Apple Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Caramel

October 14, 2021

My oven has been working hard, thanks to apple season. So I like to give it a little treat by letting it fill with the aroma of cinnamon and spices. If you are a cinnamon lover, then you’re sure to enjoy the caramel drizzle on top of these little bites. Healthy oats, apples, and white whole wheat flour complement sweet cinnamon caramel in these apple oatmeal cookies.

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It makes me sad when someone really dislikes a food that I absolutely love. Like, why do oatmeal cookies have such a bad reputation? I take the whole thing as a challenge, really. If you tell me you hate something, my goal is to find a way to make you love it. So that’s what I did here.

I took my basic oatmeal cookie recipe, and instead of raisins, I added par-dehydrated apples. But of course, I couldn’t stop there. I also topped each one with a sweet and spiced caramel drizzle. That is what takes these cookies from a tasty afternoon snack to full dessert mode.

What You Need to Get Started

You can easily find all of the ingredients for these apple oatmeal cookies at your grocery store:

Let’s Make Apple Oatmeal Cookie Dough

Don’t be intimidated by the amount of ingredients in this cookie recipe. It might look like a long list, but the techniques used here are nothing cutting-edge. This is a simple and delicious oatmeal cookie dough, but dotted with diced apples for a fall twist.

When it comes to choosing your apples, you will want to use a sweet baking variety. Something like a Gala or Braeburn has a nice balance of sugar and tartness, and will hold its shape when cooked. Stay away from softer varieties like McIntosh, or tart Granny Smiths for these cookies.

To begin, we will be par-dehydrating the apples to remove some of the moisture. So get started before you begin cutting by preheating your oven. Since the idea is to dry these out but not fully cook them, we’ll be using a low temperature for a long baking time.

Dice the apples into half-inch pieces. If you prefer, you can peel them first. In this recipe, the peels can get a little bit tough in places. However, I don’t mind it alongside the soft oatmeal cookies. If you are sensitive to the texture, feel free to peel.

Arrange the apple pieces on a foil-lined baking sheet in a single layer. Do your best not to let any pieces overlap, giving each one its own space on the pan. Let them dry out in the oven for a couple hours, stirring every half hour or so.

You will notice that the apple pieces will begin to shrink, get lightly browned, and begin to feel spongy in texture instead of crisp and wet. The browning is from oxidation, which adds a cidery flavor to the apples. The texture and size are signs that the moisture in the apples is decreasing.

When they are done, you should be able to gently squeeze a piece of apple and it will have some give. At this point, remove the sheet from the oven and set it aside to cool while you prepare the cookie dough.

The cookies themselves follow a basic formula: wet + dry. We’ve used this technique many times to make cookies, but just in case, here’s a reminder: This method helps keep you from overmixing your flour and baking soda with the wet ingredients, which could lead to cookies that are gummy instead of chewy and soft.

I suggest using a stand mixer to cream together the butter and both sugars. However, a hand mixer and a nice, large bowl will work as well. Be sure that your butter is room temperature, but it should not be melted or so soft that it’s falling apart.

In cookies, we use two different types of sugar not only for flavor, but also texture. White sugar is pure sweetness, but it also helps to create those crisp edges of a perfect cookie. Brown sugar is a deeper flavor, and it adds moisture for a super chewy batch of cookies.

Combine these together in your mixer, using the paddle attachment on medium-low speed for about two minutes. The mixture should be visibly fluffy, since the sugars are aerating the butter, or creating miniature air pockets throughout the fat. If you are using a hand mixer, use the standard beater attachments.

Add in the egg and a splash of bourbon. If you don’t have bourbon on hand, any standard whiskey will do, especially something sweet and syrupy. Or if you prefer to stay alcohol-free, you can easily swap out the liquor with an equal amount of vanilla extract. Mix these into the dough until thoroughly combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk all of the dry ingredients together. The base of these cookies is the combination of white whole wheat flour and quick oats. If you’ve never heard of my favorite flour, it has a soft texture, similar to all-purpose flour, but the benefits of whole wheat.

I always like using quick oats for cookies because they get super soft in the oven, but still maintain their rolled oaty shape. Instant oats can be too fragile, while steel cut oats may end up being too toothsome after baking. Quick oats are here for their Goldilocks moment.

Combine these two with all of the spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, and cardamom. The first three are my go-to’s for anything that I want to have a robust and fragrant cinnamon flavor with a little something extra. The addition of cardamom is perfect for pairing with apples. Finally, don’t forget the salt and baking soda.

After the dry ingredients are thoroughly mixed, add them into the mixer bowl all at once. You may want to remove the paddle from the mixer and give the dough a little bit of help to get started. Otherwise, turning on your mixer could result in flour flying everywhere.

Mix on low just until the flour and friends are incorporated into the dough and you don’t see any visible streaks. If you are more comfortable, you can do this step by hand, so there’s no risk of overmixing.

Finally, go find your dried apple pieces and dump them into the bowl as well. Use a sturdy but flexible spatula or wooden spoon to fold these into the dough until they are evenly distributed. It can be a little tough to get started, but keep working at it and those apples will mix in.

Now it’s time to chill the dough. Get out your cookie scoop and begin scooping balls of dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. You should get right around thirty-two, but it’s okay if you have a few more or less.

Once it’s full, place the entire sheet into the fridge, and let the dough chill for about half an hour. This will help the butter start to solidify. Baking cookies from colder dough can help stop them from spreading too much.

How to Finish Your Apple Oatmeal Cookies

While the cookies chill, preheat your oven for baking them and prepare a second baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Place about six to eight of the cold balls of dough on the new baking sheet, spread two inches apart from one another.

Bake the cookies in batches for ten to twelve minutes each. The cookies will not appear fully done when you remove them from the oven, but they will have flattened out into disks. Don’t worry if they aren’t perfectly round. Imperfections from the apples are expected.

After baking, allow the cookies to cool on the pan for a few minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool completely. The residual heat will help the cookies finish up the cooking process as they cool, so it’s important not to skip that step.

While the cookies are cooling, you can begin preparing the cinnamon caramel sauce. This is a fairly basic caramel, so you will need to make sure that you have your instant-read thermometer ready to go. Before you start, you should also measure out the cream and butter so you can add them quickly when needed.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the corn syrup and water, stirring gently until it is fully mixed in and beginning to boil. Don’t be scared away by corn syrup! It’s similar to sugar, except made from corn. Plus it helps keep the caramel from crystallizing when cool.

Once this is bubbling, stop stirring and begin checking the temperature. You’ll want to keep an eye on it, since it’s a very fine line between caramel and burnt. Use both the temperature and color to help you determine when it’s ready. Heat until the mixture begins to change color to a light golden, and the temperature reads 330-335°F.

Immediately turn off the heat and add in both the cream and butter. Be careful, because the caramel will bubble and seize up when you do this. Stir to combine until it is smooth and golden brown. Finally, stir in the cinnamon until it’s fully mixed in as well, and a dark brown color.

Transfer the finished caramel to a jar or other container. I like to use mason jars, and this amount of caramel will fit nicely in an eight-ounce one. You will want to work with the caramel while it’s still warm, but it’s okay to let it cool for a few minutes. If it starts to solidify, you can always microwave it.

Place your cooled cookies close together on top of a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper. Then, use a spoon to drizzle the warm caramel over the cookies. The wire rack and parchment will help catch any extra drops that don’t make it onto the cookies.

Let the drizzled cookies cool for at least 10 minutes before serving or storing them to allow the caramel to harden. On the cookies, the caramel has more surface area exposed to air, so it will harden faster than the caramel in the jar.

If you are looking to make all or part of this recipe in advance, the unbaked cookie dough can be stored in the fridge for a couple days or frozen for a couple months. Thaw the dough at room temperature until it’s soft enough that you could shape the dough balls, but still feels cool to the touch.

The fully baked cookies can be stored with or without the caramel drizzle in a sealed container at room temperature for a couple days, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two months. Be sure to separate drizzled cookies with parchment paper if stacking, and thaw frozen cookies before eating them.

The caramel sauce can be made in advance and stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for a few weeks. It will solidify, so you can warm it in the microwave and stir until it reaches a drizzling consistency.

Oatmeal cookies, meet fall. These apple-filled chewy cookies are topped with a drizzle of gooey cinnamon caramel, for a delicious autumn treat!

How to Serve Apple Oatmeal Cookies

You don’t need instructions for enjoying cookies. It’s pretty simple once you take that first bite. But one of my favorite things about oatmeal cookies in particular is that they totally fit into brunch. Try serving these as a sweet treat to follow up something savory, like a caramelized onion cheesecake.

Whether having a cookie as breakfast, a snack, or dessert, don’t forget the drinks! If you are feeding a crowd, these pair excellently with hard apple cider sangria. For something a bit more elegant, try an apple brandy alexander. Or go full festive-holiday mode with pecan pie hot buttered rum.

If you are leaning toward dessert, these make a great addition to a cookie tray. Try them alongside blueberry cheesecake cookies, lemon curd cookie sandwiches, persimmon and rye thumbprints, and plum jam cookie bars for a fruit theme.

Use Up Leftover Ingredients

More Apple Recipes to Try

Apple Oatmeal Cookies with Cinnamon Caramel

A fall variation on chewy oatmeal cookies, filled with par-dehydrated apple pieces and topped with a drizzle of cinnamon-infused caramel.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Chilling Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American
Servings: 32 cookies
Calories: 116kcal

Ingredients

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

  • 3 Cups Diced Apples a firm baking variety like Gala or Braeburn
  • ½ Cup Unsalted butter room temperature
  • ¾ Cup Brown sugar
  • ½ Cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Egg room temperature
  • ½ tsp Bourbon or Whiskey or vanilla extract
  • 1 ⅛ Cups White Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 ½ Cups Quick Oats
  • ½ Tbsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp Ground Allspice
  • ¼ tsp Ground Cloves
  • ¼ tsp Cardamom
  • ¼ tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp Baking Soda

Cinnamon Caramel Sauce

  • ½ Cup Sugar
  • ½ Tbsp Corn Syrup
  • 2 Tbsp Water
  • ¼ Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
  • 1 Tbsp Ground Cinnamon

Instructions

Par-Dehydrate the Apples

  • Preheat the oven to 200°F with a rack in the center, and line a baking sheet will aluminum foil.
  • Spread out the diced apples on the pan in a single layer. Bake for 1 ½-2 hours, using a wooden spoon to prop open the oven door slightly. Stir every half hour.
  • When done, the apples will appear slightly browned and shrunken and feel somewhat spongy, but not wet. Set the dried apples aside to cool while you prepare the cookie dough.

Make the Apple Oatmeal Cookies

  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugars on low speed. Add in the egg and bourbon, mixing until combined.
  • In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, oats, spices, baking soda, and salt until mixed. Add the dry ingredients to the mixer, in four batches, fully incorporating each batch at low speed, until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Use a spoon or cookie scoop to place balls of dough onto the prepared cookie sheet. These can be close together, but not touching, and they should all fit on one sheet. Refrigerate all the cookie dough balls for half an hour. Preheat the oven towards the end of the chilling time to 375°F.
  • Once chilled, transfer 8 of the dough balls at a time to a new baking sheet* lined with parchment paper, about 1-2 inches apart.
  • Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the cookies have flattened out somewhat, but still appear soft. Cool for 5-7 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat for the rest of the cookies.

Prepare the Cinnamon Caramel Drizzle

  • In a small saucepan over medium heat, dissolve the sugar in the corn syrup and water, stirring gently until it is fully mixed in and begin to boil.
  • Once bubbling, stop stirring and begin checking the temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Heat until the mixture begins to change color to a light golden, and the temperature reads 330-335°F.
  • Immediately turn off the heat and add in both the cream and butter. Be careful, because the caramel will bubble and seize up when you do this. Stir to combine until it is smooth and golden brown. Stir in the cinnamon until fully combined. Then transfer the caramel to a jar or other container.
  • Place the cooled cookies close together on a wire rack over a sheet of parchment paper. Use a spoon to drizzle the warm caramel over cookies. Let the drizzled cookies cool for at least 10 minutes before serving or storing.

Notes

  • The bourbon or whiskey in the cookie dough can easily be replaced with vanilla extract, or another extract or liquor of your choice. I would not suggest using something sugary, like a flavored syrup or liqueur.
  • *Baking Sheets: If you only have a single baking sheet, you can carefully slide the parchment paper with all the dough balls off the sheet onto a flat surface. Then line that same sheet with new parchment for baking.
  • Make Ahead tips: 
    • The unbaked cookie dough can be stored in the fridge for 2-3 days or freezer for up to 2 months. Thaw at room temperature until the dough balls are soft enough that you could shape them, but still feel cool to the touch.
    • Baked cookies with or without caramel drizzle can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for 1-2 days, or tightly wrapped in the freezer for up to two months. Thaw to room temperature before serving. Separate drizzled cookies with parchment paper if stacking.
    • The caramel sauce can be stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for 3-4 weeks. Warm in the microwave and stir until it reaches a drizzling consistency. Then drizzle over room temperature cookies.
  • Variation: If you prefer traditional caramel, simply leave out the cinnamon when making the caramel. After drizzling over the cookies, optionally top each with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
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