About a year ago, I finally cracked the elusive secret to His Lordship’s favorite cookies, the honey, apricot and pecan ones I blogged about a few years before that. At the time, I was celebrating the fact that I was just this-close to perfection, but frankly, that last little inch of close-but-no-cigar continued to drive me insane for quite some time after.
It turns out that I was just one tiny tweak away from the goal, one change so simple it was practically staring me in the face every time I opened the cupboard. The solution was so obvious yet so cunning that I felt both dense and smug when I tried it and it worked.
Ready? Here it is:
That’s right, bread flour. All the cookies needed were a tiny bit more structure, and using a slightly higher-protein flour was all it took to achieve it. No fiddling with the formula, no experiments with adding more flour in tiny increments, just one simple substitution. With that one change, I stopped the spreading and eliminated the need for all that guesswork about exactly when to take them out of the oven. I got all the puff, body and reliability I’d been after all along, and they received His Lordship’s full, effusive, grinning stamp of approval.
I know some might be looking at this recipe and thinking, “Yeah, sure, those sound yummy enough, but they can’t really be special enough for the holidays. And are they really THAT good?”
To that I say it may be difficult to believe given the absence of chocolate, but more than one person has informed me that these are the best cookies in the world. They’re intensely butterscotchy, sweetly multidimensional thanks to the honey, and simultaneously chewy, crispy, fruity and nutty. It’s all the kinds of decadence you’d expect from a holiday cookie, with the bonus of being low-effort enough to make throughout the whole year to come.
You’ll just have to make a batch to see whether you too think these are the best in the world, but even if you ultimately decide another cookie holds first place in your heart, I promise you won’t be sorry to have this one in your repertoire.
Honey Apricot Pecan Cookies, Perfected
Makes 5-6 dozen
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/4 cup honey
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups bread flour
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped
2 cups dried apricots, coarsely chopped
Melt the butter and place it and the honey in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Allow the mixture to cool slightly. In the meantime, whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt and set aside.
Once the butter is at room temperature, add the granulated sugar, egg, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the dry ingredients and stir on low until barely blended, then mix in the pecans and apricots. Cover the bowl and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350 F, and line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
Scoop out the dough with a tablespoon-sized scoop and place two inches apart on the sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, until golden brown in the middle and a bit darker at the edges. Cool the cookies on their sheets until they’ve firmed up, then slide them onto a rack with their parchment to finish cooling.
I made twice this amount this time, because I was snowed into the house and had nothing better to do all day, so I’ll be mailing some out as well as taking them into the office. Apart from losing a few bits of pecan and apricot out the top of the nearly-too-full mixing bowl, it worked perfectly, so feel free to scale up.
Don’t be tempted to skip the refrigeration step, though. The resting period is important for hydrating the flour and developing the full magnificence of the dough, as I’ve pointed out before. You can also scoop out the dough, pop it into bags, and freeze it to have cookies on demand.
The bread flour does an excellent job of firming up the cookie dough, but the dough should still not be allowed to get too warm. It wouldn’t hurt to put the mixing bowl back in the fridge while waiting for a tray to come out of the oven.
The now-defunct bakery that inspired this cookie also had a variation with dried cranberries and walnuts instead of apricot and pecan. I imagine you could split the batch in half just after mixing in the dry ingredients, and get twice the festive punch out of one dough.