On the seventh day of cookies, I give you Rachel of i heart beets. I got to know Rachel when I was editing AltDaily Food. She works for a nonprofit called Buy Fresh Buy Local (the Hampton Roads chapter), an organization that provides education and resources to help local consumers find and purchase local, seasonal, ethically-produced foods. It’s a great organization. Here. Look.
I have several blogger friends who love to bake. Rachel is not one of them. But she’s funny, and she still manages to make some cookies that I would totally put a hurt on. Plus, she has a cute dog. Sort of a complete package.
Spiced Apple Caramel-Filled Cookies
My name is Rachel and my blog is i heart beets. My blog focuses mostly on locally sourced and seasonal dishes. The only other thing you need to know about me is that I hate to bake. There are several reasons why I hate to bake. Mostly it has to do with sticking to the script. There’s no “a little of this, a little of that” in baking. It is science. The recipes, just lab-book instructions from a chemistry class that I barely passed. In fact, while I am pretty good at cooking, I am really horrible at both following and creating recipes. When I try to tell someone how to re-create something I’ve made I usually say something like “you know, just add in _____ until it looks/smells/tastes/feels right.” Then the receiver of that useless information will say something like “but how do I know when it’s ‘right?’” and I will shrug and tell them to just “experiment” with it, which people do not really like to hear. So you may be asking yourself why the hell I have a food blog, and the honest answer is that mostly I just like the clickety noise of the keys when I type words.
So I found this cookie recipe on Pinterest via The Cooking Photographer. This girl actually created this recipe. This is another thing I don’t understand about baking – how do you make up a recipe? I know I can throw garlic powder into a tomato sauce and nothing is going to explode, but I cannot be sure about such things when baking. I don’t have a sweet tooth and generally don’t eat cookies, candy or whatever (except once a year when fudge covered Oreos ™ come out and I let myself eat one cookie a week in teeny tiny bites like a squirrel eating an acorn). But do not read this last sentence as any indication that I am a salad-eating food-martyr. In fact, I have a pretty good magic trick where I can make a full sized bag of salt and vinegar potato chips disappear in less than a minute. I just don’t have a taste for sweets, a trait that is the only thing keeping me from the genetic predisposition to adult-onset diabetes which my dad was nice enough to pass along to me. Anyways, I was compiling a few baked goods recipes on Pinterest to make for my husband’s coworkers for Christmas and had no plans to make any cookies for myself until Dana emailed me a few days ago asking me to participate in her cookie exchange. And as much as I hate baking and do not care about cookies or sweets, I love Dana and her blog more. So new friends, welcome to my hell.
Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies
1 cup unsalted butter, nearly melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (7.4 ounce) box Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink Mix *Not sugar free*
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (14 ounce) bag Kraft Caramels
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (190 degrees C). Line rimless cookie sheets with parchment paper. It has to be parchment this time.
2. In a stand mixer (Rachel’s edit: I used a hand mixer), cream together butter, sugar, salt, and all 10 packets of apple cider mix until smooth and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla extract, then mix in the baking soda and baking powder. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
3. With a standard (size 50) cookie scoop, scoop the dough scrapping off the excess as you go up the bowl. Flatten the dough slightly in your hand and place a caramel in the center. Work the dough around the caramel sealing well. Place the cookies two inches apart on the sheets.
4. Bake 12 to 14 minutes or until golden brown around the edges. After baking, carefully slide the parchment with the cookies onto the counter. Let cool until they are no longer soft but still slightly warm. Twist gently to remove, and cool the rest of the way upside down on the parchment or on a cooling rack.
Yield: 45-50 cookies
Recipe and photograph Copyright 2009 Laura Flowers.
OK. So. First, I did not believe the thing about the parchment paper and used my fancy French baking mat instead. Minor improvisation? NO. Use parchment paper. I did my last two batches with it and they turned out much better. Second, softened butter must mean ‘nearly melted butter’ because when I put what I thought was ‘softened’ butter into the sugars and tried to cream them, this happened:
At one point my mixer made this dying car noise and I thought for sure I had killed it. After about three rounds of shoving butter out of the mixing blades, it finally creamed. Third, there’s a point in every cookie recipes where you add the “dry” ingredients to the “wet” ingredients. These are misnomers. The reality is that you’re standing there with two bowls thinking ‘Oh, I’m supposed to add this crumbly dry mixture to this other crumbly dry mixture and then use my giant Olympic weight lifting arms to somehow mix them together until they resemble cookie dough?’ At this point I just assume I am being punked (ME. Specifically.) by the author of whatever recipe I’m slaughtering. I start looking around for the hidden camera and yelling things like “this can’t be right? What the hell!?!” and waiting for the moment where a guy in a suit who is too old for his job jumps out from behind my refrigerator and says “HAH HAH! We got it all on tape, that was so funny!” and we all have a good chuckle at how much of my life I just wasted. But that never happens, so I just put on my vinyl surgeon gloves and do the only thing I know how to do – manhandle the dough. In my opinion both spoons and electric mixers are useless at this point. Just lay into it until it behaves.
If you go this route, don’t use latex gloves or you’ll end up with cookies that taste like . . . well, Latex.
Finally, the cookies are done but instead of looking like the picture on the blog where I found the recipe:
They look like this:
They were oozing all over the sheet and weren’t flat and well behaved, they weren’t bathing in a wash of natural light that looks like it escaped from heaven or resting on a perfectly Pantone turquoise fiesta ware mug of chamomile tea. But like any good food blogger, I picked a handful of nearly perfect ones, piled them onto a plate and took a million pictures of them with my iPhone.
So what is my point? Cookies are a pain, but so is Christmas sometimes. So put the aggravation aside and bake some cookies for people you love, or people you barely know who happen to work with your husband or for your food blogging comrade who has a sweet enough heart to host a cookie swap on her site while you curse over your stove about how people who make up baking recipes should just leave food alone and go back to their jobs as rocket scientists already!! I ended the cookie escapade with a massive headache and a house that smelled and looked like the Keebler™ elves had hosted an elven frat party. But you should totally make this recipe.
In all seriousness though, the cookies are pretty darn good. And really, you could skip the annoying caramel part and just make the basic dough, roll it out, use your favorite cookie cutters and bake some apple spiced sugar cookies and I think that would also be amazing and less headachy.
Oh, and P.S. the writer of this recipe recommends serving these cookies overtop a steaming mug of tea to soften the caramel inside before eating. Isn’t that lovely? Go jump in a lake.
And now, because after this rant I feel there is no other way to convince you to visit my blog besides coercing you with this picture of my dog and telling you there are often other pictures of them there: