These are more complicated to make than a lot of cookies but they came out striking looking and are delicious.
1 cup flour
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tablespoon heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sparkling sugar or powdered sugar for rolling, or just leave plain
CARAMEL* see notes
1 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tbsp.-size chunks
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus about 1/2 tsp. for sprinkling
1. Make cookies: Heat oven to 350°.
2. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a bowl. Set aside.
3. In another bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy.
4. Reduce speed to low and add egg yolk, cream, and vanilla.
5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
6. Scoop dough into rounded 2-tablespoon portions and roll into balls. Roll balls in sparkling or powdered sugar to coat. Place 2 inches apart on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.
7. With end of a thick-handled wooden spoon, gently press an indentation into center of each cookie. (I use a cork that we have had in our kitchen for years. I don’t think it has any other reason than to make thumbprint cookies.)
8. Bake until cookies are just set, about 10 minutes. (The depressions tend to fill in a bit as they bake, so as soon as they’re out of the oven, give them another press with the spoon if necessary.) Slide parchment with cookies onto cooling racks and let cool. If you’ve used powdered sugar, sift a little more onto the cookies.
9. Make caramel: Put granulated sugar in a large nonstick frying pan; spread evenly. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps but eventually will melt and turn into a dark, amber-colored liquid, about 6 minutes.
10. As soon as it’s liquefied, reduce heat to medium-low. Stir in butter until incorporated.
11. Stirring constantly, drizzle in cream. Boil 1 minute, stirring. Remove from heat and stir in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. Scrape into a bowl and let cool completely.
12. Assemble cookies: Spoon about a teaspoon of caramel into each cookie. Sprinkle with a few grains of sea salt.
You’ll have more caramel than you need, but that’s never a bad thing–it’s great on ice cream. Don’t be tempted to cook a half-batch of caramel, as it won’t cook right and will seize up.
I used the Peter’s Caramel block I had in the cupboard. Shari shaped a 12-gram discs of caramel for each cookie. Three minutes before they were to be cooked, I took the baking sheet out of the oven, placed a caramel disc on each cookie then returned them to the oven to finish cooking. I sprinkled the sea salt on when they came out.