Soft, crumbly shortbread studded with pecans and flavored with boiled cider, topped with a salted cider caramel and flaky sea salt. These combine the sweet, the salty, and the tart. They are simple and insanely tasty.
I had to give these cookies away. They were too good. I couldn’t stand seeing them and NOT eating them. Goodness. I think it’s the intense complexity of the cider caramel: it’s tart, it’s salty, it’s sweet and it goes on top of a cookie that is also a bit tart, from some more cider. It’s complex deliciousness at its absolute best.
I have a super basic shortbread recipe I’ve been making for years and when I saw a photo of these cookies I knew exactly what to do. The title is a mouthful, I know. It makes them sound difficult to make. But don’t be fooled, they are a cinch.
How to make apple cider shortbreads with apple cider caramel
Boil down some cider. Make a lot and use it for this or this and the cookies. Add mulling spices if you like (cinnamon, nutmeg, etc. ). Make some caramel. I know – caramel can be tricky. Watch it closely; it’ll turn color, you’ll add some cream, a pat of butter, a spoonful of salt and that tart cider.
Toast the pecans into a food processor to chop them. The dough can fully be made in the food processor. Roll it out, use cookie cutters to shape them. Slightly underbake them. Drizzle a lil bit of that caramel. Sprinkle on some salt. Wait – if you can.
Cookies for Gifting, Cookies for Exchanging, Cookies for You!
Got a cookie exchange anytime soon? There will be those who come in with the always easy winner, chocolate. You’ll come in with these and everyone will think they look a bit beige and basic but maybe they’ll be curious about the caramel and the sea salt topping so they take a bite, and then they’ll be totally gobsmacked. They’ll hunt you down for more. And then more. Pretty soon you’ll be making these every day till Christmas. I can’t wait. =)
The recipe given for caramel makes quite a bit – more than you’ll need for the cookies. I keep mine in the fridge and use it on ice cream and pies! The recipe I use is adapted from NYT Cooking.
Notes on making the Apple Cider Pecan Shortbreads
I give instructions to make the cookie dough in a food processor because that is what I used to chop my pecans, but if the nuts are already chopped, use a stand mixer.
Depending on how big your cookie cutter is, these can make up to 30 cookies.
My friend and fellow food blogger Rebecca of Rose & Whiskers adapted this recipe to make it gluten-free. She says: substitute the flour with gluten-free flour (1:1), add two teaspoons cornstarch to the cookie dough, to chill the dough before rolling for about 2 hours, and then chill the cutouts for 15 minutes before baking.
Apple Cider Pecan Shortbread with Caramel
Soft crumbly pecan shortbreads flavored with fresh apple cider topped with a salted apple cider caramel.
Make the boiled cider by boiling 1 cup fresh apple cider with mulling spices (if using) on high. Boil until the liquid has reduced to syrup consistency, about 30 minutes. Store in fridge if making ahead of time.
Make the caramel: in a deep pot, stir the sugar with 1/2 teaspoon lemon. Cook on medium high until sugar turns amber colored (the darker the color the less sweet the caramel, but be careful not to burn it). Add the heavy cream slowly, while whisking. The mixture will boil up. Once it has simmered down, add the butter and sea salt and stir to combine. Stir in the cider. Set aside.
Make the cookie dough: pulse the pecans in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the flour, sugar and salt and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cider and pulse until it comes together in a ball. If the dough is wet, wrap it in plastic wrap and set it in the fridge to chill for a few hours.
Preheat oven to 350. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Roll out dough into ½ inch thick on a well-floured surface and use a cookie cutter to stamp out shapes. Bake for 10 minutes or until edges just start to turn golden.
When cookies are cool, gently spoon some caramel on top. Once it has set a bit, add the flaky sea salt.