My neighbors across the street are my nemeses. They don’t know it, and, in fact, they barely know me. We have lived in our house for a year and a half, and in that time I have said “Hi” with a half-wave about three times. But I have spent countless minutes staring at their house with envy and a tinge of hatred.
They have black shutters; I want black shutters. Their plants and lawn are perfectly manicured; my husband is boycotting mowing because “It’s fall.” They have a porch swing; my porch has cobwebs. They have beautiful ferns hanging over their porch; I killed the hanging plants I bought last summer within a week and now the baren, dirt-filled pots are sitting on my deck, as a reminder of my inadequacy.
Last year, the neighbors across the street put pretty pumpkins on their steps and wrapped corn husks around the pillars of their porch to usher in the autumn equinox. I purchased some malformed squash and attempted to prop them up on my porch steps, but our steps are narrower and my husband couldn’t take his bike down the steps without knocking them off. So I moved them to the porch and you couldn’t really see them from the street after that. I let them sit there for way longer than they should have. Into December, I think.
I sometimes wonder what the neighbors think of us, with our overgrown front yard and our lack of shutters and ferns. I am curious what they think I do, since I am constantly leaving with desserts in hand and returning with massive amounts of shopping bags. (I have a bit of a shopping problem, but that’s a story for another day.) Do they even speculate as much about me as I do about them? Do they watch me from their upstairs windows like I do them?
Sometimes I think about bringing the neighbors across the street dessert, as a peace offering to end this potentially one-sided contest that I am clearly losing. But I like having something that they don’t.
- 2¼ cups (270 grams) all purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup (227 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
- ½ cup (105 grams) light brown sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- ½ cup (96 grams) vegetable shortening
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 cups (225 grams) sifted confectioners' sugar, plus ¼ cup for dusting (optional)
- 4 tablespoons (60 grams) apple butter (see note)
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.
- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cinnamon, and salt. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and brown sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture and beat until combined. Remove bowl from mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula and mix a few times by hand to ensure the butter and flour are evenly distributed.
- Load cookie dough into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Pipe dough into rosettes onto lined baking sheets by starting in the center and swirling outward in a circle, overlapping slightly.
- Bake cookies for 12-14 minutes, until just slightly brown at the edges, rotating once halfway through baking. Cool on the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
- In the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitting with a clean paddle attachment, beat shortening and vanilla extract until fluffy. Slowly add 2 cups confectioners' sugar, a little at a time. Once all the sugar is added, the frosting with be extremely stiff, even clumpy. Add apple butter, one tablespoon at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. When all apple butter is added, beat for another minute to lighten things up.
- Pipe or spread apple butter frosting onto the flat side of one cooled cookie, leaving a small border uncovered. Top with a similarly sized cookie and gently press them together, squeezing the frosting out to the edges. Repeat with remaining cookies. If desired, dust tops of cookies with remaining confectioners' sugar.
- Use storebought apple butter or make your own, like I did, using this easy recipe from My Baking Addiction.