Apple Cider Caramel Cookies
Apple Cider Caramel Cookies is the third in my Sweater Weather Cookie Series inspired by warming winter season drinks. My recipe for Apple Cider Caramel Cookies is made using REAL apple cider boiled down into a syrup and NOT the apple cider powdered drink mix. They’re crisp on the edges, chewy in the center, topped with a pool of homemade apple cider caramels, and my secret ingredient that takes these cookies from good to GREAT: chopped rosemary.
The finely chopped fresh rosemary mixed into the dough gives these cookies a savory “umph” it needs to cut through the sugary sweetness from the apple cider and caramel. You don’t even notice the rosemary, it’s a subtle complementary flavor. The rosemary is optional but highly recommended. Try it, you won’t regret it.
Try these Sweater Weather Cookies: Hot Cocoa Marshmallow Cookies and London Fog Earl Grey Cookies
What’s the Difference Between Apple Cider and Apple Juice?
Apple juice has been filtered and pasteurized, it will be translucent. Apple juice may have added sugars or spices, check the label. Apple cider is raw, unfiltered, unpasteurized apple juice that is highly perishable. It will look cloudy and have sediment at the bottom. Some companies like Martinelli’s say that there is no difference between their apple juice and apple cider, just the name for marketing purposes according to their company FAQ.
But there IS a difference! The raw, unfiltered apple CIDER has more of the fruit’s natural pectin. When boiled down to a syrup the apple CIDER has a thick jelly-like consistency while the apple JUICE was more liquidy and runny. If you can’t find fresh-pressed cider, apple juice is sufficient to make the recipe but CIDER is the better option because of the thicker consistency and overall flavor for both caramel and cookies. The reason why is because we’re adding a liquid to the cookie dough, if it’s too wet it will change the consistency of the cookie dough when it bakes. The natural pectin from the cider gives the syrup a thicker consistency that’s better for the cookie.
Read more about the difference between apple juice and apple cider here, from The Kitchn.
Tips on How to Make Caramel
Candy-making is a specialized skill that takes practice, precision and patience. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time. I have failed MANY batches of caramel for years before finally getting it right. Here are my tips on how to get your caramel right:
Don’t stir! After you’ve stirred the ingredients together in the saucepan, let it boil and froth on the stove until it reaches the 250 degrees F soft ball temperature. Don’t stir it! Leave it alone!
Soft caramel vs hard caramel. A Candy Thermometer is key here, there’s no shortcutting this. Soft ball stage is at 240 degrees F. Hard ball is at 260 degrees F. You’ll want to hit 250 degrees for the perfect soft caramel texture.
Cold caramel is easier to cut and handle. After the caramel comes to room temp, chill it in the fridge or freezer to make it easier to slice the caramel and peel off of the parchment paper. Room temp caramel will be sticky, frustrating, and difficult to handle. Keep it cold until you’re ready to slice and handle.
Wrap the extra caramel in wax paper for homemade candies. There will be extra caramel leftover after making the cookies. Cut them into bite-sized pieces and wrap them in wax paper (not parchment) for homemade caramel candies. Store in a dry air-tight container in the fridge. Eat them as a sweet treat, give them as gifts, or stash them away to make another batch of cookies later.
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Get the Recipe
Apple Cider Caramel Cookies
Chewy apple cider caramel cookies made with real apple cider, topped with a pool of homemade apple cider caramel in the center, and a hint of rosemary that tastes just like the cozy winter season drink.
Total Time to Prepare: 3.5 hours
Makes 13 approximately 3-inch cookies
This is a 3-part recipe: Boiled Apple Cider Syrup, Apple Cider Caramels, and Apple Cider Cookies. The boiled apple cider syrup and apple cider caramels can be made ahead and stored in the fridge until ready to use.
Boiled Apple Cider Syrup
Time to Prepare: 1 hour
Boil 1.5-2 quarts fresh pressed Apple Cider, NOT apple juice or juice from concentrate, vigorously on medium heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until the cider has reduced to ~1/8 its volume. Make sure you have at least 3/4 cup of liquid after reducing. You’ll need ⅔ cup of syrup for the apple cider caramels, and 2 tablespoons of syrup for the cookies.
Pour hot liquid into a glass jar to store and cool. If making ahead, store in the fridge after it comes to room temp for up to a week.
Apple Cider Caramels, recipe from Gemma Stafford’s Bigger Bolder Baking
Time to Prepare: 40 minutes, plus 3 hours cooling time
2/3 cup boiled apple cider syrup
1/2 cup (115g) butter cubed
1 cup (225g) granulated sugar
1/2 cup (85g) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (71ml) heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
1. Butter and line a 9x13 inch baking pan with parchment. Set it aside.
2. In a clean medium saucepan over medium low heat using a silicone spatula, mix together ⅔ cup apple cider syrup, ½ cup butter, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup brown sugar, ⅓ cup heavy cream, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons salt until melted together and combined.
3. Attach a candy thermometer attached to the side, and let it simmer until the thermometer reads 250°F (125°C) and no longer. Keep a close eye on it because if it goes over this temperature your caramels will be hard to eat.
4. Immediately remove caramel from heat and pour it into the prepared pan. Let it sit until cool and firm—about 3 hours or overnight. You can accelerate the cooling by putting them into the fridge after they’ve come to room temp. Store in the fridge to keep cool and make it easier to peel the caramel from the parchment paper.
Apple Cider Cookies, adapted from Curly Girl Kitchen’s Appledoodles
Time to Prepare: 30 minutes, plus 1 hour chill time
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup rolled oats
1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon finely chopped rosemary (optional but highly recommended!)
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg
2 tablespoons boiled apple cider syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For Rolling: 1/4 cup coarse sugar (like cane sugar, raw sugar, or turbinado sugar)
Flaky Sea Salt, for finishing
1. In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients: 1¼ cups flour, ¼ cup oats, ½ tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon baking soda, ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon cinnamon, ⅛ teaspoon nutmeg, and ½ tablespoon chopped rosemary. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the softened butter, ½ cup granulated sugar and ⅓ cup brown sugar until smooth and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then beat in the 2 tablespoons boiled cider and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Scrape the sides of the bowl to mix evenly.
3. Mix the dry ingredients into the stand mixer. Stir on low until just incorporated and there are no visible streaks of flour. Do not overmix. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour to make it easier to handle and for the flavors to develop in the dough.
4. Use a 2 tablespoon cookie scoop to portion the dough into balls. Roll each dough ball in the 1/4 cup coarse sugar. Place 2-3 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
5. Flatten the balls into a hockey puck shape and make a slight indent in the center using your thumb. This will be a flat surface for the caramel after the cookie has baked. Chill the dough balls in the fridge or freezer while you preheat the oven.
6. While the dough is chilling, prep your apple cider caramel rounds. Lift the caramel out of the pan and onto a cutting board. Use a small round cookie cutter, or a knife, to cut the caramel into 13 bite-size pieces that are approximately 1.5 inches in diameter. You’ll place the caramel rounds on top of the warm cookies when they come out of the oven. The caramels will be easier to lift from the paper and cut if they’re cold. Room temp caramels will be sticky and impossible to lift from the paper. Pop the pan into the freezer for a few minutes if it gets too sticky and difficult to handle. Wrap up leftover caramel in wax paper or candy wrappers to enjoy as candies, or save to make a second batch of cookies!
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake the cookies for 12-15 minutes until the edges are light golden brown, turn the pan halfway through baking to evenly bake on both sides.
8. Remove cookies from the oven and place one piece of apple cider caramel in the center of each cookie to melt and soften on the warm cookie. Leave the cookies to cool on the pan for 5 minutes until the cookie and caramel stiffens enough to lift, then transfer to a wire rack to cool.
7. When the caramel has cooled and has re-stiffened on the cookie, sprinkle a pinch of flaky sea salt on each cookie. Wait until the cookies and caramel have cooled before sprinkling salt, if the caramel is still warm the salt will melt into the caramel.
8. Store in an airtight, dry container in the fridge for optimal freshness.
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