An easy chocolate cookie dessert filled with homemade salted caramel
Salted caramel cookies are the ultimate easy and gooey dessert recipe. Not only do these chocolate thumbprint cookies look super elegant, but they also taste delicious! Whether you're baking these up for the holiday or just a weekend treat, you're not going to be able to stop at just one cookie. The soft, thumbprint cookie provides a great vessel for the sweet and salty caramel sauce. Sprinkle coarse finishing salt on top for an extra beautiful garnish.
I feel like such a cliché, but chocolate and salted caramel are undeniably one of my favorite combinations (right behind chocolate and peanut butter). These cookies seriously fulfill everything I could want in a cookie. They have just the right amount of sweetness, combined with a salty bite of caramel. And, most importantly, they're nice and gooey!
These cookies would make the perfect holiday treat (great as a cookie exchange recipe too). However, I also make these on the weekend as a little pick-me-up, and they never disappoint. I guess you could say these are the perfect cookies year-round!
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
Baking recipes are some of my favorites. There are lots of important lessons to learn in order to become a great home baker. In this recipe you'll learn:
- How to make homemade caramel.
- The technique for making thumbprint cookies. Once you learn this, there are thousands of delicious combinations to try!
- Why it's important to measure your baking ingredients by weight.
P.S. If you want to learn many more baking secrets, download my free guide with 10 secrets to instantly become a better baker.
You'll notice that both volume and weight measurements are given for this recipe. I will always encourage you to measure your ingredients by weight with a digital food scale. It will result in more accurately measured ingredients.
Here are a few more important ingredient notes:
- Fluff up the flour using a spoon.
- Scoop the flour into the measuring cup.
- Level off the top of the measuring cup with a knife to remove excess flour.
If you need to make this cookie gluten free, opt for a 1-to-1 gluten free baking flour, like Bob's Red Mill.
Unsweetened cocoa powder: Do not substitute for a dutch-process cocoa powder. They are not the same thing.
Baking soda: If you haven't used your baking soda in a while, make sure it's still fresh so you get the proper rise on the cookies. You can test the baking soda by mixing a ½ cup of hot water and a ¼ teaspoon white vinegar. If you pour ¼ teaspoon of baking soda in the water mixture and you get a fizzing reaction, the baking soda is fresh. If there's no activity, it's time to buy some new baking soda!
Salt: I find fine salt works best for this cookie!
Butter: Make sure you use unsalted butter. If you need to substitute for salted butter, cut back the amount of added salt according to personal taste and preference.
Be sure the butter is at room temperature. This ensures it will smoothly incorporate with the sugar and butter. If you're impatient, like me, and need to quickly get the butter to room temperature, use this simple trick.
Brown sugar: Be sure to pack down the brown sugar if you're measuring it by volume.
Granulated sugar: Don't forget to save a little extra sugar to roll the dough in. It gives the cookies a beautiful look!
Egg: Eggs are another ingredient that we need at room temperature for this recipe. If you have a cold egg, you can place it in a glass of hot water. It will heat up to room temperature in no time!
Vanilla extract: If possible, make sure to buy good-quality vanilla. One that is made with real vanilla beans like Nielsen-Massey.
Tools & Equipment
These cookies require a few helpful tools:
Silicone baking mat: A silicone baking mat will prevent the cookies from sticking to the pan while baking. You can also use parchment paper.
Heavy bottom saucepan: It's super important to have a heavy bottom saucepan when making caramel. It will ensure the sugar melts evenly and nothing gets burned. You'll also want to be sure the saucepan isn't too small. When you add in the cream, the caramel will slightly bubble up. Make sure it doesn't overflow!
P.S. - A nonstick pan will not work!
Recipe Frequently Asked Questions
Sure! Make it up to 4 days ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until you're ready to bake!
Be sure you chilled the dough for the full 3 hours, and it feels firm to the touch when pulled out of the fridge. If your cookies spread too much, you may need to chill the dough longer.
Also, check that your oven isn't getting too hot and making the cookies spread too quickly. All you need is an oven thermometer to ensure it's heating properly.
That's okay - it happened to me too! Just take a small spoon and gently push down the puffed up part of the indent (thumbprint) to re-flatten it.
The caramel is grainy because of crystallized sugar. This likely happened because you did not follow the instructions below correctly. If a piece of sugar falls back into the caramel, or you stir the sugar/water mixture while the sugar is dissolving, it can result in grainy caramel.
Another common mistake is not allowing the sugar to fully melt before it begins to further cook and darken.
If any of these happen to you, you'll need to start over and make a new batch from scratch because you cannot fix a grainy (crystallized) caramel. Be sure to follow the instructions closely on your next try!
There's no way to fix this! You'll need to start over and make a new batch from scratch. Be sure to follow the instructions closely on your next try, and use a heavy bottom saucepan! And, don't walk away from the stove while you're making caramel.
Your caramel should be silky smooth, without any grainy/gritty pieces.
Place it in your sink, and allow it to soak with very hot water and a little dish soap until the sugar has dissolved.
Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
For the Cookies
- 1 ¾ cup (210 grams) all purpose flour
- ¼ cup (21 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon fine kosher salt
- ½ cup, (113 grams) unsalted butter softened
- ½ cup (107 grams) firmly packed brown sugar
- ¼ cup, plus 3 tablespoons for rolling (50 grams, plus 40 grams for rolling) granulated sugar
- 1 large (50 grams) egg room temperature
- ½ tablespoon vanilla extract
For the cookies
- Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.
- Add butter, brown sugar, and ¼ cup (50 grams) granulated sugar to a large bowl (or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment). Beat together on medium speed for 2 minutes using a handheld electric or stand mixer. Add in egg and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until fully combined.
- Scrape down the side of the bowl, then add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches. Mix on medium-low speed until fully incorporated. The dough will be slightly sticky. Wrap cookie dough in parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours or up to overnight until the dough has firmed up.
- Meanwhile, pour 3 tablespoons of granulated sugar on a plate and set aside.
- Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).
- Remove dough from the refrigerator and form into 2 tablespoon balls. Roll the outside of the dough balls in the granulated sugar. Place dough 1-2 inches (2.5 - 5 centimeters) on a large baking sheet lined with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Using your thumb or end of a spatula, make an indent in each cookie. If the dough begins to crack on the outside, simply use your hands to push back together.
- Bake on the middle rack for 12-14 minutes, or until cookie edges are set. Remove from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. If any of the indents have puffed up, use a small spoon to make push the indent down. Transfer to a cooling rack to fully cool.
For the caramel
- In a medium heavy bottom saucepan, add sugar and ¼ cup (56 grams) of water. Cover with a lid and let boil over medium heat until sugar is completely melted about 2-4 minutes.
- Remove lid, and continue cooking until sugar begins to darken. Do NOT stir the caramel at this point. If it appears to be burning, you can gently swirl it in the pan. Once the sugar reaches an amber-colored liquid, about 4-6 minutes later, remove from heat.
- Stir in cream (be careful, the cream will bubble and slightly splatter). Once cream is incorporated, add in butter, vanilla, and salt. Stir until caramel is smooth. Allow caramel to cool slightly to room temperature.
- Using a spoon, gently fill each thumbprint hole with caramel, about 1-2 teaspoons each. If desired, sprinkle the top of the caramel with a pinch of coarse sea salt. Place in the refrigerator for 15-20 minutes to allow the caramel to firm up.
- Store cookies in an air tight container at room temperature for up to 2 days or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Other Recipes To Try
If you need some more cookie baking inspiration, check out these recipes: