The Caramel Is All Set: Turtle Thumbprint Cookies

How fantastic is it that Baked Elements has an entire chapter of caramel recipes! The first one I decided to try was "Turtle Thumbprint Cookies," a chocolate cookie rolled in pecans and filled with caramel. Making the chocolate cookie dough is quick: cream together butter, sugar, and dark brown sugar; add liquid ingredients (egg, egg yolk, milk, vanilla); and incorporate dry ingredients (flour, cocoa powder, salt). However, you do have to chill the dough for at least an hour before forming it into balls, dipping them in whisked egg white, and rolling them in chopped pecans.

The process for making the thumbprint indentation, like that for the mint chocolate thumbprints from Baked Explorations, unfortunately requires more than one step. You make an indentation with your thumb before putting the cookies in the oven, but it shrinks during baking. Thus, you have to pull the partially baked cookies out of the oven and use the handle of a wooden spoon (or something other than your thumb, unless you happen to have a heatproof thumb) to enlarge the indentation, and repeat this step one more time after the cookies are done baking.

Once the cookies have cooled, you fill the indentations with a caramel made from condensed milk, light brown sugar, butter, corn syrup, heavy cream, vanilla, and salt. You cook all of the caramel ingredients until they boil and thicken, and strain the mixture to remove any browned bits. The final step is to top each pool of caramel with a pecan half.

I think that I cooked my caramel too long (the recipe doesn't provide any temperature guidance and simply says to cook the caramel after it boils until it "starts to thicken and darken, about 10 minutes"), because it started to set up immediately after I poured it into the thumbprints. The recipe says that it will take about 45 minutes to cool to room temperature and set, and that you should wait about halfway through this time period before adding the pecan half garnish. I had to work very quickly to get the pecans on before the caramel set. Also, the recipe says that the cookies should be stored in the refrigerator and that they taste great at room temperature or directly from the refrigerator. My caramel was completely solid and impossible to chew when chilled; the cookies had to be eaten at room temperature. I did end up with some leftover caramel and I simply formed it into free form candies that held their shape.

The caramel component of these cookies was delicious and had a fabulous chewy texture (at least at room temperature) that was perfect with the crunch of the pecans. The chocolate cookie, not so much. The cookie was cakey and very cocoa-y (the recipe has a 2:1 ratio of flour to cocoa powder) and I was unhappy with both the flavor and the dry texture. I thought that the chocolate cookie component of the chocolate mint thumbprints (which is a completely different recipe) was better. As a whole, this was not a bad cookie, but it was not a great one, either.

Recipe: "Turtle Thumbprint Cookies" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito.

Previous Post: "A Dish Best Served Cold: Chocolate Mint Thumbprints," March 24, 2011.


Louise said…
OMG. I've been making a really similar cookie since it first appeared in Gourmet Dec 1999. Here's the recipe I don't know how the proportions are compared to the BAKED recipe as I didn't buy Elements yet.
Susan said…
Wow! I can't wait to make these. They remind me of Christmas.