Yippppppeeeeeeeeee!!! This is absolutely my favorite series of the year. I literally spend all year bookmarking recipes, testing things, tweaking things, developing new recipes...you name it, if there's sugar and butter I've probably tried it in preparation for this series. The hardest part is not telling you about these gems before the holidays!
My first cookie is pretty sophisticated...it has a very savory/sweet profile. The shortbread dough is not too sweet at all, and the sea salt on top adds additional bite. I like to think if this cookie could wear clothes it would be Chanel all the way. Luckily, it's not hard to make. All you need is a mixer and, er, your thumb.
Salted Caramel Thumbprints
Adapted from A Cozy Kitchen You can cheat and use storebought caramel, but please use the good stuff. I included the recipe for homemade below...it's the most foolproof I've found.
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 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
Use an electric mixer to cream together the butter, sugar and egg. Add vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture. Mix just until the dough comes together. Refrigerate for 1 hour, up to overnight.
Scoop level tablespoons of dough (I use a cookie scoop from Crate and Barrel...it's priceless.) and roll into balls.
Place on a silpat or parchment-lined cookie sheet. Hold the cookie steady with one hand and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. (I like a pretty big indentation because, let's face it, the caramel is the best part.) Bake at 350 for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re barely golden on the sides. Remove from oven and immediately re-poke your thumbprints if they've faded. (You can use the tip of a wooden spoon if too hot.) Let them cool. While they’re cooling, make the caramel.
Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a 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.
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. Mixture will bubble, then settle down to a velvety caramel.
By now your cookies should be cooled. Spoon as much warm caramel as you can into the indentations of your cookies and top with sea salt.
You may have a bit of caramel left over. Drink it before anyone finds out.
Makes 24 cookies
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