When we were students, His Lordship and I used to frequent a bakery that specialized in cookies, not high-impact cookies like tuiles or madeleines, but homey, chock-full-of-bits variations on the basic chocolate chip cookie. They were all unassumingly wonderful, but there was one for which His Lordship, who can otherwise take or leave desserts, would take regular detours. It was a honey-apricot-pecan cookie, moist and chewy because of the honey and full of nuts and fruit, and despite the fact that we’d buy a pound of them at a time, they never seemed to last until the next day.
We finished school and moved away, and then the bakery closed, depriving His Lordship of the opportunity to buy them ever again. Since he never stopped pining for them, I decided to try reproducing them at home, and began a long and occasionally frustrating quest for the right recipe. I began by trying to modify a standard chocolate chip cookie with nuts, exchanging some of the sugar for honey and replacing the chocolate with the apricots, assuming that that’s what the bakery had done. The taste was fine, but the texture was wrong. His Lordship wanted it to be chewier, and to have a more pronounced honey flavor. Since nothing I could do to a basic creamed-butter dough would produce the level of chewiness he wanted, I decided to switch the paradigm to a modified ginger cookie instead, which had the double virtue of built-in chewiness and one-for-one substitutability of honey for molasses. Using the same basic recipe underlying the five-spice and bourbon-infused cookies I previously posted, I added a cup each of chopped pecans and dried apricots. His Lordship proclaimed the results closer than any of my previous attempts, and they’ve been a big hit with family, friends and coworkers as well.
I appear to be on the right track, but I’m still not perfectly satisfied. Although the combination of flavors and the level of chewiness are right, they still spread quite a lot, producing a much flatter cookie than the one I remember, and, if not watched carefully, they over-brown and become almost praline-like. I’ve tried increasing the proportion of nuts and apricots to add more structure, thoroughly chilling (even pre-freezing) the dough, lowering the baking temperature, and making sure to remove the cookies from the oven while just barely golden. All of this has helped, but not enough. I’m starting to suspect that I may need to play around with adding extra flour for additional support. Next time, I will try increasing it by a quarter of a cup, to see if that makes any difference. In the meantime, it’s still a damn good cookie, even if it can still use a bit more refining, so I’m putting up the in-progress recipe. Keep watching this space for ongoing installments of the Great Cookie Quest.
Honey Apricot Pecan Cookies
Makes approx. five dozen
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup strong-flavored honey
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt.
Melt the butter and place in a large mixing bowl, allowing it to cool to room temperature. Once cool, add the granulated sugar, honey, egg, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the sifted dry ingredients and stir until barely blended, then stir in the pecans and apricots. Cover the bowl and chill thoroughly.
Scoop out the cookie with a tablespoon-sized scoop and place two inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake 9-10 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden. Immediately slide the cookies, parchment and all, onto a cooling rack and leave to cool completely and set up.