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Trying a New Holiday Classic

Trying a New Holiday Classic

December 05, 2014
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Every year around this time, I start to panic a little. How am I ever going to decide what cookies to bake for the holiday season?! Do I stick with the classics or try something new? How many can we eat at our house (more than I care to admit…but cookies count as part of a balanced breakfast, right?) Without self-restraint, I could probably make a dozen different kinds! So, reeling myself in, I wanted to find a cookie that married both the classics I already love with something new. Voila! Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies are the answer – a classic shortbread cookie with salted caramel filling. They are so simple to make and so delicious that you’ll eat three before batting an eye.


I always like to start by rounding up my cookie ingredients. It makes the baking process so much more efficient to have everything measured and ready to go.

Cookie Ingredients

Combine the softened butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix until well combined and creamy.

Mixing Ingredients

Add the flour at a low speed (to avoid a flour cloud and a mess on the counter) until dough is well mixed.

Flour Added to Dough Mixture

Once the dough is mixed, cover it with plastic wrap and refrigerate it at least 1 hour (overnight works well, too).

When the dough has chilled, heat the oven to 375F. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. I find it easy to shape the dough into 2 logs and then cut each log into 24 equal pieces. This ensures that all your cookies will be relatively the same size. Plus, you’re getting the right yield based on the recipe. It also eliminates the need for a ruler to measure cookies – because sometimes that’s just too time-consuming.

Dough Rolled into Balls

Place the cookies 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Make an indentation in the middle of each ball using the end of a wooden spoon or your thumb. Don’t worry if the edges crack a little!

Indenting Dough Balls for Baking

Bake for 7-10 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Let the cookies cool completely.

Browned Cookies on Rack

While the cookies are cooling, make the caramel sauce – just three ingredients that combine to be delicious!

Caramel Sauce Ingredients

Combine the brown sugar and butter in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. Don’t stop stirring! Continue cooking (keep stirring) for one more minute to make sure all the sugar is dissolved and to create the yummy caramel flavor. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the whipping cream.

Making Caramel in Saucepan

Cool the caramel for about 15 minutes before finishing the cookies.

Once the caramel has cooled, fill each cookie with about 1/2 teaspoon caramel sauce. Some might need a little less or a little more, depending on the indentation. I had a little caramel sauce left over, but didn’t want my cookies to overflow, so I put it to good use with the apple in my lunch! (It would also be delightful on ice cream or just a spoon! Next time….)

Spooning Caramel on Cookie

Let the caramel set for 5 minutes and then lightly sprinkle coarse or flaky sea salt over the caramel. Use the salt sparingly, as too much will be overpowering. Lastly, taste one….or, better yet, two. Quality control is an essential part of baking at home!

Finished Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

What’s your favorite cookie to bake for the holidays? Is it a classic, something new or a combination of both? I’d love to hear some ideas to add to my endless list!




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I would like the caramel sauce to be a little thicker. How can I do that?

Posted December 14, 2015 by Madeline
Test Kitchen Comment
From: mallory
Hi Madeline, if your caramel isn't quite thick enough, it may need to be cooked longer. Reaching the perfect temperature is necessary for success with caramels. Hope this helps!
Posted December 16, 2015

These cookies look amazing!! I'm thinking of making these for a cookie exchange- does the caramel firm up enough to stack the cookies with parchment paper in between? Thanks for sharing your recipe!

Posted December 18, 2014 by Katie
Test Kitchen Comment
From: cindy
The caramel does firm up slightly. You should store the cookies in the refrigerator so the caramel will firm up a bit. Using parachment between the layers will also be good.
Posted December 22, 2014

These look soooo good. I plan to try them, but would like to know your thought about freezing them?

Posted December 17, 2014 by Jill
Test Kitchen Comment
From: cindy
These will freeze very well.
Posted December 22, 2014

These look amazing! I have two questions though. If one is making a selection to give away for Christma,s will the caramel cause sticking to other cookies or do they need to be packaged in a single layer? Do you know if they freeze well? Thanks so much

Posted December 13, 2014 by Heather
Test Kitchen Comment
From: cindy
The coookies will freeze very well. You can refrigerate them as well just to firm up the caramel a bit. It does set up but chilling it will assure that it does not stick to other cookies.
Posted December 22, 2014

Why are the quantities for the ingredients not provided.

Posted December 12, 2014 by Linda
Test Kitchen Comment
From: cindy
Click on the underlined recipe name and you will link over to the actual recipe in our data base. There you will find the amount for each ingredient.
Posted December 22, 2014

These look amazing. I thing they'd be great with a dark chocolate drizzle on top!

Posted December 11, 2014 by Judy

My cookies did not turn out as pictured. The indentation did not remain after baking.

Posted December 11, 2014 by Irma