The other day, I noticed that the Starbucks inside my local Target had a giant banner that read in giant letters: P S L. (For those who haven’t been subjected to online comments from girls like this, that stands for pumpkin spice latte.) I immediately cringed over the proliferation of “PSL” such that it’s being used for actual marketing by the company. Can’t we all be collectively embarrassed by the PSL abbreviation? Sigh.
While every other lady in the world squees over PSLs, I will admit to a seasonal craving of my own each fall: caramel apple. Yes, I have a Starbucks cold-weather drink of choice, and it is the caramel apple spice. (A CAS? No, let’s not.) So every fall I tell myself I’m going to make something caramel-appley... but every year I fall short.
Every year until this one, that is! Forget your OMG PSL LOL, these caramel apple cookie cups I saw on Life, Love, and Sugar are the ultimate fall treat.
We start with a stick and a half of softened butter (that’s 3/4 of a cup) and half a cup each of white and brown sugar. (Needless to say, I did not gobble these down immediately prior to my pregnant-lady glucose test.)
Stir to cream together until nice and fluffy, almost like the texture of frosting. Use a stand mixer if you got it! Then add an egg and a teaspoon of vanilla to round out the wet ingredients.
As you can see, it’ll be a pretty thick dough. That’s ok! Go ahead and add a teaspoon each of cinnamon and baking soda and two teaspoons of cornstarch. Once those are incorporated, mix in two cups of flour.
There might be a bit of bowl scraping involved, but it’ll come together.
The resulting dough is pretty sticky. So, to measure out two tablespoons balls, I used my small cookie scoop. Just mushing two scoops together was close enough to two tablespoons.
I measured them all out on wax paper before pressing them into a well-greased cupcake tin. Then I used a metal mis-en-place dish to press the cookie dough into cups. If you don’t have a suitable cup, you can make do with a spoon. Either way, spray the cup or spoon with cooking spray so it won’t stick as you press into the dough.
Then pop them in a preheated 350-degree oven for twelve minutes. But here’s the thing: they’re going to puff up, ruining all that cup-pressing.
But no worries! Just smoosh the cup down a second time and you’ll be good to go. Let them cool in the pan until they’re firm enough to move to a cooling rack.
(Can you get away with the first round of smooshing before baking? Not sure, honestly. Just smoosh ’em twice!)
In the meantime, start making the rest of the cups! The source recipe suggests that you make a recipe of caramel sauce... but that sounded like too much work. I mean, I’m already making cookies from scratch and using fresh apples. So I just used a jar of this:
Shortcuts for the win! And while I baked the cookies, I diced up the apples. (Update: I was asked what kind of apples I used... and I confess, I don’t remember. I am sure they were either Fuji or Braeburn, but that’s it. And this is why I’m not a real food blogger...)
They get transferred into a pan with a sprinkle of nutmeg, a general sprinkle of cinnamon, and two tablespoons of brown sugar (halved from the source because holy moly, aren’t these sweet enough?). Try not to shove bits of apple in your mouth as you move them to the pan. I failed at that step.
Stir to coat, then turn on the stove to medium-low heat and add two tablespoons of butter (because we only added a stick and a half to the cookies and that clearly isn’t enough butter in our lives). Because I like crisp apples, I cooked them for less than fifteen minutes, stirring every minute or two.
While the apples cooked, I filled the cups with a spoonful of caramel. Try to be patient and go slowly – it’s a messy job, but someone’s got to do it!
Finally finally finally, add a spoonful of cooked apples on top.
And EVEN MORE FINALLY... have one for yourself... in the early morning sunlight, even. They have fruit, so you can totally eat them for breakfast.
As I said before, THESE are your incredible fall treat. If you’re potlucking a party – or Thanksgiving dinner! – bring these to impress your friends and family. They will think you are amazing, and honestly they will be right.
Obviously these aren’t a quick treat you can whip up when a caramel-apple craving strikes (especially if you go to the trouble of making the caramel sauce from scratch)! I think they’re absolutely worth it, though, even if you only make them once. But what a fantastic fall tradition they’d be, right? I’m marking my calendar to make these next year. Enjoy!