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.

Pride rainbow flag cookies

It’s almost Baltimore Pride!

My friends Liz and Kendall are tailgating in the Lesbian Lot tomorrow, and sometimes I think I am physically incapable of going somewhere without making something to eat or drink. I wanted to make something properly festive and queer, and I figured Pride is as good of an excuse as any to ingest a bunch of no-good-for-you but oh-so-cute artificial food coloring.

Hello rainbow flag cookies!

pride rainbow flag cookies

Layered cookies are nothing new — I’d be impressed if you haven’t yet seen the Cinco de Mayo piƱata cookies that took the internet by storm a few years ago. Luckily, a flag shape doesn’t require any special cookie cutters. All you need is a sharp knife and a rainbow of gel food colors to transform these basic, buttery cookies into pride flags.

In order to make perfect little flags, you have to trim some dough off the edges. Don’t toss it! Pinch off equal sized portions of the scraps, then roll into balls and flatten for little tie-dye cookies.

tie-dye scrap cookies

Please note: it’s hot outside right now, so pretty much every other step in this recipe is “put it in the freezer!” If it is cold in your kitchen while you are making these, you may not have to do as much chilling. But for me, the slightly warm kitchen combined with the pound of butter (yep) and I had to chill a lot.

Happy Pride!

Pride Rainbow Flag Cookies
Adapted from Slice and Bake Cookies by smitten kitchen

Makes 30 – 35 cookies

4 sticks (1 pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
4 large egg yolks, at room temperature
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract
4 cups all-purpose flour
gel food color — red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until smooth. Add powdered sugar and beat again until combined. Add egg yolks, extracts, and salt and beat again until smooth. Add the flour, then beat on low until almost combined. Fold the rest of the way with a spatula and work into a rough ball. Put dough into a storage container and freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.

Turn dough onto counter and divide into 6 equal portions. I used my food scale to make sure everything was pretty darn close. Put one ball on a parchment-lined surface, and wear powder-free latex gloves if you don’t want to potentially stain your hands. Use a toothpick to transfer a small amount of one gel food color from the container to the piece of dough. Knead dough in your hands until the color is fully integrated and no longer streaky. Add more color as desired to increase saturation, but start small and move up. A little goes a long way!

Once dough has achieved desired color, roll into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, then place in the fridge. Repeat the process with the remaining colors. Chill dough balls for at least 30 minutes, longer if you can stand it.

Prep a small baking sheet (I use a quarter size baking sheet) with a piece of plastic wrap to build up your cookie loaf on.

Remove the purple dough ball from the fridge and place on a piece of parchment paper or Silpat. I also use a piece of plastic wrap on top to prevent sticking to the rolling pin. Roll out and shape into a roughly 4″ x 10″ rectangle. Place on plastic wrap covered baking sheet and carefully peel back Silpat/parchment to remove.

Place the whole pan in the freezer while you prepare the blue rectangle. Then repeat, centering the blue one over the purple one. Repeat, repeat, repeat, repeat with green, yellow, orange, and red, keeping the pan in the freezer whenever you’re not using it.

Once your loaf is complete, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap, then in a freezer bag, and freeze for at least 2 hours and up to 1 month.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats.

Remove dough loaf from fridge or freezer. Using a very sharp knife, trim about 1/3 of an inch on each side to even up the edges.

Cut 1/4-inch slices from the loaf, then place on baking sheets with about 2 inches between each cookie. (I was able to fit 10 cookies per half-size baking sheet. While I was waiting for one of my baking sheets to free up, I put the loaf — surprise — back in the freezer.)

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they are firm but not yet brown. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Store baked cookies in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Ginger-almond breakfast cookies for hurried mornings (i.e. every morning)

Honestly, I’m usually pretty boring about weekday breakfasts. I just keep a jar of peanut butter and a sleeve of rice cakes in my desk at work. I used to supplement by picking up fresh fruit when I passed Whole Foods on my way in.

But it finally happened. My office moved to the suburbs. Yeah, there’s still a lot of businesses close by. But “close by” used to mean across the street. Now it’s a ten minute drive.

Gone are the days of popping over to pick up fresh fruit. Ditto on the days when I want to treat myself to a croissant or muffin.

So I decided to look for something else I can treat myself with. Something that is tasty, but still packed with fiber and protein. Something that will store well in the freezer. Something that will allow me to at least make an attempt to face my mornings with alacrity.

I must say that these zippy little breakfast cookies fit the bill.

ginger-almond breakfast cookie

Added bonus: these are accidentally almost vegan. The only non-vegan ingredient is honey. I’m not vegan and a big fan of the taste of honey, and the vegan friend that I see most often is willing to let it slide on honey, so that’s what I use. If you’re strict, you can easily use agave nectar.

Ginger-Almond Breakfast Cookies
Adapted from Oatmeal Breakfast Cookie by Laura

Makes 16 cookies

1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup almond butter
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 heaping cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (omit if your almond butter is salted)
1/3 cup roughly chopped crystallized ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine oats, flour, flax, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, salt and baking soda.

In your stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat applesauce, almond butter, and honey or agave on medium speed until fully combined. Add extracts and beat again briefly.

Add dry mixture to wet mixture and stir on low. Once batter is fully integrated, fold in chopped crystallized ginger.

Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets (use a big spoon from your cutlery set). I put 8 cookies per sheet — two rows of four, evenly spaced, which makes a medium-sized cookie.

Bake for 12-14 minutes, until browned. Rotate your pans halfway through baking time to ensure even browning. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Once cool, wrap individually in plastic wrap. Put wrapped cookies in a gallon size freezer bag, suck out the air with a straw, then store for up to three months in the freezer.

Let thaw for about a half hour before eating (or overnight in the fridge). Alternatively, zap a frozen cookie for about 15 seconds in the microwave to thaw and slightly warm it.

These are smaller than the average breakfast cookie you might get from the store or from most other recipes — I have a small appetite in the morning. Feel free to either make them bigger (and cook for a bit longer), or smear on a bit of Greek yogurt as “frosting” to add a bit more heft.