Chocolate Caramel Thumbprints

Barb Trautman of Randallstown submitted this recipe, just one of the many she and her mother, Elaine Trautman of Valrico, Fla., make each December. Her mother has made upward of 100 dozen cookies in a holiday season, though lately she's cut back a bit. This one, adapted from Taste of Home, is always on the to-bake list no matter what, Trautman said, even when her godson would manage to eat most of them. Now he gets his own double-batch. Our testers loved this cookie not only for its look ("It looks like a cookie you make once a year," one said), but also for its luxurious chocolate and caramel combination.

Makes: about 2 1/2 dozen

For the dough:

1/2 cup butter (no substitutes), softened

2/3 cup sugar

1 egg, separated

2 tablespoons milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup baking cocoa

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup finely chopped pecans

For the filling and garnish:

12-14 caramels

3 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1 teaspoon shortening

To make the cookies, in a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg yolk, milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; add to the creamed mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Roll into 1-inch balls. Beat egg white. Dip balls into egg whites and coat with nuts. Place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make a 3/8- to 1/2-inch indentation in the center of each ball. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until set. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, in a heavy saucepan, melt caramels with cream over low heat; stir until smooth. Using about 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture, fill each cookie. In a microwave, melt chocolate chips and shortening. Drizzle over cookies.

Algerina Perna, The Baltimore Sun
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