These salted caramel thumbprint cookies were my favorite cookie find this past holiday season. My friend Elisa made them for her holiday cookie plates (among many other amazing treats) and I immediately fell in love. I don’t know if it was the salt or the fact that the cookies themselves are shortbread, but I got sucked in and stole them right out from under my family when they weren’t looking.
Elisa originally found the recipe on the lovely food blog A Cozy Kitchen. I decided to give the recipe a go. I even made the caramel from scratch, which I highly recommend. I promise it was easy and it didn’t take much time at all. I just followed Adrianna’s instructions, to great success. Elisa had used store-bought caramel to save some time. Her cookies were still wonderful, but I must admit I preferred the homemade caramel – the texture was softer and easier to chew.
I am retyping the recipe here so I can throw in a few notes from what I learned. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
- 1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
- 2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
- 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla (if you have a stand mixer, use paddle attachment). In a separate bowl, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat square. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take out the fridge and cut into 1 1/4-inch squares.
Jane notes: the dough was super duper crumbly. I really had to work it on the floured board to get it to come together. Also, it was difficult to roll it out into a square, so I pressed and rolled it out into a circle. After removing the dough from the refrigerator, I evenly cut the circle into 16 pie slices, if that makes sense, and form those triangles I rolled the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. By doing it this way, I knew that the cookie balls were all the same size and it was just all around easier for me.
Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Hold the cookie steady with one hand and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Jane note: again, the dough was pretty crumbly, even when I had them shaped into balls. I had to sort of press each cookie down and shape it into a circle, then press the indentations in. A note on the indentations – I thought the cracked edges would be pretty, but the caramel oozed out of the cracks, so try not to have too many of cracks. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re just a little golden brown on the sides. Jane note: I had to bake them longer than 15 minutes, my oven runs cool. Let cookies cool. While they’re cooling, make the caramel.
Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. While the sugar and water are going at it, heat up the cream in a saucepan or microwave just until warm.
Take off the heat and add your room temperature butter. Whisk the butter in, being sure it’s totally combined. Add your warmed cream and whisk vigorously. Jane note: HOLY STEAM! Be careful when you add the cream…a pretty decent amount of HOT steam shot out of the pot when I poured it in and sort of surprised my face. No damage done, but can’t hurt to warn you!
Spoon a teaspoon of warm caramel into the indentations of your cookies and top with sea salt. You can eat right away or let sit for 2 hours so the caramel sets. Jane note: I sprinkled my coarse sea salt about 5-10 minutes after I filled the cookies with caramel, so that I knew it would stick. The salt sort of disappeared into the caramel, so you couldn’t see it, which was sad because the salt is pretty, but it still tasted divine.
Makes 16 cookies