Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Absolving Guilt with Salted Caramel Cookies

I just returned from a week away from my family. While I was productive in my absence (working on a website, babysitting my granddaughter, visiting relatives), I have a modicum of guilt for leaving, albeit with plenty of soups and stews in the freezer for their fortification. Part of the guilt stems from having so much fun with my granddaughter, who we call Coradorable, and the fact that it was 70 to 75 degrees with sunshine every day in Carlsbad, California.

To make up for my desertion, I thought a sweet treat was in order. Instead of one of my old standbys, I thought I would try something new. I had a hankering for salted caramel and found this recipe for a salted caramel cookie, a new spin on the old thumbprint cookies of my youth. Originally featured on A Cozy Kitchen, it seemed pretty simple to make and would (according to the comments), yield a tasty treat. And it’s the kind of cookie for which I usually have all the ingredients on hand. (Yes, I do keep whipping cream in my refrigerator at all times!)

I did modify a few of the techniques to make the process go faster; always a good thing for those of you with little time in your schedule to make scrumptious food. My tips: Instead of using a regular spoon to scoop out the dough and rolling it into a ball, use a small cookie/ice cream scoop with release lever. It won’t get your hands messy and it takes less time than individually rolling the balls. To yield more consistent indentations than a thumbprint makes (I am a bit of a perfectionist), use a manmade rubber wine cork. (I scoured my kitchen for a suitable tool and went through several, including an antique corncob holder, before spying these in my display jar on the bookcase.) The rubberized cork didn’t stick and made nice even indentations.

Timing: It took 5 minutes to make the dough, another 5 minutes to scoop and put in the oven, 5 more to make the caramel and less than 5 to fill the cookies and salt them (using two different salts, a red Hawaiian sea salt and a flaked sale de siciliano). Add in the 12 minutes to cook and you have about 30 minutes total start to finish, plus the 1 hour chill time. Not to mention I have some leftover caramel that I can play with….


1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1 large egg
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 tablespoons water
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Sea salt (for topping)

Using an electric mixer, cream together the butter, sugar and egg. Add the vanilla and mix thoroughly. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture all at once to the creamed mixture and combine just until the dough comes together. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour, although you can do this the night before.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cookie pans with either silpat or parchment paper. Using a small ice cream/cookie scoop, use one level scoop per cookie. Release cookie onto sheet, spacing about 2 inches apart. (Alternately, you can use a spoon to scoop out the dough and your hands to roll into a ball.) Using a manmade rubber cork (or similar object) depress into cookie to form a well. Don’t be afraid to press hard, you want a good size well to hold the luscious caramel.

Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until they’re barely golden on the sides. Remove from oven and immediately use your cork to push down any center dough that has popped up. Cool on racks.

While they’re cooling, make the caramel by combining the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a heavy medium saucepan (high sides). Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel color, 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.

Once the caramel has turned a nice dark brown, take pan off the heat and add butter. Whisk the butter in and combine thoroughly. Add the cream and whisk vigorously. The mixture will bubble, but will settle down to a velvety caramel.

Spoon as much warm caramel as you can into the indentations of your cookies and sprinkle with sea salt.

Yield: approximately 3 dozen

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