Chocolate Pecan Caramel Cookies

Most people wake up (when slightly hungover) on a Saturday morning and move from the bed to the couch. That is exactly how this particular Saturday began. It was pouring rain in San Francisco which prompted us to stay in our pj’s and just laze away the day. It started off lazy as all hell. Me tucked away under a blanket on the sofa watching Judd play some fun video game that conjured up childhood memories of Super Mario Bros. After about an hour of TV gazing, the kitchen began to call to me. It clearly wanted me to make some cookies. And since the pantry and fridge were fully stocked, I felt I had to obey.

With the task at hand, I pulled on my apron and set to work. Chocolate pecan caramel cookies needed to be baked and man oh man… did I bake a TON of these cookies. The recipes tells you it yields 5 to 6 dozen, but not until you have 75 cookies piled high on a plate do you begin to understand… holy crap!… I just made 75 cookies. Luckily, they are absolutely delicious and worth every laborious step. Making the dough is very simple. It’s almost brownie like and very dense since the only liquid that goes into the batter is 2 eggs. After the cookies are formed into balls and chilled, the real cookie making begins. Each cookie is rolled like a pinwheel in the minced pecans until the edges are nicely coated. Into the oven for a quick bake and then back out for a few more additions. After making a small indent with your thumb or spoon in the warm cookie, it’s time to pour a thick caramel sauce into each divot. Nom!

I decided to make my own caramel and it was definitely the big winner when it came to overall taste. The chocolate cookie was crunchy on the outside and chewy in the center. Pops of crunchy nuts added a delicious salty flavor that was only intensified when you reached the gooey caramel dollop. If you are looking for a tasty treat to add to your recipe book… this is that treat. So, next time you need to come up with 6 dozen cookies, give this recipe a try!

Makes 5-6 dozen

1 cup + 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, slightly softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon table salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup finely minced pecans, about 3 to 4 ounces
1/2 to 3/4 cup thick caramel sauce (store bought or home made)

Using a stand or hand-held mixer, beat the butter at medium speed until light and fluffy. Continue to beat while slowly adding the sugar, occasionally stopping to scrape the bowl, until mixture is lighter colored and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well and scraping after each addition. Beat in vanilla.

In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients. Remove bowl from mixer and use a large spatula to scrape the bottom, making sure everything is well blended. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Chilling is crucial.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Scoop out a tablespoon of dough about the size of a small walnut. Roll between your palms into a ball, then flatten slightly to about 1-inch diameter. Roll the edges in the minced pecans, as if you are rolling a wheel.

Place about a dozen cookies onto the prepared baking sheets, spaced well apart. If needed, lightly press to level the tops. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes. Keep the remaining dough chilled. (You can pre-roll the balls of dough before chilling which I recommend.)

When cookies are done, remove from the oven, carefully make a shallow indentation in the middle of each one while still warm. Use two spoons to place about 1/2 teaspoon of caramel into the indentation. The caramel will spread a little while the cookies are still warm, but will set up as the cookies cool.

Do-ahead note: Freeze balls of the dough while they are on a rimmed baking sheet; when fully frozen, place in a container or Ziploc. Defrost enough so you can flatten them a little. Then continue with recipe.

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