A couple of months ago, prompted by a magazine cookie contest, I started thinking seriously about Christmas cookies. If I was going to create my own cookie recipe, I wanted something that captured the feeling of the season. I wasn’t thinking holiday-specific flavors, but more general seasonal ones. One of the first things that occurred to me was capturing the flavor of apple cider in a cookie.
I learned this is more difficult than it sounds, and it took me three attempts to create a successful apple cider cookie. This was my process:
My secret ingredient was boiled cider – fresh-squeezed apple juice that has been boiled and reduced until it is the consistency of maple syrup. You can buy boiled cider online, or at a high-end restaurant supply store (which is where I found mine).
My base recipe was my ginger molasses crinkle recipe. I figured I could substitute the boiled cider for molasses and go from there. Of course, there was a still a lot of recipe adjusting to do. I added chopped dried apples and changed the seasonings (taking out the ginger and adding more cinnamon).
I was disappointed in my first effort. The apple flavor wasn’t there at all, and the finished cookie basically tasted like an ordinary spice cookie. I had to really up the level of apple, but how could I keep a balanced cookie? In my original recipe I used brown sugar. Brown sugar, of course, is white sugar mixed with molasses. If I used white sugar I figured I could increase the amount of boiled cider I used. Eliminating the brown sugar flavor would also give the boiled cider more punch. I also doubled the amount of dried apples I was using. Finally, I only used cinnamon to keep the focus on the apple flavors.
The verdict? Round two was just as disappointing as round one. There was plenty of apple flavor, but the cookie was one-note and sweet. What person over six years old loves the taste of apple juice?
I took a break from apple cider cookie recipes for a little while, and when I returned to my challenge this morning, I had an insight. I wanted to make an apple cider cookie, but I hadn’t thought enough about what makes apple cider taste like it does. I consulted my tin of mulling spices and there was my answer: Dried orange rind, cinnamon, cloves and allspice berries. I instantly knew that orange zest would be the perfect complement to the sweetness of the apple, while using both ground cloves and allspice would give my spice mixture more body.
When I smelled these cookies baking, before I even tasted them, I knew I had a winner. And I was right.
This recipe makes 48 cookies.
- 3/4 cup vegetable shortening
- 1 cup white sugar (plus more for rolling)
- 1 large egg
- 1/3 cup boiled cider
- Zest from 1 orange
- 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 cup dried apples, chopped
Step 4. Add the dried apple bits and dry ingredients and mix until combined. Using a small spoon make round dough balls and roll them in sugar. Then bake for 12 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.