Chocolate Thumbprint with Salty Caramel

Chocolate Thumbprint with Caramel
Here’s one of a few new favorites from Christmas this year. Actually, I should correct that to say that this was the absolute favorite of my daughter Lucy and two or three others who sampled the whole array. I loved that it kept it’s shape perfectly, and showcased both the pretty sparkling sugar and the caramel. This little cookie is perfect for entertaining or traveling, since it’s stiff enough to hold its shape. It’s also unique and pretty and very tempting! This recipe comes from the December edition of Sunset magazine. Note: this isn’t the easiest caramel recipe to work with, so if you’ve never made caramel before, you might want to use pre-made caramels instead.

Chocolate Thumbprint with Salty Caramel

COOKIES
1 c. flour
Generous 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 T. heavy whipping cream
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. sparkling sugar or powdered sugar for rolling, or just leave plain
CARAMEL*
1 c. granulated sugar
6 T. unsalted butter, cut into tbsp.-size chunks
1/2 c. heavy cream
1/4 t. fine sea salt, plus about 1/2 tsp. for sprinkling
1. Make cookies: Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl. In another bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add egg yolk, cream, and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture.

2. Scoop dough into rounded 1-tsp. portions and roll into balls, then roll balls in sparkling or powdered sugar to coat. Place 2 in. apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets. With end of a thick-handled wooden spoon, gently press an indentation into center of each cookie. Bake until cookies are just set, about 10 minutes. (The depressions tend to fill in a bit as they bake, so as soon as they’re out of the oven, give them another press with the spoon if necessary.) Slide parchment with cookies onto cooling racks and let cool. If you’ve used powdered sugar, sift a little more onto the cookies.

3. Make caramel: Put granulated sugar in a large nonstick frying pan; spread evenly. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps but eventually will melt and turn into a dark, amber-colored liquid, about 6 minutes. As soon as it’s liquefied, reduce heat to medium-low. Add butter and stir until incorporated. Stirring constantly, drizzle in cream. Boil 1 minute, stirring, then remove from heat and stir in 1/4 tsp. sea salt. Scrape into a bowl and let cool completely.

4. Assemble cookies: Spoon about 1/4 tsp. caramel into each cookie, then sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt.

*You’ll have more caramel than you need, but that’s never a bad thing–it’s great on ice cream. Don’t be tempted to cook a half-batch of caramel, as it won’t cook right and will seize up.

Make ahead: Caramel, up to 5 days, chilled (let soften at room temperature before spooning into cookies). Baked cookies, up to 1 week, chilled airtight.

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