These are one of the top three cookies I’ve ever eaten, which includes these and these. This is just an outstanding recipe from Bon Appetit! Yes, many of their recipes are complicated and fussy (and this is one of them), but these are well worth the time and effort.
You’re basically making two recipes here, one is the caramel and the other is the cookies.
What you’ll need for the caramel:
- 3 medium apples (about 1.5 ½ lb. total), peeled, cored
- 1.25 cups (250 g) granulated sugar
- 0.125t (⅛t) cream of tartar
- 2T chilled unsalted butter
- 1.5t Diamond Crystal or 1t Morton kosher salt
- 1t ground cinnamon
- 0.5t ground cardamom
- 0.25t freshly grated nutmeg
What you’ll need for the cookie dough:
- 3.5 cups (438 g) all-purpose flour
- 1.5t Diamond Crystal or 1 tsp. Morton kosher salt
- 1t baking soda
- 1t cream of tartar
- 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 1 cup (200 g) granulated sugar
- 0.5 cup, packed (100 g) dark brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1T vanilla extract
- Flaky sea salt
What to do for the caramel:
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Grate apples on the large holes of a box grater or with a food processor with a grater/shredder attachment. Put the grated apples on a clean kitchen towel, wrap them and squeeze like crazy over a medium bowl to extract all the juice. Measure out 0.25 cups of the apple juice and it set aside. Drink the remainder; it’s really good. Set the grated apples aside (there should be about 2.5 cups).
Bring the sugar, cream of tartar, and reserved 0.25 cups apple juice to a rapid boil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook, without stirring but swirling the saucepan often, until the bubbling slows and the caramel turns a deep amber color (5–7 minutes). Remove the saucepan from the heat and stir in the butter, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg.
Return the saucepan to a burner set at medium-low and add the reserved grated apples. Stir them in quickly—it may look like it’s seizing, but don’t worry. Cook the apple caramel, stirring constantly, until it’s noticeably stickier and forms a ball as you stir (10-12 minutes). At this point, it should pull away from the side of the pan in long strands. Scrape the apple caramel onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and spread it in an even layer. Let it cool for at least 30 minutes. Set about 0.25 cups aside for topping the cookies before baking.
What to do for the cookie dough:
Place your oven racks in the upper and lower third slots and begin heating the oven to 375 degrees.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cream of tartar in a medium bowl to combine. Set aside.
In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar. Start on low speed, then increase to medium, until combined (about 2 minutes). Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing them in thoroughly before adding the next; then add the vanilla. Reduce the speed to low and add the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined.
Now, add the apple caramel and pulse the mixer two or three times to swirl the caramel throughout dough. You could also just fold it in with a stiff rubber spatula. Don’t mix it too much, or you’ll lose the swirled caramel effect in the cookies when they bake.
Now for the weird part: Using a scoop (3T-size) or large spoon, portion out 16 balls and divide them between 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing them at least 2″ apart. Note that these will be really large balls of dough—seemingly ridiculously large. Their recipe doesn’t call for it, but I recommend pushing the top of each ball, flattening it just a bit. The dough will spread as it warms, but making them oblongs instead of balls gives them a head start. Top each cookie with a few small pieces of the reserved apple caramel and sprinkle with sea salt. You will probably have some dough left over; I just made extra cookies with it.
Bake the cookies, rotating the baking sheets top to bottom and front to back halfway through their cooking time, until golden brown at the edges—13 to 16 minutes. Let the cookies cool 5 minutes on baking sheets then transfer to a wire rack to let them cool completely.
Store airtight at room temperature.