Yep, I’ve gone out and done it again and I joined yet another monthly cooking challenge. I now participate in The Secret Recipe Club, the Crazy Cooking Challenge, Cook Around the Globe and now my newest, The Improv Cooking Challenge. This challenge is hosted by Sheryl over at Lady Behind the Curtain and how this challenge works is, each month two ingredients are assigned and you can make any recipe of your choice as long as it includes those two ingredients. For this, the inaugural month of The Improv Cooking Challenge Sheryl has chosen two ingredients which are perfect for this time of year, apples and caramel.
When I first saw the two required ingredients I knew immediately which recipe I would be making for the challenge as I’ve had Scrambled Hen Fruit's recipe for Caramel Stuffed Apple Cider Cookies saved in my “need to make” file since she first posted it almost a year ago. It was another one of those recipes which called to me but I just never got around to making until this opportunity put it front and center.
I did have one difficulty in making this recipe and that was, for the life of me I couldn’t find the traditional square wrapped Kraft Caramels anywhere locally and I was just itching to make the cookies so I decided to make them with Kraft Caramel Bits. Then wouldn’t you know it, two days after making the cookies I spotted the Kraft Caramels and because the cookies were so delicious with the Kraft Caramel Bits I just had to make them again with the traditional caramels. Though we loved the cookies with the caramel bits I do think that the traditional caramels worked better in that I ended up with a larger gooey caramel center but I’ll tell you, the bits were a darn good substitute and provided nice gooey bits in the cookie so either way these cookies were a hit.
Fill a medium cookie scoop with the cookie batter.
Press an unwrapped Kraft Caramel or
Six-to-seven Kraft Caramel Bits into the center of the cookie dough.
I made a couple of changes to the cookie batter. The first time that I made the cookies with the bits I mixed the batter up exactly as written on Scrambled Hen Fruit's blog and then I did my usual “quality control” taste testing of the batter. The flavor was wonderful with the apple cider flavor shining through but then I thought caramel apple pie and decided to add some additional apple pie spices to give it more of that apple pie flavor. The final batter was delicious and once baked everyone loved the flavors of the cookies. When I made the cookies the second time with the traditional caramels I made one additional change, I substituted half of the granulated sugar with brown sugar just to bump up the caramel flavor a wee bit more. I liked the batter and cookies best with the additional spices and the brown sugar and it would have been wonderful baked up on it’s own or with some toasted nuts or as I followed through and did, with the addition of the caramel. Whether you choose to use the original recipe or one of my variations you’re looking at a fabulous tasting cookie.
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 box (7.4 oz) Alpine Spiced Apple Cider Instant Original Drink mix -not sugar free- all 10 packets (I found this in my grocery store near the hot chocolate mixes.)
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
3 cups all purpose flour
1 bag Kraft Caramel Bits (11 oz.) or Kraft Caramels (14 oz.)
Preheat oven to 325F. Line baking sheets with either a Silpat or parchment paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer add the butter, sugar, salt and the contents of all 10 packets of Alpine Spiced Apple Cider and blend until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time mixing until incorporated. Add the vanilla and blend until mixed. Add the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cardamom and flour and mix until well blended.
Using a medium cookie scoop (1.5 TBS) fill the scoop level with the cookie dough. While the cookie dough is still in the scoop, press either one unwrapped Kraft Caramel or 6-7 Kraft Caramel Bits into the center of the dough and then pinch the dough to cover the caramel. Release the scoop of dough onto prepared cookie sheet placing about 2-inches apart.
Bake 12-14 minutes, or until very lightly browned around the edges. Please don't over-bake! Once the cookies are done, allow the cookies to partially cool on the Silpat or parchment. When cookies are cool enough to be firm but still slightly warm, carefully remove from the Silpat or twist off the parchment and allow to finish cooling upside down (either on the parchment or on a rack.) The cookies can cool completely on the Silpat and they release without any problems but If you forget about them and they cool too much and stick to your parchment, put them into the freezer for a few minutes and they'll pop right off.
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen, depending on how large you make your cookies, how much batter you’ve “taste tested” and how many caramels you’ve snitched from the bag before you begin. Store in an airtight container.
Once the cookies have cooked completely, to enjoy the nice soft caramel center again either set your cookie over a nice hot cup of tea to warm up the caramel or microwave the cookie for approximately 15 seconds.