Bite-size apple cider snickerdoodles

I’m done with sticky, sweaty summer days. Done. It’s already gone back to being dark when I wake up in the morning for work, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s fall. No matter what the thermometer says.

I can’t wait to make hearty soups and pumpkiny things and apple desserts and various of eats and drinks infused with cinnamon and nutmeg and all the other spices that make you think of sweater weather.

So, you know, why not start now? I decided I’m going to will autumn into being. With some cookies.

apple cider snickerdoodlesI went to a wedding yesterday that was inspired by the couple’s tradition of making an apple crisp together every fall. I mention this for two reasons. 1) This put me in the mood to make an apple dessert of my own. 2) I really want to show somebody, anybody, everybody the awesome present my partner and I made for them.

apple crisp aleApple Crisp Ale, brewed by the mister, bottled by the two of us, and labeled and packaged by me using some of their engagement photos.

Okay, okay, back to the program.

I wanted to make an apple dessert. To narrow it down, I needed something not too messy to eat and easy to transport to my board game happy hour this week. I considered apple hand-pies… but all that assembly, whew. Cookies were definitely a better bet. But how to infuse them with apple-y goodness? I’ll be honest, 90% of the reason I decided to use apple cider is because that meant I wouldn’t have to do any of the coring, cutting, and peeling prep necessitated by using whole apples. This really (sorry) appeeled to me.

I poked around to see kind of apple cider cookies were already out there on the old internets. What presented itself over and over again was this strange recipe using an apple cider flavored just-add-water drink mix. I had no idea such a thing existed… and I was certainly not interested in purchasing any. The handful of recipes I found that used actual apple cider called for a few tablespoons, maybe a third of a cup at most. This didn’t seem like it would impart the concentrated apple cider flavor I was looking for.

I reflected on the lovely apple cider caramels I made last year from smitten kitchen. The whole recipe starts with four cups of apple cider boiled into oblivion to create a half cup of sweet and sticky apple syrup. This syrup is then used in place of some of the sugar to bring a natural, apple-y flavor and sweetness to the table. Bingo.

apple cider snickerdoodlesThis makes a looooot of bitty cookies, which is perfect for a party where you want people to get cookies in their mouth instead of crumbs on your floor. If you’d prefer, feel free to roll the dough balls a little bigger and bake longer as needed for fewer, larger cookies.

Bite-Size Apple Cider Snickerdoodles
Adapted from Snickerdoodles by Joy of Baking

Makes approximately 12 dozen mini cookies

4 cups apple cider
3 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cup sugar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (or 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

In a medium saucepan, boil apple cider uncovered over medium high heat to reduce. This will take 40-60 minutes depending on how high you keep the heat and the size of your pot. Stir occasionally, then more frequently as it starts to boil down. Keep it bubblin’ until it’s reduced to between 1/3 cup and 1/2 cup of thick syrup. Transfer to a heatproof, oiled bowl or measuring cup and let cool in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt, and baking powder. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar and cooled apple cider syrup until integrated. Add butter and beat again until fully combined. Add eggs, one at a time, beating between each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Add dry ingredients, then beat again on low speed until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour.

In a shallow bowl mix together the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Line baking sheets with parchment paper or silpats. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Shape dough into 3/4-inch round balls. Roll each ball in the spiced sugar coating, then place on baking sheet at least 2 inches apart (I fit 20 cookies per half-size baking sheet). Use the bottom of a glass to gently flatten the dough balls.

Bake the cookies for 7 to 8 minutes — until they are firm around the edges but still soft in the middle, and just turning light golden brown. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack until cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Twelve days of food gifts: apple cider caramels

twelve days of food gifts 2012: apple cider caramels | basil vodka | lemon sugar | lime sugar | Old Bay vodka | orange sugar | peppercorn vodka | rosemary salt | salted maple caramels | vanilla extract | vanilla sugar | zesty salt’n'pep

Unlike the other gifts I’ve posted so far, these caramels require a leetle more active work. But you can finish them in an afternoon rather than having to wait for things to infuse.

No fun printables for these little guys, but… they’re apple cider caramels. Nobody will complain, I promise.

The endorsement from my friend Brian: “Those caramels are good. I mean they’re really, really good.”

apple cider caramels

Apple Cider Caramels
Adapted ever-so-slightly from Apple Cider Caramels by Deb Perelman in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes approximately 49 caramels

4 cups fresh apple cider
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, boil apple cider. Boil, stirring occasionally, until reduced to a thick, dark syrup. You’ll be left with 1/3 to 1/2 cup syrup from the original 4 cups of cider. If you can raise the heat up a little higher without it burning, do so — it’ll speed the process up. I had smoke detector issues, so I didn’t. Over medium heat, it took me about an hour.

That’s fine, because while that’s reducing you can get everything else in order.

First off, prep an 8″x8″ baking pan. Line the pan with two criss-crossing strips of parchment paper that are long enough to allow overhang on both sides.

In a small bowl, mix together salt and cinnamon.

Once the cider is reduced, remove from heat. Stir in butter, sugar, brown sugar, and heavy cream until integrated. Put your candy thermometer in, and return the pot to medium heat. Let it boil without stirring until the thermometer reads 252 degrees. Keep a close eye — the temperature jumps erratically.

Once it hits 252, immediately remove from heat and stir in cinnamon/salt. Scrape into prepared pan. Let sit for 2 hours, until cool and firm. You can pop it into the fridge to speed things up.

Lift up the ends of the parchment paper to transfer caramel to a cutting board. Cut into 1″ strips, then cut each strip into 1″ pieces.

Wrap each caramel individually in a 4″x4″ square of waxed paper and twist the sides to close.

Caramels will keep stored in an airtight container for 2 weeks.