot Biscoff in lattes, ice cream shakes, tea cakes, brownies and even tiramisu. “The perks of using Biscoff is that it has a very unique flavour with a hint of cinnamon, ginger and caramel. It’s easy to play around with and can be easily be blended with a variety of desserts. It makes my job easier because when mixed with tiramisu, Biscoff enhances the taste,” shares Akshita Agarwal, who runs the Kolkata-based artisanal tiramisu label Caramella.

South Kolkata’s Marbella’s designed a Biscoff shake that is made with vanilla ice cream, milk, Lotus Biscoff cookies and retains the flavours of cinnamon and caramel. “It is very sinful and not for weight-watchers,” Nikhil Chawla of Marbella’s remarked a few weeks ago.

So, overhyped or not, Biscoff is here to stay. And homegrown labels have started taking notes. Tibrewal’s label Scoopski is planning to launch a biscuit spread that relies on the same flavour notes as the Biscoff. “We are baking cookies and then using it to make a spread. It’ll feature cinnamon and honey, so the profile is really similar to the sweet and savoury taste of the Biscoff,” she tells us.

DIY alert: If you’re baking this weekend, get your hands on Lotus Biscoff at Fresh Aisle, Nature’s Basket or Fab Gourmet.

Last updated on 27.11.21, 07:58 PM
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