Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Cookies, Desserts

I’m a huge window shopper. And the internet is the epicenter of window shopping for me. One of my favorite things to do is go to a few of my favorite stores (here and here) and put, like, thousands of dollars of clothes, bags, belts into a checkout cart. And then….I simply click out and move on with my day. It’s almost as if I get the pleasure of shopping without any of the guilt. I truly recommend everyone give it a whirl–it’ll make your mind clearer and your soul feel full.

I also do the same thing with food. A few hours before lunch when I’m a little hungry, I click over to Foodgawker and start clicking away, drooling and dreaming about my next meal, only to be disappointed with the lackluster options near my work. Ugh. But I think some of my most awesome food ideas come from straight starvation.

Like these cute little cookies…I wanted to make cookies for you guys; I started staring at Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Salted Caramel Doughnuts and I got the brainiac idea that Salted Caramel Cookies would also be amazing. I think I was right.

The base of these cookies are a basic, shortbread cookie. I was actually a little surprised by them because instead of being just flaky and easily breakable, they’re in fact a little chewy and moist–totally fantastic. I whipped up some caramel, filled the little thumbprint with the stuff, topped it with some fancy schmancy sea salt, and voila! Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies.

Now, I do realize that caramel stresses people out. Actually, everytime I make it I stress out a little bit. But I have a few tips that have made my life easier.

#1- Get all your ingredients together before you start cooking your sugar. The process goes fast.

#2- Warm your heavy cream just a little, this will stop it from seizing once it hits the hot, cooked sugar.

#3 – Wear long sleeves. Hot sugar can burn the heck out of you so be careful.

If you keep those little tid-bits in mind, then you should be fan-freakintastic.

Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Makes 16 cookies

Shortbread Cookie recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa

Caramel recipe taken from Salted Caramel Mousse by Trish Desseine

Print this recipe!


1 1/2 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

1 3/4 cup of all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


1/2 cup of granulated sugar

2 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until they are just combined and then add the vanilla. Separately, sift together the flour and salt. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter and sugar. Mix until the dough starts to come together. Dump on a floured board and roll together into a flat square. Wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, take out the fridge and cut into 1 1/4-inch squares.

Roll the dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. (If you have a scale they should each weigh 1 ounce.) Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet. Hold the cookie steady with one hand and press a light indentation into the top of each with your finger. Note: I actually poked a hole using my knuckle (from my index finger) since I have nails. I also kind of molded them a little just to make sure they were purdy. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until they’re just a little golden brown on the sides. Let them cool. While they’re cooling, make the caramel.

Combine the sugar and 2 tablespoons water in a medium saucepan. Do not stir. Cook over medium-high heat to a dark caramel, swirling as it begins to brown to distribute the sugar. While the sugar and water are going at it, heat up the cream in a saucepan or microwave just until warm.

Take off the heat and add your room temperature butter. Whisk the butter in, being sure it’s totally combined. Add your warmed cream and whisk vigorously.

By now your cookies should be cooled. Spoon a teaspoon of warm caramel into the indentations of your cookies and top with sea salt. You can eat right away (the caramel will be goopy and wonderful), or let sit for 2 hours so the caramel sets. Fancy and fantastic!

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Leave a Reply

  • Reply Michelle August 6, 2010 at 4:33 am

    I am on a salted caramel kick right now so these are looking mighty good to me. Glad you posted them! Great photo too!

  • Reply Bethany August 6, 2010 at 6:49 am

    Ooooh! I’m thinking, throw a couple of chocolate chips into the indentations while the cookies are cooling? The chocolate will melt while the caramel is cooking. Top with caramel + salt and you have something in the Twix bar family… but fancy and pretty-pretty. I’ll let you know if I try it!

  • Reply [email protected] August 6, 2010 at 9:25 am

    These are very special. Would love to bake some and bring to a friend to make them smile.

  • Reply M. August 6, 2010 at 9:53 am

    so deliciously looking, I would love a few with my hot tea now… so cold in SF.(brrrr)

  • Reply Nadette @ Eat, Read, Rant! August 6, 2010 at 10:39 am

    i don’t think you understand the strong urge i have, right now, to jump your bones. *awkward* i have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with caramel. Like seriously, last night i had a caramel filled cupcake with a glass of white wine, and could’ve died right there on my loveseat a happy woman, knowing full well that whoever found me would’ve found me wearing soffee shorts and a shower cap (deep conditioning my hair). so now that i’ve thoroughly shared too much information, i’ll just say that i’m printing this recipe RIGHT NOW and the moment it get’s cool enough to use my oven, i’m making these cookies. and will likely eat half the batch before it occurs to me to share them with others. thank you 🙂

  • Reply Ashley August 6, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Those look amazing!

  • Reply Adrianna August 6, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Bethany–Oh my, I love chocolate and caramel. I think that’s an amazing idea.

    Nadette–I feel like we have the same exact fondness for caramel. For reals.

  • Reply Betty @ scrambled hen fruit August 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

    I can just imagine this- buttery, sweet, salty- yum!

  • Reply Milisa August 6, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    I want to try these soon! Super yummy!

  • Reply Gastronomer August 7, 2010 at 1:07 am

    I love Free People too! I will load up my fictional basket soon and make these cookies even sooner.

  • Reply Emily August 7, 2010 at 11:39 am

    I love shortbread cookies and I love caramel, so these are right up my alley. The suggestion by Bethany to add chocolate sounds good, too. Maybe dip the whole cookie in chocolate after the caramel has firmed up a bit? Then it would really be like a twix. Yum!

  • Reply Curls Mcghee August 8, 2010 at 7:21 am

    So I just tried to make these and it was a bit of a disaster. I followed directions, but my cookies lost their thumbrints when they came out of the oven and my caramel started forming correctly but ended up not hardening. I now have a caramel soup! I would love to try again, do you have any suggestions on what I might have done wrong?

    • Reply Kristi M December 12, 2010 at 8:45 am

      I tried to make these last night too with the same results as you describe. I had to make the thumbprints again with a spoon when the cookies were fresh out of the oven. Caramel didn’t form right either. They tatse good but they don’t look like the picture at all. I probably won’t make these again.

  • Reply Adrianna August 8, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Curls–Oh no! I molded them, making sure they had a deep pocket. When I put the indentation in, it almost touched the bottom of the baking sheet, without going all the way through the dough. My caramel was runny at first, too, though it actually made it easier to fill the indentations that way, and after I did so, the caramel firmed up a bit after a few hours. But if yours was too liquidy, I’d cut down the cream to 1/2 a cup. I hope those tips help!

  • Reply Carolina Girl in the City August 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm

    These look amazing. And the Boyfriend is a huge caramel fan so they’re definitely going on my virtual recipe “to-cook” list!

  • Reply Arushi Khosla August 9, 2010 at 2:56 am

    I’m dying to try this out but considering I can’t even make toast without burning the kitchen down (don’t ask), I think I’ll pass. Instead, I think I might stay here and stare at these for a while.

  • Reply Curls McGhee August 9, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Thanks so much! I cut the cream down and everything came out perfect! Then I ate all of the cookies. Oops! Haha, thank you so much for your help!

    • Reply Amy December 4, 2010 at 4:22 pm

      Curls I wish I had read the comments first….SAME problem here!!! Working on my second round of caramel right now!

      • Reply Ashley December 8, 2010 at 9:44 am

        Cooking the carmel longer also will thicken it up…drizzel some in a cup of ice water and you’ll be able to see it’s texture when it’s cool.

        • Reply lisa December 9, 2010 at 10:18 am

          DEFINITELY CUT THE CREAM. I have caramel soup too. should have read the comments… may be worth revising the recipe? also, the note about making a deep imprint is a good tip too. it will disappear if it’s not deep enough.

  • Reply Nikki August 9, 2010 at 6:46 am

    Oh my gosh! yum! these look fantastic!!!


  • Reply Adrianna August 9, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    Curls–Yay! So glad you love them!

  • Reply Pam August 9, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Well cover me in caramel and call me Ms. Delicious. That’s right, “Ms.”. I might be a married woman but this treat is too tasty looking not to be had by all. Yeah, sue me! And screw window shopping…

    • Reply Adrianna August 13, 2010 at 11:26 am

      Inappropriate. Love it.

  • Reply Tiff August 9, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    These look AHHHHH-MAZING!

  • Reply Patrick August 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    I should really check this blog at night rather than in the morning. I see this when I get to work and I’m craving it for the rest of the day…

    Well done.

  • Reply Spenace The Menace August 9, 2010 at 2:40 pm


  • Reply Stacia August 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    The salt on cookies is always underestimated. But not here. Can’t wait to try these.

  • Reply Will August 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    Sexy dimples.

  • Reply FreeLee August 9, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    LOVE THIS SITE! You guys are the BEST!

  • Reply Sebastian August 9, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I wish I could just order this food from you guys.

  • Reply Sebastian August 9, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Just made these and they were a huge hit. Thank you! I think I’ll try the Salted Caramel Doughnuts next. Where can I find those?

  • Reply RigalooTofu August 9, 2010 at 2:47 pm

    You’re so right, caramel can be wicked tricky. I think you saved a lot of people some heartache by giving them a heads up. I had to learn the hard way…

    Really great blog. So glad that I stumbled upon you guys. xoxo

  • Reply Megan Gordon August 10, 2010 at 12:45 am

    Genius. Pure and utter genius. Can’t wait to try! Thanks for the inspiration (the thought of salted caramel in a thumbprint never, ever occurred to me).

  • Reply [email protected] August 10, 2010 at 9:04 am

    Wow, these are like the Marilyn Monroe of cookies, sex bomb cookies!

  • Reply Caramel Brulee Latte or Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks? August 11, 2010 at 12:18 am

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  • Reply Anna and Annie August 27, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    We made these and they were incredibly delicious, however, the caramel sauce was a bit too runny, which confused us. But it sure made a delicious mess!

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  • Reply Julie Weathers November 29, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Does the caramel stay sticky? I’m always looking for good cookie recipes to ship to soldiers, but the heat there makes a lot of recipes not good. Plus, the cookies need to ship well. There is only so much careful packing you can do.

    • Reply Adrianna November 30, 2010 at 6:56 am

      hi julie! when you first put the caramel in the indentations, it’s kinda goopy, but let them sit for 2 hours and then pack ’em up! they’ll be just fine. they actually keep for a solid 4-5 days in an airtight container so i think they’re perfect for sending to soldiers! 😉

      • Reply Jenn December 5, 2010 at 7:35 pm

        I don’t know… I have a brother in Iraq and it takes two weeks to get his packages… 4 or 5 days wouldn’t be enough. 🙁 maybe vacuum sealed they’d last longer?

        • Reply Adrianna December 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm

          yes! vacuum sealed would do wonders. i think that’s the way to go. i actually think that these cookies are the perfect cookies for a long trip. 🙂

          • Ashley December 8, 2010 at 9:46 am

            be careful, the any heat will reliquify the carmel and if they’re not level the carmel will run out of the indentations…

  • Reply Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies | Where Women Cook November 29, 2010 at 4:19 pm

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  • Reply Sommer J November 30, 2010 at 6:07 am

    looks amazing!!!! they look perfectly buttery melt in your mouth

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  • Reply Gina H. December 2, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    These look so good, but I just can’t seem to make caramel. I have tried half a dozen times at least and all I end up with is a burnt crystallized hard-as-a-rock mess in the bottom of my pan! I’ve tried washing down the sides with water and that doesn’t seem to help either. I guess I will have to live through all the others that have made and loved these!

    • Reply Adrianna December 2, 2010 at 1:45 pm

      Gina! You can do it. Just follow my tips. I think you’ll be okay. 🙂

      • Reply Gina H. December 2, 2010 at 2:05 pm

        Okay Adrianna I’ll give it a try!

  • Reply Ashlee December 2, 2010 at 2:42 pm

    mmm caramel cookies…. hello lover! =)

    I can’t wait to bake some of these… will try tonight!

  • Reply denise December 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    hi. i’m denise. will you marry me? 😀

  • Reply WenDee Riffe December 2, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    oh my gosh!!! i am sooo making these tomorrow for my pig out friday day!!!!

  • Reply Leigh December 2, 2010 at 6:35 pm

    finally, a recipe that doesn’t have chocolate in it.

  • Reply Tyra December 3, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Oh sweet baby jeebus!!! These are *amazing*!!!! I made a double batch tonight, for my students tomorrow. Um, they aren’t getting any. And holy hell, I have never made my own caramel before. I will never again buy it. I want to bathe in the stuff. Not a chocolate fan at all, you taught me the quick way to cure the need for a caramel fix lol Now, have a recipe for arable that will set up firmer but still aste te same?? lol

  • Reply Jessicaisbaking December 5, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    I linked over to this from The Pioneer Woman and literally dreamed about these cookies last night. I am studying for finals but I had to take a study break today to make them! delicious! I used less cream (1/2 c) in the caramel and probably could have used even less but these suckers are fabulous. Thank you!

  • Reply Natasha Ross December 5, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    hmmm, I just tried these and the cookies completely flattened out in the oven! I followed the recipe to a T except the dough stayed in the fridge for about 90 min instead of 30…. any suggestions?

    • Reply Adrianna December 5, 2010 at 7:58 pm

      blahhh! i dunno. hmm…you know, these cookies have a total attitude sometimes. the 90 minutes shouldn’t have made that big of a difference, so i’m not completely sure. some people have no problems at all and then some people’s cookies flatten out. it drives me nuts. maybe try again? and do it for 30? or maybe if you want to make this short bread thumprint cookie instead:

      and then just proceed with the caramel and salt?

      • Reply kslaughter December 5, 2010 at 11:47 pm

        Sorry to butt in here, but I wondered, Natasha, if you might need to check the actual temp of your oven. You can buy a very cool hanging thermometer, for that purpose, that goes inside your oven to check that the temp on your dial is really the same on the inside of the oven. Greatest discovery I ever made ; ). Good luck!

      • Reply Jessicaisbaking December 6, 2010 at 2:24 am

        I checked mine a few times because I was worried about this and half way through and at the end of baking, took the end of a wooden spoon to reinforce the thumbprints. Not ideal but it worked!

  • Reply Day 5: Chicken Parmagiana « Of Life, Love, and Breadsticks December 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

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  • Reply Erin in Virginia December 6, 2010 at 6:37 am

    I made these last night, but the dough never came together. It was way too crumbly, so I added an egg and that fixed it. I skipped the chilling step and they still held their shape and tasted wonderful. I actually put chocolate chips on them as soon as they came out, then some homemade caramel sauce I already had and added a pecan on top. They looked and tasted yummy!

  • Reply Jess December 8, 2010 at 6:05 am

    I’ve been seriously thinking about these for a week! Food obsessed. Unfortunately we can’t easily get Kosher salt in the UK and wondered if I can just substitute for normal table salt or even sea salt? Do you have any suggestions?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Adrianna December 8, 2010 at 10:05 am

      sea salt would work fantastically!

  • Reply B December 12, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    I have about a pound of soft caramel left (Peters) that I used for some cookies a couple days ago. Do you think I could use that caramel? I am thinking that the caramel is soft enough I could probably just roll some little balls and put it right on the cookie after taking it out of the oven. Do you think this would work or should I try to melt the caramel in a bowl first?

    • Reply Adrianna December 12, 2010 at 5:38 pm

      I would say melt them in the microwave or in a pot before. Then just pour it in the indentation and let it sit for an hour or so. This way the salt will actually stick and stay put!

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  • Reply Tania December 15, 2010 at 7:01 am

    Hi there,
    Love the look of this recipe- I think I’m going to make it for a cookie swap later this week! Wondered if you’d recommend doubling the recipe, or if you think its better to make two separate batches? Thanks!

    • Reply Adrianna December 15, 2010 at 9:49 am

      Hi! Yes, doubling the cookie recipe should work just fine! Just take note that when you first make the caramel it’ll be a little goopy so if you’re traveling with them I’d give it some time for the caramel to set. Yay! Tell me how it turns out!

      • Reply Tania December 16, 2010 at 9:22 am

        Made them last night- it worked great! OMG these are delish… will be posting about them later this week. You get full credit!

        • Reply Adrianna December 16, 2010 at 11:33 am

          Yay! So good to hear! Some people have had some problems with the recipe. It can be a little fickle. 🙂

  • Reply Shelly December 16, 2010 at 11:58 am

    I made 2 batches of these. But the dough for the cookie itself turned out too crumbly to use each time – it wouldn’t hold any shape at all, let alone let me make an indention for the carmel.

    The first time I added an egg and about 1/8 c of shortening, which worked the best, but the thumbprint didn’t stay through the baking process. However after baking I was able to put it back in. The second batch same thing, but I only added the shortening. This one I couldn’t get the thumbprint at all, had to put the next one in mini-muffin tins to get them to hold any sort of cup shape. Both time they tasted delicious especially contrasted with the carmel.

    Any thoughts as to what went wrong?

    • Reply Erica December 18, 2010 at 9:40 am

      Not sure what went wrong, but mine were soooo crubmly as well! I rolled them into balls and baked them that way and then about 3 minutes before they were done I imprinted them…it seemed to work and they were DELICIOUS!

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  • Reply Rachel December 17, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I made these but the dough wouldn’t hold the thumbprint during the baking process. In fact they went completely flat. What did I do? Is there some sort of trick that I missed?

    • Reply MrsDragon December 19, 2010 at 12:05 pm

      I think it has to do with how chilled the dough is. About half of mine held their imprints another 25% vaguely kept the imprint and 25% were totally flat. Since all of the dough was made at once, that’s the only difference I could think of.

      If anyone knows otherwise, I’d be interested to hear their thoughts!

      • Reply EMRussell February 21, 2011 at 11:44 am

        I had the same problem and actually put the thumb-prints into them after they came out of the oven, while they were still warm.

  • Reply Kristen December 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    I made these for a cookie swap today and they taste delicious! When I baked the first batch, I followed the recipe directions-and my cookie did not keep it’s shape at all through the baking process. So my next batches I just left them in balls, baked them for 10 minutes (until they were done) and then used a spoon to imprint them when I took them out of the oven. That worked perfectly, and left a perfect little cup for the caramel.

  • Reply Lynn December 20, 2010 at 3:23 am

    YUM!!! Had to redo the caramel, but it was worth it.

    GREAT recipe! Thank you!

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  • Reply Jen January 24, 2011 at 5:21 pm

    I loved this idea, however my end result was unfortunate. The cookie dough itself tasted fine, but the finished cookie tasted flat, like it was missing something, and I’m not sure what. Maybe not enough salt? I don’t know. Also didn’t help that I burned the caramel too.
    I was sad – these look so pretty and yummy. I might have to try again.

  • Reply Heidi T August 26, 2011 at 6:41 am

    My roommate and I absolutely loved these cookies! The caramel had a slight burn taste the first time we made them but that almost made the flavor even better, by some standards. I’ve been making the caramel sauce alone and putting on on ice cream, etc., ever since (this recipe gave me the confidence!).

    I do have one question: anyone know how long these cookies are good to eat once they are baked? I want to make some as a gift but I’ll only be able to bake them a week in advance due to extenuating circumstances. Will they still be wonderfully delicious after that time?

    • Reply Adrianna August 26, 2011 at 6:46 am

      Yay! So glad you loved them. A week might be tough. I remember eating them up to 3-4 days after and them being totally delicious. Not sure if they’ll work 7 days after you make them, but you can chance it. It’d definitely keep them in an air-tight container and hope for the best. 😉

  • Reply Cartier Lover Bangles September 3, 2011 at 8:55 am

    thank you for it!!!

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  • Reply Kelly December 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

    Used brown sugar instead of white for the caramel – put the brwon sugar, 1/8 c cream, and 2 1/2 tbsp butter on low until it’s melted, about 5 minutes. I put this in the “thumbprint” and cooked it with the cookie after I rolled it in nuts. Much faster and easier and it came out delicious……

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  • Reply Heather March 29, 2012 at 8:19 am

    I made these for Christmas and they were a HUGE hit. People were fighting over them at my Christmas Eve party to the point I had to hide some so my boyfriend could have a few on Christmas morning! Totally delicious! I do not have a sweet tooth ever, but I have become obsessed with salted caramel anything! The salt cuts the sweet so well. These came out perfect for me, I made the whole recipe for the shortbread. Love these!!

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  • Reply Danielle October 24, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    I made these today and many of my cookies had large cracks around the side so when I spooned the carmel into the cookie, it leaked out. The flavor of the cookies are spectacular and I’d definitely make again, but would be certain to check for the cracks. In addition, my carmel is a golden yellow, not a beautiful brown color. Not sure what I did wrong…I thought I had the sugar mixture on the stove long enough. Anyway, I had the ingredients and wanted to give them a try. They do taste really good.

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