Caramel Thumbrint Cookies

caramel thumbrint cookiesGaultier. Cavalli. Ferragamo. Versace.

I could rattle off these foreign luxury brands as early as eight years old, thanks to my fashionista mother. She’s had a subscription to Vogue for as long as I can remember, which I loved flipping through, even to just get to those folded pages with the perfume samples.

Even when I was a little girl, I knew she was different from the other moms – she worked long hours full time, she didn’t read Good Housekeeping, I’ve never once seen her don an apron, and she didn’t sport the practical plain shoes that I see on the other moms. Instead, she had these beautiful, tall, intricate shoes – pointy stilettos, sky high wedges, pretty peeptoes, striking boots (she still has them, plus more, now).

And because she was different, I felt like I was different. I felt I was special.

As I grew older, I realized that my mom and I are very much alike. She passed on her love for fashion and magazines to me (did you guys know I worked for Cosmo and Seventeen magazine before I moved to Boston?), my obsession with shoes (it’s an investment!), an unflinching desire to learn and develop a career, and a deep appreciation for beauty. Now I know it was never just about the fashion brands, it was always about beauty.

(And lest you think that my mom is a brand/luxury snob, she is actually quite the opposite. This is the same woman who would spend  hours at Filene’s Basement, and who prefers taking the Fung Wa bus from Boston to New York instead of the more expensive Amtrak.)

Another thing I inherited from my mom? My inability to turn down a good chocolate caramel treat.

chocolate thumbrint cookiesMy mom loves anything “turtle” flavored: chocolate, caramel, and pecans. I made these Salted Chocolate Turtle Graham Bars over the holidays mainly for her and so she can share it with her friends. Four years ago, when I was just beginning to get my baking groove on and this blog was still just a baby blog, I made these Caramel Pecan Shortbread Cups for her, too (if you click on the link, you’ll see that my photography skills has improved). The latest turtle treats I made are these Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.

I found a recipe for Chocolate Turtle Cookies and decided to tweak it: I added dark chocolate chips (why not?) and brown sugar (for more caramel undertones) and I used store-bought caramel candies (instead of making a caramel sauce/ganache). I also doubled the egg yolks because I wanted a rich, fudgy cookie.

kerrygold unsalted butterI used Kerrygold unsalted butter which the kind folks at Kerrygold generously sent to me last month (along with  a few of their delicious cheeses.)

The cookies have all the turtle flavors that my mom and I love: rich dark chocolate, smooth and creamy caramel, and crunchy toasted pecans. Next time I will make the cookies smaller (or double the caramel) so that the ratio of cookie to caramel would be more even. I might also add a drizzle of chocolate for even more decadence.

I made these caramel thumbprint cookies over the weekend and kept them in my freezer  for my mom (and the rest of my family) who will be here in Boston in a couple of weeks for my graduation. I adore my mother so much – she is so lovely and passionate and smart. And she has impeccable taste. I can’t wait to enjoy these with her.

caramel turtle cookies

Yield: 18 cookies

Caramel Thumbrint Cookies


1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs, separated
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup finely chopped pecans
18 soft caramel candies (I used Lancaster soft cremes)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips


  1. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a big mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugars until fluffy (you can use an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or just manually with a fork and a wooden spoon). Add egg yolks and vanilla extract; mix together until well combined. Add the dry ingredients, and mix together. Fold in chocolate chips.
  3. Chill dough in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  5. In a small bowl, beat egg whites together until fully. Place chopped pecans in a separate bowl.
  6. Using a standard cookie scoop (or a heaping 1 tablespoon of dough), portion out the dough into balls. Dip each ball into egg whites, then roll into chopped pecans.
  7. Place dough balls evenly on two cookie sheets lined with parchment paper. Make an indentation in the middle of each cookie with your thumb or a rounded spoon. Bake for 12 minutes.
  8. Remove from oven and place one caramel candy in the middle of each cookie. Bake for another minute or two. Cool right on the pan before serving.

recipe adapted from Pixelated Crumb

These turtle cookies may never appear in the pages of Vogue, but there is something in them to be appreciated. Beauty? Maybe. Love? Definitely.

mom and me in kyotomom and me in Kyoto earlier this year

Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! Thank you for always making me feel special.

If you’d like to read more about my wonderful mother, please check out a few other blog posts that I dedicated to her: Kesong Puti: A Cheese I’ve Loved My Whole Life, Marcella Hazan and My Marcelia (which the late great Mrs. Hazan found and posted on her own personal Facebook page), and Key Lime Pie.


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