Honey Apricot Cookies

I recently found a very special jar of honey on my front porch. Across the metallic lid was the address label of a cherished neighbor who had recently passed away. An attached scroll of paper was filled with her husband’s words, offering gratitude and the extraordinary story of the honey’s origin.

In her illness, his wife assured him that bees would come and make honey in their backyard, just like he wished. Shortly after her declaration, a swarm of bees voluntarily moved into his old, empty bee boxes. Not only did they show up and survive the winter without help; they also produced an ocean of honey, leaving the family with a dose of sweetness not long after their beloved had departed.

What an honor to be a recipient of this beautiful treat.

Upon tasting the honey, I was delighted by its depth and its slightly herbal notes, along with its unique richness that echoed fresh butter with a hint of spice. I couldn’t help but daydream of a new sweet creation that would both complement and highlight the honey in a buttery, fruity format.

With summer stone fruit in full swing, I reached for vibrant apricots, known to become jammy and intensify in flavor when baked. (I first tried nectarines and peaches, but their flavor faded in the oven and their texture didn’t hold up as well as apricots, which I realized I hadn’t baked with for quite a long time.) The soft-baked, tangy apricots proved perfect as a topping for my new cookies.

A crisp, light shortbread-like base seemed a natural choice, and a petite spoonful of honey would be showcased in each cookie’s wide, shallow imprint. I found that the cookies invited a pinch of herbs and spice — and cinnamon and rosemary made a scrumptious pairing (though they’re certainly optional, as the “plain” version offers plenty of nicely balanced flavor amid a delicious simplicity). 

The result is a satisfyingly buttery, honey-rich cookie with a lovely whisper of salt, all topped with a burst of tart, luscious fruit.

When I brought a plate of these cookies to my beekeeping neighbor, he mentioned that the bees have disappeared now, and expressed that the honey felt heaven-sent. I realize that cookies are very insignificant in moments like these. But my wish is that, somehow, this circle of sweetness might bring a moment of comfort, or better yet, hope.

Honey Apricot Cookies (Makes 20)

  • 1 cup (5.3 ounces/150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons (1.5 ounces/43 grams) dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces/113 grams) unsalted butter, quite soft but not melted
  • 2 tablespoons good quality honey
  • 3 medium to large apricots, ripe but firm
  • Optional: up to 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon (preferably Ceylon) and powdered dried rosemary*, whisked together

Line cookie sheets with parchment paper; set aside.

Sift flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Add brown sugar and stir gently. Add butter and beat well, until moist crumbs have formed and dough sticks together. Use hands to shape dough into a cohesive ball; knead gently if needed.

Separate dough into pieces about a scant tablespoon a piece, weighing 15 grams or 0.5 ounce each. Shape each dough segment into a ball, then flatten and indent slightly, directly onto the parchment-lined cookie sheets, creating 1.75″ diameter cookies with a centered 1″ indentation. Avoid pressing all the way through and/or making the bottom too thin/translucent; you want to create a sturdy, wide basin for the honey. If the wall of the cookie cracks, gently smooth with your finger. Keep cookies at least 1.5″ apart from one another as you arrange them on the baking sheets.

Fill each cookie with 1/4 teaspoon honey; do not fill to the brim. (You may end up with a little honey left over.) If desired, add small pinches of the cinnamon-rosemary blend around the edges of some or all cookies. Freeze the filled cookies for at least an hour.

Meanwhile, rise and dry apricots. Halve the apricots and remove pits. Slice each half into quarters, crosswise, to create eighths. (You may need a different division if your apricots are particularly large or small. The goal is 20 pieces that fit nicely across each honey puddle.) You may have a few extra apricot pieces.

Preheat oven to 325 F with a rack centered between top and bottom.

Working quickly, set an apricot piece cut-side-down onto each frozen cookie, centered in the puddle of honey. Bake for about 20 minutes, one rack at a time. When finished, edges of cookies should be golden brown and dough should look dry. Let cookies completely cool on baking sheets before moving or eating. Keep cookies covered and chilled if not eating the day they’re baked.

Maybe next time… Instead of hand shaping, you can bake these cookies in a mini muffin pan. Be sure to line the pan with mini muffin papers first (or grease it very generously) and indent each cookie deeply using a finger in the center before filling and freezing. You may need to use smaller pieces of apricots for this format.

In my experience, twenty addictive cookies go fast; feel free to double this recipe.

If adding spice, a pinch of nutmeg swapped in for the cinnamon would also be divine.

*To powder rosemary, place dried rosemary (without the thick, woody stems) in a spice grinder (a.k.a. blade coffee grinder) and pulse until powdered, or try a mortar and pestle.

 

Posted in Baking with Herbs, Cookies & Bars, Sweets, Traditional with a Twist | Tagged , , , , , ,