At this time of year I relish in the comfort and familiarity of tradition. The weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year are full of gatherings, decorating, cooking, and baking. All rich in memories of years before filled with family, friends, music, activities and all the wonderful things that make up the holiday season.
One of my favorite traditions during those few weeks is the annual cookie baking extravaganza! This wonderful party would usually take place shortly after Thanksgiving and mark the kick off for the Christmas season. We all looked forward to it and had a wonderful time.
My sisters and I, along with my daughter, sometimes my son and my niece and nephew would gather at my sister Missy’s house armed with our favorite recipes and more good ol’ fashioned Wisconsin butter than should be allowed. You see…all cookie recipes are better with butter. Especially if you’re from Wisconsin! My sister would assign us ingredients to purchase a head of time and if there was something special that your recipe called for, you were responsible for bringing that too. She would supply the flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs, and enough holiday music to last anyone a lifetime.
I wasn’t able to join my family for Cookie Baking Extravaganza this year so I set out to uphold the long time tradition with a little baking of my own. My plan was to highlight the signature cookies of our annual get-togethers.
Although time consuming, they are worth every putzy second you spend on them.These beautiful little bite sized morsels are not only decadently beautiful on any cookie tray, they are absolutely scrumptious!
Here’s the recipe:
Chocolate Pecan Thumbprint with Caramel Centers
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups finely chopped pecans
30 caramels, unwrapped
1/3 cup heavy cream (I used 2% milk)
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs corn syrup
Combine butter, sugar, egg yolks, milk and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, cocoa powder and salt. Beat until well combined. Refrigerate dough for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place egg whites in a small bowl. Place finely chopped pecans in a bowl. Set aside. Roll dough into balls. Dip balls into egg white and then into pecans. (I find this easier if I make a whole baking sheet worth of dough balls, then dip them all in egg/pecans).
Bake at 350°F for 7 minutes and then pull out of the oven and make an indentation with a teaspoon sized measuring spoon or the back of a small melon baller). Place back in the oven for 5 minutes or until cookies are set. While cookies are still hot, press center again.
To prepare Caramel Sauce: Combine caramels and cream in a small saucepan. Cook over low heat until caramels are melted. Spoon small amount of caramel into centers of baked cookies. Carefully remove cookies to a wire rack to cool.
For Chocolate Glaze: Combine bittersweet chips, butter and corn syrup in a small bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Microwave for another 20-30 seconds if not melted. Let cool slightly. Pour chocolate into a small Ziploc freezer bag. Poke or cut a very small hole in the corner of the bag. Remember the size of the hole is the thickness of the drizzle. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled cookies. Cool until set.
I love to step back and admire all of the beautiful little cookies lined up in straight rows. Especially this year. I may not be able to be with everyone so we can bake together, but I am with them in spirit, love and at the very least I can honor them and their recipes 🙂