Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bill's Apple Spice Cookies

Fresh apples, a rainy day, and the best Apple Spice Cookie recipe EVER - my life is full.  Fall is fast approaching and as much as I will be hated for saying so, I am ready.  Living in the PNW, local apples are plentiful and yesterday friends came by my house with a variety of fresh apples just picked from their apple trees. I knew just what to do.

When I was younger, I worked at a French pastry shop. There was a baker who worked there for many years named Bill.  He was a really good guy.  One of those guys who always had time to help a friend.  So nice I think he probably got taken advantage of sometimes.  One of his specialties were these Apple Spice Cookies.  They were a soft, warm spiced cookie with little pieces of diced apple in them, topped with a perfectly sweet, tart lemon glaze. Bill didn't bake them often but when he did the whole staff was intoxicated by the warm cookie aroma in the air.   I am surprised any cookies ever made it to the customers. The texture was amazing.  Chewy and soft, crisp around the edges, with this cakey, warm applesauce quality to them.  

After I moved away from my hometown, I would see Bill occasionally when I would come home for Christmas.  Eventually, the cafe closed and I lost track of Bill.  I had gotten the recipe for his Apple Spice Cookies from my mother (he would come into her store) about 10 years ago but that recipe was long gone after 6+ moves.  I think about those cookies every Fall.  I have taken other recipes for Apple Cookies and adjusted them thinking I can get the same texture and depth of flavor but have never come close to my memory of Bill's perfect cookies.

When I was back East for the holidays last year, I asked my mother if she had seen Bill recently because I had tried to stalk him for the recipe but I couldn't find him through social media.  She told me he had died a few years ago after a long battle with cancer.  Bill was probably under 50 years old.  I have much more to say but I don't want to depress you anymore than I probably already have.  This weekend I was purging a box of old cards and letters, mixed with collected crap over years from beer festivals and craft fairs, and I came across a random piece of paper with my handwriting on it.  On this small piece of paper, on an old company's notepad, with no title, written in pencil, was the recipe for Bill's cookies.

I almost cried.  

So in honor of the first inklings of Fall, fresh picked apples, my compulsive need to save everything, and my old friend Bill - I bring you Autumn in a cookie.  
To Bill - I remember you fondly.  You were an extraordinary baker and a good man. Every Fall for the last 18 years, I have thought about your wonderful cookies and I hope I am able to make them half as well as you did.  Thank you.

Bill's Apple Cookies - makes 12 large or 24 small 

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped into pieces
1 cup apple, diced (I like Granny Smith for these, just make sure you use juicy apples for better texture)

Preheat oven to 350F and line cookie sheets with parchment paper or the Tovolo Silicone Baking Mat.
Cream butter and sugar together until incorporated.  Add the egg and mix until fluffy, then add milk, mix until smooth.
In a medium bowl, add flour, baking soda, salt, and spices and mix with a fork. Add dry ingredients to butter and sugar mixture and mix until it starts to come together but flour is still visible.  Add nuts and stir until just mixed in, then add apples and mix until flour is completely incorporated.
Scoop cookie dough onto cookie sheet about 2 inches apart and bake for 10-14 minutes.  
While the cookies are in the oven, make the glaze.  Apply a little of the glaze when the cookies are still hot (so it soaks in) and another layer when they are almost cool.
1 cup powdered sugar
1 T butter, melted
2 T half and half
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 T fresh lemon juice
Whisk (Tovolo Mini Whisk is perfect for this) half and half and melted butter together, add sugar and then vanilla and lemon juice.

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