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.
Combine the softened butter, sugar, egg yolks and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix until well combined and creamy.
Add the flour at a low speed (to avoid a flour cloud and a mess on the counter) until dough is well mixed.
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 375F. 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.
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!
Bake for 7-10 minutes until the edges begin to brown. Let the cookies cool completely.
While the cookies are cooling, make the caramel sauce – just three ingredients that combine to be delicious!
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.
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….)
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!
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!