When I was a child and would visit my great aunt, we often went to a store where we could buy cookies from bulk bins. I especially loved these cookies that were crisp and shaped like a windmill. I never knew their real name. I just called them windmill cookies.

I now know that they're speculoos, a Belgian spiced shortbread cookie that can be shaped like windmills or other objects. They're also a very popular cookie to use as an ingredient in cookie butter, a spread that uses cookies as a main ingredient. Sometimes, the terms speculoos and cookie butter are used interchangeably, but that's not accurate. Speculoos is the cookie; cookie butter can be made from other cookies besides speculoos.

speculoos-cookie-butter Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter that has made the spread popular. (Photo: StarsApart/flickr)

The right cookies to make cookie butter

Speculoos cookies are used in many brands of cookie butter like Trader Joe's and Biscoff, and they work well because they are crisp in texture. They are by far the most popular type of cookie to turn into cookie butter, but most cookies can be used to make the spread. This video on how to make your own cookie butter says any kind works when added to oil, water and sugar.

What to do with cookie butter

Once you have cookie butter, whether you've bought it or made it, what do you do with it?

  • Eat it right off the spoon.
  • Use it as an ingredient in a mug cake.
  • Heat it up and use it as an ice cream topping.
  • Heat it up and use it like a fondue, dipping fruit in it.
  • Use it as an ingredient in cookie butter cookies.
  • Top waffles and pancakes with it.
  • Spread it on toast, English muffins or bagels.
  • Substitute it for peanut butter in a PB&J sandwich.

There are many other ways to use this sweet spread. Pinterest has hundreds of them, and there are plenty of photos of Cookie Butter Cheesecake on Instagram.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.