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:

Morning Glory Breakfast Cookies #CreativeCookieExchange

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Non-breakfasty things I've eaten for breakfast: cold pizza (although this should definitely be an official breakfast food by now), leftover eggplant parmesan hero, tacos, leftover fried rice, a tuna sandwich, cheesecake (I'm not proud of this), potato chips (I'm not proud of this either. At least you could make the dairy excuse for the cheesecake). But despite this rather non-traditional mix, I have not, until now, had cookies for breakfast. And let me tell you, cookies—especially these—make a mighty fine breakfast.

If one needs to justify the whole cookies-for-breakfast thing, one could make a very good case for these as being the ultimate healthy breakfast. I mean, if one looks at them a certain way (and squints really hard) they're the whole food pyramid in one compact package, right? Grains? Check. Fruits and veggies? Check. Dairy? Check. Protein? Check. Fats? Check. And not to pat myself on the back or anything, but I even made them a teensy bit healthier for you by swapping the all-purpose flour for white whole wheat and rolled oats and the refined sugar for organic honey. (And pineapple for the nuts but that's because I hate nuts. You could always add them back in—just don't tell me about it because nuts make me cry.) They're big, they're dense, they're soft, they're chewy, they're hearty and they're filling—a completely and totally satisfying breakfast if ever there was one. And they're COOKIES, so you can feel all audacious and daring as you flout breakfast convention. Take THAT, shredded wheat!

These Morning Glory Breakfast Cookies (a riff on the famous Morning Glory muffin) is my entry for the September #CreativeCookieExchange theme: Drop Cookies. Make sure you check out the links below to see what the other CCE-ers came up with.

Morning Glory Breakfast Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups white whole wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1 cup rolled oats (not quick cooking)
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 -1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cup mild honey
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup finely grated carrots
  • 3/4 cup grated apple (skin on if organic)
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut 
  • 1 cup sweetened dried pineapple, diced

Directions

  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter for about a minute on medium speed, then add the orange zest and honey and continue mixing until smoothly blended, scraping down the bowl as needed.
  • Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until just blended, then mix in the carrots and fruits. The batter will be somewhat liquid. Cover and refrigerate for 30–60 minutes to fully hydrate the mixture.
  • While the batter is resting, line two baking sheets with parchment and preheat the oven to 350°
  • Using a 1/4 cup capacity ice cream scoop (or 1/4 cup measuring cup), scoop the dough onto the baking sheets in rounded mounds, spaced at least 2-1/2 inches apart.
  • Bake the cookies for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned around the edges. The tops should be somewhat firm but still light in color. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cookie. If dry and crumb-free, the cookies are done. Don't overbake!
  • Cool the cookies on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to fully cool.

Recipe adapted from Elinor Klivans, Big Fat Cookies. Sadly, out of print, but available from third-party sellers.

#CreativeCookieExchange for September: Drop Cookies

We are kicking it old school this September with Drop Cookies! Keep reading to see what craggy and chewy masterpieces everyone came up with…

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 Shortbread Cookies with Apple Cider Mascarpone Frosting #CreativeCookieExchange

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Word association time! I say "Summer" and you say…? Beach? Vacation? Sunshine? Happiness? Of course you do, because you're a normal person. But say summer to me and my response would probably be something like…Crabby. Cranky. Miserable. Sweaty. Sticky. IS IT OVER YET? (Okay, that's more than one word.) Yes, I'm whinging and moaning again because, if you've ever read one of my summertime posts you know that summer and I are not on speaking terms. So when the Creative Cookie Exchangers chose "Celebrate the End of Summer" as this month's theme, I jumped for joy. I'm celebrating the end of summer, all right. End being the operative word here. The end of summer means fall is just around the corner and, barring any apocalyptic global warming disaster in the next month or so, that means—among other things—that cooler temps are a comin'. No more baking when it's 88° in my kitchen BEFORE I turn on the oven! I shall be a happy camper once more. (I'm sure I'll still be crabbing about something though. It's in my blood. They don't call me Mona Complainowitz at work for nothing.)

I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the end of the summer and the coming of fall than by baking with apples, a quintessential fall fruit. A little premature, perhaps, since it's not quite prime season, but why nitpick? I used to love going apple picking in Vermont with the fam, coming home with overloaded bags of fruit and jugs of freshly pressed cider. And these cookies are a whole bunch of fun memories in one tiny, tasty package. 

Once again, despite having what amounts to an Amazon warehouse full of cookbooks in my house, I hit the internet and found these cookies on usapple.org, "a non-profit, member-based association comprised of and supported by individuals, companies, and state/regional associations within the apple industry." Surely, if they didn't have the goods on apples goodies, no one would. This one was a winner. I mean, apple SHORTBREAD? Yes, please. (Top Chef fans take note: This recipe was developed by Dave Martin, a Season One finalist.)

These cookies are a delight in every way. They're slightly soft and sweet, with a touch of shortbread's signature sugary crunch. Plus, they're not only chockfull of apple bits, but the apple-y flavor permeates every bite. And the apple cider mascarpone frosting is the icing on the, er…cookie. I know bloggers tend to say that every recipe is the Best! One! Ever! but out of all the cookies I've baked over the years, these are honestly one of my favorites. A classic made even better. So who needs summer when you've got these beauties to look forward to? 

I'm celebrating the end of summer with a look ahead to fall but I'm also looking forward to seeing what the other Creative Cookie Exchangers came up with for their celebrations. Don't forget to check the links below. The CCE-ers are always amazing.

Apple Shortbread Cookies with Apple Cider Mascarpone Frosting

Ingredients

Dough

  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1-1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-1/3 cups apples, skin on, 1/4" dice

Frosting

  • 8 oz of mascarpone cheese, chilled
  • 6-8 oz confectioner's sugar, sifted
  • 4 oz unsalted butter softened
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp apple cider
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg (freshly ground is best)
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt

Directions

  1. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream until light yellow and somewhat fluffy.
  2. Add the vanilla, sifted flour, salt and apple bits and mix on low speed until just combined.
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and form into a log about 22–24" long. Wrap the log in wax paper or plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, until the dough is firm.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
  5. Once the dough is firm, slice into discs about 3/8" thick and place on the prepared cookie sheets, spaced about an inch or so apart. (They don't spread much.)
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden, rotating the sheets if needed for even baking.
  7. Remove the cookies from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. The cookies firm up a bit as they cool.
  8. To make the frosting, beat the mascarpone, sugar and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fully combined.
  9. Continue to beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
  10. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat, scraping the bowl as needed.
  11. Transfer to a bowl and chill for about 1 hour, until somewhat firm and spreadable.

Recipe Source: usapple.org

Notes

The recipe recommends Empire apples but I couldn't find any so I used a combination of Gala and Fuji. Basically, any good baking apple will do.

I always try to buy organic apples but I'd especially recommend going organic here because the recipe calls for the apples to be unpeeled. 

You may notice that not a lot of these cookies are actually frosted with the apple cider mascarpone frosting. And that's because it was too damned hot. Like I nearly fainted while trying to take the photos. No matter how much I tried to cool the frosting, it broke and melted almost immediately. I actually had to use a stunt cookie while setting up my shots, before I got the hero out of the freezer, all to no avail. Take my word for it—the frosting is awesome. It just needs temperatures lower than a blast furnace. (To make up for a lack of frosting, I sprinkled some of the cookies with turbinado sugar.)

Let me introduce you to my favorite tool for slicing cookies—the Sculpey Super Slicer. It's razor-sharp and actually meant to be used with polymer clay but I figured if it could make clean cuts through clay without distorting the shape, why wouldn't it work on cookie dough? And work it does, slicing right through dough like a hot knife through butter. It comes with removable handles and four blades and I love it.

#CreativeCookieExchange Celebrates the End of Summer

Summer is almost over, and we have cookies to remember it by! Hint: a lot of these cookies could be made and frozen, to pull out a slice of summer in February!

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: