One of the times I miss the US most is the first week of fall, when that first bite hits the air in the mornings and people start pulling out scarves and boots from the backs of their closets and the leaves haven't quite turned yet but you can tell they will be soon. This time of year always brings the nostalgia pretty hard, and usually I cope with it by taking long walks in the park with the BF, stopping for coffee and a snuggle, and, of course, baking.
This year, the BF just happens to be abroad – back in the States, actually – for a sort of med-student study-abroad program. I've been handling the separation pretty well, due mostly to being run off my feet with work, book stuff, and general back-from-vacation admin, but when the leaves started turning I did start to pine a bit (no pun intended). Still, I was determined not to mope (or eat my feelings any more than I'm already wont to do); I may not be able to take long, chilly walks with my guy, but I can still bake, dang it!
As I've mentioned here before, one of my favorite things about fall is hot apple cider. Unfortunately, it's pretty much impossible to find here in the UK, and even recreating it at home doesn't quite match up to my American standards, since the closest thing here to real apple cider is 'cloudy apple juice', which isn't really the same. Nonetheless, making my faux cider at home does ease the nostalgia a bit, but lately I've been on the hunt for other ways to amp up the appley spice in my life.
Sidebar: I may or may not have told you guys that I'm allergic to apples. By which I mean, I have a particular type of hayfever that manifests not only in spring misery for my nose and lungs and eyes, but also causes me to get very itchy and sometimes even swell up in the mouth/tongue/throat area when I eat raw fruits or veggies that carry similar histamines to the plants to which I'm so allergic. Double the fun! Anyway, the upshot of this is that I can't eat raw apples (or lots of other fruits/veg), which is a huge bummer because I love them – but my family and the BF are getting pretty annoyed with my 'accidental' bites of their apples, which leave me scratching my tongue on my teeth and coughing to clear my throat.
Now that you have the background, maybe you understand how dumb it was of me to buy two big bags of apples in my last grocery shop. I have no sensible defense. I can only say that I was really craving fall appleyness and I convinced myself that I would find something to do with them that involved cooking out the histamines. Which, after much googling and pinteresting and allrecipes-searching, I finally did: apple spice cookies!
Now, here's where I tell you how much I love the Internet: the comments on the original recipe said the cookie was 'cakey', and that's not really my jam – I prefer cookies that have a little more toothsomeness. My ideal cookie is crispy-chewy on the edges and softer, but still chewy, in the middle. Internet win #1 for the warning. I consulted my favorite source for cooking/baking wisdom: Chowhound, and discovered that the secrets to chewy cookies include mixing by hand, using egg yolks instead of whole eggs, and using butter instead of oil (Internet win #2 – I love Chowhound so much). So I went forth and experimented, tweaking the original recipe for added chewiness, doubling the apple and omitting the raisins because ew, and leaving the skins on my apple bits for a bit of extra texture and flavor (and health!). I popped the strange-looking batter plops in the oven and held my breath, hoping that what emerged in the next ten minutes would be chewy, spicy, appley bites of fall flavor.
And I'm happy to announce that I got my wish! These cookies were unbelievably fragrant, sweet and sticky without being overly cloying, and tasted just like fall to me. I ate about eight of them that first evening (another hazard of being alone in the flat...), and the next day I froze half the batch – I couldn't resist them! Now, they did lose their chewiness overnight, which was really depressing, but they still tasted really good and not everyone is anti-soft-cookies. That said, I popped about 6 of them back in the oven two days later when a friend came for dinner, and the edges crisped right back up again, plus they made the flat smell amazing for her arrival!
Chewy Apple Spice Cookies
adapted from Allrecipes
Preheat oven to 375F/190C and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat by hand with a wooden spoon until fluffy:
1 1/3 c dark brown sugar
1/2 c (113g) unsalted butter, softened
In a separate bowl, whisk together:
1 1/2 c flour
1/2 c oats
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt (I totally forgot this somehow and I think it would have made them even better)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
Stir half the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, then add:
2 c diced apple (you can leave the peels on, as I did, or peel them – up to you!)
1 c chopped pecans
Add the rest of the dry ingredients, then stir in:
1/4 c milk
Plop the batter onto the cookie sheets in tablespoon-sized rounds and bake 9-12 minutes, until the cookies lose their shine. Let cool completely before attempting to pull them off the parchment, or they'll fall apart and you'll 'have to' eat all the bits...