I think I've fallen down an apple-themed dessert hole! For the past month, it has been all about the apples. Apple cake, apple cider donuts, and apple pie cookies. Luckily, they haven't gotten old yet and there is still plenty of apple baked goods to go around. Which leads me to these apple cider caramel shortbread cookies.
Apple Cider Cookies
These apple cider caramel shortbread cookies first came to life when I was scrolling on Instagram. I saw Smitten Kitchen post a recipe for apple cider caramel candies that looked pretty irresistible. She made them as little individual candies, but I thought they would be great as a filling inside chocolate or a cookie.
After some thinking, I settled on making them with shortbread and chocolate. I made caramel pretzel shortbread bars from Sally's Baking Addiction over the winter and thought this would go well with a similar combination. The only thing I wanted to change though was the mess. When I made those bars, and while they were absolutely delicious, they were super messy to cut and keep in all one piece. My solution to that: shortbread cups!
I used a mini muffin tin to bake the shortbread to make individual cups. Once they were cool, I used an apple core tool to scoop some shortbread out of the middle, leaving a little pocket for the caramel. It was a great solution and totally mess-free.
Apple Cider Caramel
Now, this apple cider caramel is pretty traditional by caramel standards. What makes it different is its great apple flavor. The apple flavor comes from a strong caramel reduction. To get that reduction, you simply have to boil down about four cups of apple cider. During the reduction, it will get very deep in color and thicker in volume.
Building the Cookies
With the caramel ready to go, it was time to pour it into the baked shortbread cups. In order to make this less messy, the caramel went into a measuring cup so it was easy to pour. It was a great solution for the mess.
While I waited for the caramel to set in the cookies, I melted the chocolate for the topping with a little coconut oil. The coconut oil gives the topping a nice hard shell but really doesn't add any flavor. Once the caramel was set in the cookie, I dunked the tops in the chocolates and let those set until they were smooth. I also added a little caramel drizzle on top. That's totally optional but adds a nice little touch.
These cookies are great really for any occasion or just to have around the house for a sweet treat. The dark chocolate compliments the sweet apple caramel and makes for a great mid-fall dessert.
Find the full recipe below and let me know what you think of these shortbread cookie cups! The recipe requires some multitasking for timing, so make sure to have everything ready to go!
Caramel Apple Shortbread Cookies
Apple Cider Caramel
- 4 cups apple cider
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 t sea salt
- 1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, cubbed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ⅓ cup heavy cream
- 2 sticks butter, melted
- ½ cup granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups, plus 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoon coconut oil
- ½ cup dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Prepare a mini muffin tin with grease and set aside.
- In a large saucepan, make the apple cider reduction. Boil the apple cider on medium/high heat until it reduces in size and turns a deep brown color. This should take about 35 to 40 min. Stir the cider occasionally. Since this takes some time, make the cookies.
- Make the shortbread cookies. In a large bowl combine the melted butter, sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk to combine. Then, add the flour and mix until fully combined. The dough will be very thick.
- Grab the prepared muffin tin and press down some of the batter in each cup. Fill the cups about ¾ full and place them in the oven for about 20 minutes. The cups will be done when they have a light brown color on the sides.
- While the cider is reducing and when the cookies are in the oven, gather the rest of the ingredients and prep them for use. When you start to make the caramel, it is a quick process so make sure everything is ready to go. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
- When the cider is ready, remove it from the heat. Then, stir in the butter, sugar, and heavy cream. Return the pot to medium heat with a candy thermometer and let the mixture come to 252 degrees. It won't take long so don't go far.
- When it reaches the temp, take it off the heat and stir in the spices. Let it cool for a minute before pouring it into the measuring cup.
- While the caramel cools, scoop out the middle section of the caramel cups. Don't go too far in the bottom and make sure they stay in one piece. When they are all prepared, pour the caramel in each hole and set aside to set.
- While the caramel is setting, melt the chocolate. In a heatproof bowl, melt the chocolate and the coconut oil in the microwave in 15-second increments.
- With the caramels set, dip the tops of the cookies into the chocolate. You want to cover the top layer so the caramel isn't visible. Set aside and allow the chocolate to harden. When the chocolate is hardened, feel free to drizzle any extra caramel on top.
- If you have a lot of extra caramel, simply grease a loaf pan and pour the remaining caramel in there. Let it sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator to set. Once it is set, you can cut it into little candies.
- The cookies will last about a week in an airtight container.
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