A few weekends ago, I hopped in the car and drove and hour and a half south, just across the Mason Dixon, to spend warm fall Saturday with my grandma in Frederick, MD. We’ve fallen into a little bit of routine when we decide to traipse up down Market Street. There’s our go-to shops, like Relish, and of course, our go-to restaurant, La Paz. Our go-to order appetizer is queso, my go-to entrée is Marcie’s Choice salad and our go-to drink is obviously a margarita, hold my salt, please. But this time, we had no agenda, no timeframe. We still hit our usuals, but we had the whole day to wander, and that’s exactly what we did. At one point, we walked by a local chocolatier, Perfect Truffle. We headed inside, both ordering one dark chocolate salted caramel. Then we walked outside, across the street, and directly into another chocolatier, The Candy Kitchen. We both ordered one milk chocolate salted caramel. We turned it into a little competition – who on Market had the best salted caramel? To be honest, both were delicious, but wildly different. One was the oozy caramel. When I bit through the hard chocolate exterior, the caramel inside just melted on my tongue. The other was chewy, almost hard. The kind that gives your jaw a workout as you eat it.
A little while later, with the memory of salted caramel and my leisurely day with Granny on my mind, it was time to make a decision. What kind of cookies should I make for the office cookie swap? To be honest, I was feeling the pressure. Last year, I whipped up these delightful ginger cookies, and I felt the need to outdo myself. Not to mention, I’ve never been one to just go with the tried-and-true variety. In my mind, everyone has a variety of chocolate chip cookie that they like best, whether it’s their mom’s recipe, their grandma’s recipe, their great-grandma’s recipe, etc. I just can’t compete with a classic like that. So, I like to get a little weird with it.
Enter: Salted Caramel Almond Thumbprint Cookies.
Salted Caramel Almond Thumbprints
When you think of a thumbprint cookie, chances are you’re imaging a simple shortbread, filled with a fruit jam that is made with way too much gelatin. They’re cookies of a time gone by; a little antiquated treat that was in desperate need of an upgrade. And that’s the beauty of a thumbprint, right? You can make it whatever you want. Feeling chocolatey? Go for it! Want a little dash of cheesecake? Why not?
For the cookies:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. finely chopped almonds
For the caramel filling:
1/4 c. heavy cream
Sea salt, for sprinkling
Preheat your oven to 325˚F. Cream butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, vanilla extract and almond extract, then beat until combined. Slowly add in flour, followed by baking soda and salt. Mix until combined — the dough will be thick!
Shape dough into 1″-2″ balls. Roll each cookie in chopped almonds before placing onto a cookie sheet, about 2″ apart. Press your thumb in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly to create a small hole for the salted caramel filling.
Bake cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until cookies are slightly golden brown, then remove from the oven.
While the cookies are baking, place caramels and cream in a bowl, microwaving in 30-second increments until the caramel is smooth. Fill the centers of each cookie with caramel, then sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. Enjoy!