Welcome to the best fall cookie you'll eat this year - Apple Cider Caramel Thumbprint Cookies! A soft shortbread cookie coated in chopped pecans and filled with a salted apple cider caramel. Complete heaven.
If you've have never had apple cider caramel, it is truly a revelation. It's sweet, it's tangy, it has that pungent apple flavor, and the addition of flaky salt balances everything out. This apple cider caramel actually makes your mouth water.
I was first introduced to apple cider caramel candies by Smitten Kitchen, which I HIGHLY recommend you make. Her recipe makes quite a few (and by few I mean like, 40), so share them with your family/friends/neighbors and you'll be the talk of the town.
I used that same recipe for this caramel, but reduced the recipe by half, and also decreased the cooking time so it only reaches the thread/syrup stage. This allows the caramel to stay soft, instead of a firmer candy.
- Use different hands to roll your cookie dough balls into the egg whites and nuts so your fingers don't turn into a huge mess
- Don't push the ½ teaspoon measure down too far when making your indent. If the bottom of the cookie is too thin, the caramel will leak through the bottom
- The edges of your cookie may crack when you make your indent. That's ok, just push it back together with your hands!
- Do NOT skip the addition of salt in the caramel. If you have flaky sea salt, it really is the best to use. If not, coarse sea salt is best (but reduce the amount as indicated in the recipe).
While the caramel does take a bit of TLC, it is truly worth it. The recipe will produce a bit of leftovers, which will last in the fridge for about 3 weeks and you can use it on so many things! It would be delicious drizzled over my Apple Streusel Muffins.
I know you're going to love these Apple Cider Caramel Thumbprint Cookies. They are a poppable treat perfect for fall! Enjoy!
Apple Cider Caramel Thumbprint Cookies
- Candy thermometer
- Stand mixer with paddle attachment, or handheld mixer
- Cookie sheets
- 1-inch cookie scoop
Apple Cider Caramel
- 2 cups apple cider 473 ml
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt or ¼ cup finer sea salt
- 4 T unsalted butter cut into tablespoons (58g)
- ½ cup granulated sugar 100g
- ¼ cup light brown sugar 55g
- 3 T heavy whipping cream 40 ml
- ¾ cup unsalted butter room temperature (170g)
- ¾ cup granulated sugar 150g
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 large eggs separated
- 1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
- 2 cups all-purpose flour 240g
- 1½ cups pecans finely chopped (160g)
Apple Cider Caramel
- In a heavy bottomed pot over, bring the apple cider to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer. Stir it occasionally. You want to reduce the apple cider until it gets dark amber in color and has a syrup-like consistency. When you drag a spatula through the middle, you will see the bottom of the pot and the liquid will slowly gather back together. You’ll need roughly ¼ cup. If it smells burnt in any way, it's been reduced too far. Trash it and start over.
- While the apple cider is reducing, mix together the cinnamon and sea salt in a bowl and set aside. Also get your butter, sugars, and heavy cream ready to go into the reduced apple cider.
- Once the apple cider is reduced, turn off the heat and add the butter, sugars, and heavy cream and stir until it comes together. Return to medium high heat, stirring, until the mixture reaches 230 F on your candy thermometer. Turn off the heat, stir in the cinnamon/salt mixture, and pour into a heat proof bowl or jar to cool.
- Transfer to the fridge until completely cool and hard. You’ll need it to be at this stage to add it to the cookies prior to baking.
- Before making the cookie dough, prepare your “rolling bowls.” In one bowl, whip the egg whites with a fork until frothy. In another bowl, add the finely chopped pecans. Set both aside while you make the cookie dough.
- Cream together the butter and sugar over medium speed for 2 minutes. Add in the salt, egg yolks and vanilla and mix until combined. With the mixer running on low speed, add in the flour and mix until combined.
- Prepare 2 or 3 sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Set up your dough, rolling bowls, and parchment lined cookie sheets in one space. Using a 1 inch cookie scoop, scoop the dough so it’s slightly less than full, and roll between your hands into smooth balls (about ¾” balls). Roll all balls and place them onto cookie sheets before dipping into the egg and nut mixtures.
- Once all balls are ready to go, individually roll into the egg whites, then transfer to the nut bowl and roll to completely cover. Place back onto the cookie sheet 2 inches apart and repeat with all dough balls. Keep your rolling hands separate - one hand for the egg, one hand for the nuts.
- Using a ½ teaspoon measure, carefully push the rounded part down into the middle of each cookie to create an indent. Take care not to push down so far that the bottom of the indent breaks through the bottom, but you want it to be relatively deep. If any cracks occur around the outside of the cookie, gently reform it and push it back together.
- Using the same ½ teaspoon measure, scrape the cold caramel out of your bowl or jar, roll it into a ball and lay into the center of each indent.
- Bake at 350 F for 11 - 13 minutes, switching racks at the halfway mark if baking both sheets at the same time.
- Allow to cool for about 3 minutes on the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack.