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
- 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
- 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
- Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream until light yellow and somewhat fluffy.
- Add the vanilla, sifted flour, salt and apple bits and mix on low speed until just combined.
- 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.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
- 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.)
- Bake for about 20 minutes or until the cookies are lightly golden, rotating the sheets if needed for even baking.
- Remove the cookies from the oven, transfer to a wire rack and cool completely. The cookies firm up a bit as they cool.
- To make the frosting, beat the mascarpone, sugar and butter in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until fully combined.
- Continue to beat on medium-high until light and fluffy.
- Add the remaining ingredients and continue to beat, scraping the bowl as needed.
- Transfer to a bowl and chill for about 1 hour, until somewhat firm and spreadable.
Recipe Source: usapple.org
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:
- Apple Shortbread Cookies with Apple Cider Mascarpone Frosting by A Shaggy Dough Story
- Apricot Pochettes by Karen's Kitchen Stories
- Blackberry and Cream Monte Carlos by All That's Left Are The Crumbs
- Black Forest Cookies by Spiceroots
- Blueberry Cookies by The Spiced Life
- Kiwi Thumbprints by Flours and Frostings
- Lemon Basil Cookies with Mint by Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks
- Lemon Meltaways by Oven Delights
- Lemon Sour Cream Cookies by Magnolia Days
- Orange Creamsicle Cookies by 2 Cookin Mamas
- Peach Pie Cookies by Live. Bake. Love.
- Pecan Sandies by Food Lust People Love
- S'mores Blondies by A Baker's House
- Strawberry & Cream Cookies by Baking in Pyjamas