Tuesday, November 8, 2016

American as Apple Pie Cookies: An Election Day Distraction

Oh my goodness, I have been DYING to bake! I've been so busy that I've felt like there hasn't been a second to spare. Of course, the day I decided to do some baking, it wasn't like I actually had a spare second. But I was desperate. The siren call of my KitchenAid was drawing me in.

I was having a little shindig at my house so clearly that calls for cookies. And naturally, I can't do things the easy way and decided to make two types of cookies. I very creatively Googled "fall cookies" to try to find whatever looked weird and interesting and ended up with Hot Chocolate Cookies and Apple Pie Cookies. I was mostly intrigued by the Apple Pie Cookies. I glanced at the recipe and my first reaction was "But wouldn't these make an ooey gooey mess?" I was pretty convinced that these little bites of apple pie wouldn't be good so the Hot Chocolate Cookies were really there as a backup. They looked pretty safe. Just a pretty basic chocolate cookie with a piece of dark chocolate pressed in and a marshmallow pressed on top. What could go wrong?

You must be forgetting who the baker is if you think nothing could go wrong.

Naturally, I strategically made both types of cookies at once. I started with the chocolate cookies because the dough had to chill for two hours. It started out nicely straightforward: melt butter and a whole bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. I didn't actually have an unopened 12 oz bag of chocolate chips so I looked at my opened 36 oz bag of chips (yes, they sell bags that big to the general consumer) and eyeballed about a third of the bag. Measuring chocolate chips is for suckers. While the chocolate was melting and was supposed to be constantly stirred (oops), I combined the brown sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Next I had to add the chocolate mixture. Now, a clever person would have removed the KitchenAid paddle to add the chocolate. A clever person would not have contorted in a vain attempt to pour a pot of chocolate into a partially obstructed bowl. I am not a clever person, apparently. I somehow managed to actually splash warm chocolate all over my shirt, pants, cabinets, and floor. If you're trying to picture how that would happen and can't...well, I have no explanation for you.

After a slight time-out to clean up chocolate (and to realize that I should really wear an apron when I bake), I added the rest of the ingredients, namely cocoa powder, flour, baking powder, and salt. At this point, my dear husband wandered in to say "Wow, that smells really really chocolatey! Overwhelmingly chocolatey. Why are you covered in chocolate?" Go away, I don't want to talk about it. Then my overwhelmingly chocolatey dough went into the fridge to chill for a few hours.

Time to start in on the Apple Pie cookies! I should preface this with the fact that I haven't successfully made an apple pie. I tried once and let's just say it overflowed all over the oven and I'm still not sure how. Whatever, it was a long time ago. The general outline of this recipe is as follows: make apple pie filling, make pie crust, roll the dough flat, put caramel and apple pie filling on top of it, make a lattice for the top, cut out cookie shapes with cookie cutter, bake, eat. I won't even pretend that sounds simple. So let's take it step by step...

Let's make some apple pie filling! I peeled the apples moderately successfully (now I know why I don't make apple pies...peeling is annoying) and then had to heat up sugar, brown sugar, water, cinnamon, cornstarch, and nutmeg. I was supposed to boil it until thick and then add the apples. Just as I was wondering when I'd be able to tell if it was thick, it turned on a dime and all of a sudden turned into a practically solid mixture. I panicked and frantically threw in the apples and covered the pan. Yes, I actually warrior-yelled as I tossed in the apples. Husband was mercifully out of the house at this point.

From here, I moved on to making the pie crust. I went with the food processor method but I had the problem of frozen butter. So I had to carefully warm up my butter just enough to cut it with my knife and then toss it into the food processor. I don't think I entirely succeeded though because I still had some large chunks of butter. My solution to this was to move it all to a bowl and use my pastry blender. That was also no help. I then went with the "just do it by hand" method which worked pretty well. Still trying to figure out the best way to make pie crust I guess. Otherwise, crust making was uneventful. I tossed that dough into the fridge to chill for an hour, did a quick cleanup, and then my perfect timing told me it was time to bake the hot chocolate cookies. But wait! First let's check on those apple slices that have been simmering away. I was told that apples should be soft but not mushy. Ummm....what do you do if your apples are mushy? Is that just it? Game over? A couple of my apples may have gotten a bit mushy but you couldn't really tell once everything got chopped into tiny pieces. Whatever, moving on. Ugh, so tired already.

This recipe was supposed to make 24 cookies. But after scooping out the cookies, I decided I didn't want to make another batch so I ended up with 20 cookies. Close enough! I tossed them into the oven, cut the marshmallows in half, and broke up my dark chocolate bar into 20 pieces. This was a small problem because I was supposed to be using 8 oz of dark chocolate...but my friendly neighborhood Big Y ran out! So weird! I ended up with only 4.5 oz instead. I was originally thinking I could do half dark chocolate, half bittersweet, but looking at how much chocolate that was broken up, it seemed like double the chocolate would be way too much. So I just used smaller pieces than I was supposed to. Turns out that it was a good thing I did because some of the pieces were almost too big for the cookies as it was! After 10 minutes of baking, I pressed the chocolate pieces into the center of the cookies, topped with a marshmallow, baked a bit more and voila! Hot Chocolate Cookies!

I'll save you the suspense: these were delicious. Definitely very chocolatey but also incredibly smooth. I don't really care for marshmallow but I didn't notice or mind it much. Not sure what it has to do with hot chocolate but it was a pretty good chocolate cookie. Also, you'll notice that some of the cookies had two marshmallows. That's because I had already cut 24 marshmallows and the cookies were pretty big so some of the cookies looked sad with only one marshmallow in the middle.

Now back to the mess.

Where we last left our hero, she merely had to assemble her apple pie cookies and bake them. No big deal, right? Well. First I had to roll out my two pieces of pie crust to unspecified sized discs on the counter. The dough wasn't really cooperating though and I kept ending up with the dough breaking into star-shaped discs. Not too big a problem because I knew I'd be cutting out cookies so there would be some waste at the edges. Then I had to spread caramel sauce on one half. Yes, I could've made my own but that would have been too ambitious for the day so I used the Hershey's jarred caramel sauce. I'm sure it's not the worst. Next, I had to spread my apple pie filling on top and lightly press down. Yup, already a mess.

The final step of the layering was to cut the other half of the pie crust into strips to make a lattice. Now, I have never made a lattice before but my hands were sticky, my dough wasn't rolled very well and I just did not care at that point. So I did my best. The lattice definitely didn't make it to the edges all the time, some pieces were thick and some pieces were thin, but in the end, it looked pretty close! Yay! Now it's cookie cutter time. I was told to use a 2.5 inch round cookie cutter. Then I realized that I don't really have cookie cutters other than the 101 plastic animal shapes that my friend got me many Christmases ago. I rummaged through and managed to find a 4 inch and a 2 inch round cutter. So I went with the 2 inch and hoped for the best.

So I cut my first cookie and surprise, surprise, apple pie filling just OOZES out between the latticework. Plus my dough is now pretty stuck to the counter because this all took so long. Eventually I developed a method of cutting a circle, peeling off the dough around it, sliding it onto a pastry scraper, and popping it out onto the pan. It. Was. Messy. There was apple everywhere. My hands were sticky. Sometimes the bottom part of the dough would get rolled up or stuck. A few times, the cookies just fell apart in my hands. Eventually I got a reasonable number of cookies onto pans (about 16, which apparently was all this was supposed to make) but there was an awful lot of waste and my counter eventually looked like this:

Finally, I had to brush the tops of the cookies with egg and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Except I'm out of eggs. And I don't care. So I just tossed some cinnamon sugar on top. The tops of the cookies were sticky and oozy from the filling anyway. Probably the tops didn't get as nicely golden brown as they could have but I was just done at this point.

Remember back when I said that I was pretty sure these would make a mess in the oven? Well, I was about 80% right. The apple pie filling didn't exactly ooze out but the bottoms of the cookies were surrounded by that lovely golden brown, sticky, caramel-y goodness that makes cookies impossible to remove once cooled. They weren't burned but they were SO stuck to the pan. I had to toss them back in the oven twice just to soften them enough to pry them off the pan. But when all was said and done and I had finished cursing the world and my stupidity, they looked...pretty good. If by pretty good, you mean "like a distracted kindergartner put these together."

I mean, they certainly could have looked better and a bigger cookie cutter would have helped but it was pretty close. Taste-wise they were also pretty good (but I think they needed a bit more cinnamon) and all of the cookies were demolished in no time. All in all, an exhausting day of baking but it all turned out yummy in the end.