Caramelized Apple Oatmeal Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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Way back in the early 70s, my parents' friends invited the whole lot of us to spend a long weekend skiing at their house in Vermont. We were novice skiers (How novice you ask? I-broke-my-wrist-during-a-lesson kind of novice.) but we had a blast. So my parents did what any parents would do when the family has fun at a brand new pursuit. They bought a house in Vermont so we could ski our little hearts out. A house. After skiing one time. Now I'll admit it was a great house (and dirt cheap, I might add). 100 years old on two acres in a quintessential New England town (they still had actual live, human telephone operators when we first moved there and a cemetery dating back pre-Revolutionary War), in the southwestern part of the state, near Killington and a bunch of other ski resorts…but then the year following the purchase, we all went skiing in Colorado, got spoiled (it's just DIFFERENT, people)… and never skied in Vermont again. The house didn't go to waste though. We just did different stuff. We gardened (my mother actually thought that zucchini was SUPPOSED to be as big as your arm), we hiked and biked, we went boating on Lake St. Catherine (have I got stories…) and we spent a ridiculous amount of time sitting on the front porch watching the goings-on at the firehouse hall, which was the happening place in town. And in the fall, when we got to experience leafing season in all its glory, we went apple picking at the orchard down the road.

We always came home with enough apples to feed an army and almost no idea what to do with them all besides make applesauce. Lots and LOTS of applesauce. And an occasional pie. Ah, if only we'd known about these cookies. Okay, it would only have made a small dent in the apple surplus, but still…

It doesn't get much better than this caramelized apple oatmeal cookie. Dense, hearty and chewy. Subtly spiced. Studded with bits of tangy apple that have been caramelized in butter and sugar. Drizzled with just the right amount of sugary glaze. The Ultimate Fall Cookie. It's the kind of cookie that would have had us working together in the Vermont kitchen, then curling up before the wood-burning stove, wrapped in our blankies after a hard day of not skiing, hands wrapped around mugs of hot cider, miffling down cookie after cookie… If only we'd known. The house is gone, sold years ago when the long drive got to be too much for all us, but cookies like this are forever. At least until you eat them all.

This trip down memory lane has been brought to you by the fine bakers at #CreativeCookieExchange, who are Celebrating Autumn this month. Don't forget to check out the links below for more of fall's bounty!

Caramelized Apple Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients

Apples

  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced
  • 2 tsp unsalted butter
  • 4 tsp light brown sugar

Dough

  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

Glaze

  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider

Directions

  1.  To caramelize the apples, place the butter, brown sugar and diced apples in a medium skillet and cook on medium-high, stirring occasionally. Continue cooking and stirring until the apples are golden and somewhat softened. Transfer to paper towels and let cool.
  2. To make the dough, add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
  3. The the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the butter and sugars and beat on medium-high for about 3 minutes. The mixture will be pale and fluffy.
  4. Add the eggs separately, mixing until each is fully blended. Mix for an additional minute, then add the vanilla.
  5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture and blend until just combined then add the oats and mix.
  6. Fold in the caramelized apples.
  7. Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.
  8. Towards the end of the chilling time, preheat oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.
  9. Using a medium cookie scoop, place the dough on the baking sheets about 2" apart.
  10. Bake for 12–15 minutes until edges are slightly browned. Cookies should still be soft in the middle. Remove from oven, cool on baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely
  11. To make the glaze, place the sugar in a medium size bowl, add the cider and whisk to combine thoroughly. Add more cider if needed to make a drizzling consistency and drizzle over cookies.
  12. Allow glaze to harden. Store in an airtight container.

Recipe source: Liv for Cake

Notes

I used Granny Smiths but you could also use any good baking apple.

The apples will release a lot of moisture, but once it's cooked out, they'll start to caramelize.

I used apple cider in the glaze but water is fine if you don't have any cider on hand.

I'm a very bad drizzler—big globs here, nothing there—so instead of winging it, I like to use a piping bag for better control.

#CreativeCookieExchange for October: Celebrate Autumn

One of the best things about fall—in addition to crisp, cool weather and gorgeous foliage (still waiting…)—is all of the delightful seasonal themes that come to mind for baking. Pumpkin, apples, late summer and early fall harvest, Halloween, Thanksgiving… They are all fun and delicious to play around with, so check out what we have for you this month!

You can also use us as a great resource for cookie recipes. Be sure to check out our Pinterest Board and our monthly posts (you can find all of them here at The Spiced Life). You will be able to find them the first Tuesday after the 15th of each month! Also, if you are looking for inspiration to get in the kitchen and start baking, check out what all of the hosting bloggers have made:

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche #BreadBakers

Apple_Pear_Persimmon_Stuffed_Brioche_Chai_Spice-8.jpg

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Fall. Forget about what the song says. THIS is the most wonderful time of the year as far as I'm concerned. Summer is GONE. Done. Finito. Dead. An ex-season. And for me, that means no more whinging and moaning about the heat and humidity until people want to take me out to sea and throw me overboard with lead weight attached to my ankle. Most importantly though, it means no more baking in a kitchen that feels like a blast furnace. WHEEEEEE!

This certainly hasn't been a typical fall—thanks for nothing, Global Warming! It's mid-October, but the leaves have barely started turning and those that have are just kind of…well, blah. No blaze of color. (Those of you in a no-Fall zone, work with me here.) But the weather has definitely gone from sweltering hot to cool and crisp, and I want something cozy and comforting, something that will give me the warm fuzzies, something that says FALL even if the trees say otherwise. So I'm kicking off the Fall Follies here at the House of Dough with some of the best tastes that fall has to offer—namely, the fruits of the season. This rich, buttery, mock-braided brioche is filled with some of the classics—apple, pears and persimmons—sprinkled with chai spices and topped with a crunchy streusel. You want warm fuzzies? We got 'em right here. So cut yourself a slice or six, make yourself a nice cuppa, curl up on the sofa in your Hello Kitty jammies (not that I have them, no siree), grab a good book and enjoy.

This brioche is my contribution to this month's #BreadBakers, Fall Fruits and Vegetables, hosted by Pavani at Cooks' Hideout. Thanks, Pavani!

Apple, Pear and Persimmon Stuffed Brioche

Ingredients

Dough

  • 2 tsp active dry yeast 
  • 1/3 cup water at 110º F
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 8 tablespoons butter

Filling

  • 1 lb. mixed apples, pears and fuyu persimmons, firm but ripe (about 1 large for each), chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 tsp chai spice blend (recipe below)
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp all-purpose flour or Instant ClearJel

Streusel Topping

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
  • 6 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp chai spice blend
  • pinch of salt

Directions

  1. Place the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Sprinkle the yeast on top, whisk gently and let sit for about 5 minutes, until it looks active and bubbly.
  2. Fit the paddle attachment to the mixer, then add the flour and salt to the yeast mixture in the bowl and mix on low speed, scraping down the sides as needed.. The dough will look very dry and shaggy.
  3. Add the eggs and mix gently. Add the sugar then turn the speed up to medium-low and mix for about 4 minutes, until the dough forms a ball.
  4. Switch to the dough hook and with the mixer on low speed, add the butter  2 tablespoons at a time, making sure each piece is incorporated before adding the next one and stopping to pull the dough from the hook and scrape the sides of the bowl. The dough should be very soft. Once the butter is incorporated. continue mixing for about 10 minutes. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Transfer the dough to a bowl (I love these Cambro containers; no guessing as to when the dough has doubled), cover and set aside to rise at room temperature until it's doubled in size. Punch down the dough, then cover and place in the refrigerator. Check the dough every half hour and punch it down again. After about 2 hours, the dough will stop rising. Refrigerate overnight.
  6. To make the filling the next day, peel, core and chop the fruits, then place in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice and toss the fruits, then add the sugar, chai spice blend, scraped vanilla bean seeds and a pinch of salt and toss to combine.
  7. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then add the fruit mixture and sauté until the fruit has softened slightly. The juices will have thickened somewhat. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. When cooled, stir in the ClearJel or flour.
  8. Remove the dough from the fridge and let it rest for about 15 minutes. Lightly flour a piece of parchment paper, transfer the dough and roll it out to a 10" x 15" rectangle (don't sweat it if it isn't exact). Transfer the parchment with the dough to a baking sheet.
  9. Spoon the cooled fruit mixture down the center of the dough, lengthwise. Then cut diagonal strips about 1-1/2" wide down each side of the dough, leaving an uncut border around the filling. (A bench knife works great for making the cuts.)
  10. Working from alternating sides, fold the strips over the filling in a mock braid. Brush the braid lightly to remove any excess flour, then cover lightly with plastic wrap and set aside to rise until puffy and almost doubled.
  11. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 350°F.
  12. To make the streusel topping, place the flour, sugar, chai spice and salt into a bowl and mix together. Add the butter and rub it in with your fingers until it holds together and crumbs form.
  13. When the dough is risen, whisk the egg and brush it lightly over the dough. Sprinkle the streusel on top, breaking up the larger pieces if needed.
  14. Bake until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Adapted from Food52 

Chai Spice Blend

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp cardamom pods
  • 1 tbsp whole coriander seeds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, cut small pieces
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 cinnamon stick broken into small pieces (or 2 tsps ground cinnamon)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 7 allspice berries
  • 1 tsp white peppercorns

Directions

Place all ingredients into a spice grinder and pulse until you have a fine powder. Store in an airtight container.

Notes

You can substitute an equal amount of ground cinnamon for the chai spice if you prefer.

Make sure you use fuyu persimmons, not hachiya. Both are fairly common but fuyus are short and squatty and can be eaten out of hand like apples, while hachiyas are taller and sort of heart shaped and are generally are used to make purees. Trust me, you DON'T want to confuse the two and use hachiyas for something like this, where you need a firm fruit. A firm hachiya is an unripe hachiya and an unripe hachiya is overwhelmingly astringent. Try biting into one and you might never un-pucker. I did it so you don't have to.

 

 

#BreadBakers for October: Fall Fruits and Vegetables

For this month's BreadBakers, we're baking breads with fall fruits and vegetables (apples, grapes, pears, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, acorn squash, butternut squash and so on). Thanks to Pavani at Cook's Hideout for hosting!

#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme. You can see all our of lovely bread by following our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated after each event on the #BreadBakers home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient. If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send Stacy an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

BreadBakers

Soft Pretzel Twists

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I've been a salt monster as far back as I can remember—in the battle between salty and sweet, there's no contest—and topping my list of salty snacks has always been The Pretzel. Any shape, any size, any time—but soft pretzels? You just can't get much better. Some of my favorite kid memories center around trips to New York City with my grandfather, who spoiled me rotten. He took me to Broadway shows, to Radio City, to museums, to the circus and the rodeo at Madison Square Garden (where I was dressed in my best white organdy dress for some insane reason—I guess people dressed up for EVERYthing in the 50s and 60s.) And of course, no trip to the city would have been complete without a soft pretzel from a street cart. Back then, soft pretzels weren't quite the ubiquitous thing they are now, with kiosks in every mall and heat-and-eat pretzels in the freezer aisle of every store. No, back in the stone age, they were a special treat. If memory serves, you could get three pretzels for a quarter (hey, it was a long time ago!), warm from the heater and SOFT. Sadly, today's cart pretzels are nothing like the ones I remember. Nowadays, you could break a tooth biting into one because they alway seem to be stale and/or overbaked, and in winter, they generally reek of chestnuts (which may be a plus for some but not for me). Blech.

The good thing is, though, you don't need to have a cart or a kiosk or time-travel back to a kinder, gentler age to enjoy a great pretzel. Because these soft pretzels twists are so fast and easy to make at home—and frankly, so much better than the ones you can get from a cart or kiosk—that you'd be missing out big time if you let the opportunity pass you by. How fast and easy you ask? Well, I had these babies ready to eat in a little over an hour. And most of them were GONE is a little over an hour too, but let's pretend that never happened, okay?

A couple of weeks ago, I woke up one Saturday at 5 am (early riser) on fire for a soft pretzel, probably because I happened to fall asleep while watching a pretzel episode of The Great British Bake Off. And also probably because I'd recently stumbled on a video for a great shaping technique (check it out below), one that screamed "PRETZEL!" Soft pretzel recipes are pretty standard—I mean, when it comes to the basic dough, no one's really reinventing the wheel here—and my go-to is from the Artisan Pretzel class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education, which seriously has some of the very best recreational cooking classes in New York (or anywhere, I think). While it may not be INSTANT gratification, as mentioned, it's a fairly fast recipe for a yeast dough. One rise (which was only 30 minutes for me, since it's still extra warm in my un-air conditioned kitchen), a quick dip in a baking soda solution (you could go the lye route here but why complicate things?), a short bake and voilà! Some of the best pretzels I've ever eaten—and that probably goes for you too. Soft and light as a cloud, an unadorned classic—just like the ones that live in my memories. Now if only I could still fit into that white organdy dress…

P.S. These pretzels are so good, they really stand on their own. But they're great with mustard, they make a killer sandwich bread and you could probably fill them with all sorts of stuff before baking if you're so inclined. Stay tuned…

Soft Pretzel Twists

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 cups warm water (100–110°F)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • 2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 18 oz./510g all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp./56g unsalted butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup baking soda
  • 1 egg yolk beaten with 1 tbsp. water

Directions

  1. Add the water into the bowl of a stand mixer and mix in the sugar. Sprinkle the yeast on top, give it a stir and let it sit for about 5–10 minutes, until foamy.
  2. Add in the flour, salt and butter and with the paddle attachment, mix on low speed until combined. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the bowl.
  3. Place the dough in a large bowl or rising bucket that's been lightly sprayed with oil, cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size—anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.
  4. Towards the end of the rise time, preheat your oven to 450°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment and lightly spray the parchment with oil.
  5. Fill an large pot (8 quarts is a good size) with water and stir in the baking soda. Bring to a boil while you shape the pretzels.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide into 12 portions. Form into balls, cover and let rest for about 5 minutes to relax the dough. 
  7. Roll each ball into a rope around 18" long. There are many ways to form knots and twists but if you'd like to shape them as I did, refer to the excellent video below. Place each twist on the baking sheet.
  8. Working with 3 twists at a time, carefully lower them into the water and boil for 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon (I use a mesh skimmer), transfer the twists back on the baking sheets and repeat with the remaining twists.
  9. Brush the twists with the egg wash, sprinkle with pretzel salt if desired.
  10. Bake for 12–14 minutes, or until the pretzels are deep golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes before eating. Pretzels are best eaten fresh.

Recipe Source: Class materials from Institute of Culinary Education Artisan Pretzels

Video credit: Home Baking Blog (It's in German but the awesome videos speak for themselves)