Bake

Caramelized Applesauce Chocolate Chip Cookies

August  2, 2021
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Photo by LINDA XIAO. PROP STYLING BY BROOKE DEONARINE. FOOD STYLING BY SAM SENEVINATRE.
  • Prep time 1 hour 50 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • makes 10 large cookies
Author Notes

I originally tried to develop this recipe using no granulated or brown sugar, sticking to applesauce as the main sweetener in the cookie. To replace the sugars in a cookie recipe with applesauce successfully, the applesauce would need to be transformed to make it dryer and sturdier by removing as much of its moisture as possible.

However, after numerous trials and much research, I learned that unless I wanted dough that baked and ate like a muffin, not only would I have to take the time and care to reduce the applesauce to a thick, caramelized paste, sugars would need to be used in the recipe. This allows for the butter to be creamed with something granulated that starts the cookie process off properly before even adding in the applesauce. So this cookie contains sugar but it’s only a third of the sugar of a standard chocolate chip cookie recipe, thanks to the applesauce reduction.

After resting post-bake, the finished product has a skillet or bar cookie type texture: a bit more crumble and pleasant tenderness. It eats like a classic chocolate chip cookie in flavor, with teeny hints of deep cooked apple cider notes that play nicely with the roasty-toasty browned butter.

These cookies are best when enjoyed the same day they are baked. After being held in an air-tight container overnight, texturally they become reminiscent of the soft frosted sugar cookies from the grocery store. I recommend baking off less of the dough and reserving the remainder for future baking. If you think you’ll be baking them off within 2 to 3 days, hold your dough in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you need to freeze it, scoop the dough and freeze it solid on a baking sheet before transferring it to a container or freezer bag for storage. —Jessica Romanowski

Ingredients
  • 3 cups unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
  • cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • teaspoons baking soda
  • teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup (packed) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla paste or extract
  • cups (heaping) bitter- or semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (I used 64% cacao), plus more for sprinkling
  • Coarse salt, for finishing
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a medium enamel pot over medium-high heat, cook the applesauce, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the moisture evaporates and the applesauce thickens. As it reduces, scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot with a rubber spatula to prevent scorching. Small bits of applesauce will start browning on the sides and bottom. When that happens, use the moisture of the applesauce and a little elbow grease to scrape and pull those light brown bits off the pot and incorporate them. You are aiming to reduce the applesauce by two-thirds, for a very thick, paste-like applesauce, that fills a 1-cup or half-pint measure. This should take 20 to 25 minutes on the stove. Transfer to a small bowl or cup and let cool for at least 1 hour (or chill overnight, then bring to room temperature before using).
  2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over medium heat, melt ¾ cup of the butter. Cook, stirring occasionally and releasing any browned milk solids from the pan, for 3 minutes while the butter starts to foam. After 2 to 3 more minutes, the bubbling should ease and the color should change to a more golden one. The milk solids in the butter will be browned. Remove from the heat. Scrape the sides and bottoms of the pan to pull up any remaining browned bits and transfer to a large bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer). Add the remaining ¼ cup butter, stir to melt, and let cool for at least 1 hour (or chill overnight, then bring to room temperature before using).
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and kosher salt.
  4. Add the egg and vanilla to the applesauce mixture and stir well to combine.
  5. Add the granulated and brown sugar to the bowl with browned butter. Using a hand mixer or the paddle attachment on a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Start on low and increase the speed to high, beating for 1½ minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Beat for another 1½ minutes and scrape again. The butter and sugars should be fully incorporated, light in color, and fluffy. Add half of the egg/applesauce mixture and beat, stopping halfway through to add the second half of the applesauce mixture and scrape again, for 3 more minutes.
  6. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture until almost fully incorporated, taking care to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to make sure no flour has collected there.
  7. Add the chocolate and fold until evenly incorporated.
  8. Transfer the dough to an airtight container or cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours. Please note that the dough and your tastebuds will benefit from spending more time in the fridge, at least overnight or for up to 3 days.
  9. Arrange racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven; heat the oven to 400°F. Let the dough temper for 15 to 20 minutes. Using a ⅓ cup measure, scoop and portion the dough, arranging them at least 4 inches apart on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets. Place a few chocolate chips or chunks on the top of each cookie.
  10. Bake for 8 minutes, then bang the pans and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F. Rotate the pans from top to bottom, bake for another 4 minutes, then bang again. Bake for another 2 minutes, until browned on top but the center is still soft to the touch. Variations: For smaller cookies, break the ⅓ cup scooped portions in half and quickly roll into balls. Bake for 11 minutes instead of 14. For a thinner cookie, form the dough into a 4-inch wide log, wrap in parchment, and freeze for 2 to 3 hours. Slice into ¼-inch pieces and bake for 12 to 14 minutes. *Much thanks to Sarah Keiffer’s pan-banging technique. With such a high moisture content and low sugar content, these cookies want to grow tall and not spread very much, so banging a few times really helps. Immediately sprinkle the surface of the cookies with the coarse salt so it sticks to the temporarily melted chocolate.
  11. Let the cookies cool on the pans for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Let cool for at least another 10 to 15 minutes (rushing this step will result in broken cookies).

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