Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Salted Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprints [Review]

Always read a recipe through once before beginning.

Always read a recipe, preferably, the night prior before beginning.

Always read a recipe.

Yes, this has been drilled into my head by my grandmother, mother, aunts, friends, cookbooks, cooking shows, etc., etc.

However, when my mother-in-law requested these cookies for Thanksgiving, and though I decided to try them out a week prior just to see how they'd turn out (thank the Lord!), I only read the ingredient list. I ignored the directions. I overlooked the required time.

I did lay out the butter the night before, hoping upon waking it would be room temp. Upon waking I realized it's November. In Ohio. In a house full of hard-wood floors. Where people don't want to pay a ridiculous heating bill. My butter was still cold. Oh, it was sort of close to room temp; too bad our house is COLD. After nuking it (along with the coconut oil) slightly in the microwave, I tossed it into the stand mixer and began to add the rest of the ingredients. Once the flax egg and vanilla were added, my mix just wasn't...well, mixing. After a minute or so, I decided to just add the flours and get on with it. My dough looked much better. And tasted great.

Then I read the dough must chill for about an hour in order to make it easier to handle. Okay, that's fine. I chill most of my doughs anyway. I'll just start the chocolate chip cookies for Mr. B. (We decorated for Christmas. Phoebo is out. Phoebo is empty. I had to make the hubby some cookies STAT.) Thankfully, before I started the chocolate chips, I decided to read through the rest of the recipe. You know, just in case the pumpkin caramel needed to chill, too. You know what? It did. FOR FOUR HOURS.


That's why you read through your recipes, folks. ROOKIE mistake. Jessica would be embarrassed for me. Scratch that. If Jess was there, this is probably the time she'd bring out the wine. (Side note: while I was picking up these cookie ingredients, I had wine in my cart and put it back. Next time I'll focus on trying to save my sanity rather than some money. Always buy the wine.)

Okay. Good thing I planned on staying at home all day anyway. Time to start the caramel. Pumpkin caramel, that is. This was a slight pain. Once I reached the perfect amber color and boil, I added the cream only to have it solidify. Immediately. After fishing out the hardened caramel, I put it in a bowl and microwaved it a few seconds. Once melted, I added it back to the pan along with the melted coconut oil. Solid caramel. Immediately. Again. With my last bout of patience, I fished it out, put it in the microwave, and melted it again. This time I slowly added it as I stirred the caramel color right out of that caramel. It worked. Perfect. In goes the pumpkin stuff, transfer to bowl, cover, and chill FOR FOUR HOURS. Thank goodness, there was football.

By half time these cookies were ready to go. I removed the dough from the fridge, rolled it into the suggested-sized balls, thumb inserted, and into the oven they went. Yes, the middles puffed up like the recipe warned. No, they didn't go down once pushed with the back of a spoon like the recipe advised. My "prints" weren't very deep, and a few cookies were cracking. Okay. Next sheet in were of the bigger ball sort. These were a little deeper but not quite. By this time I was thinking these darn things were going to be frosted and that was that. But, surprisingly, once the pumpkin caramel was scooped into the cookies, and dusted with a little sea salt, they looked like the picture. I wonder if they're holes weren't that deep either. The pumpkin caramel covered it perfectly.

Although I made these specifically for my mother-in-law, I couldn't give them to her without tasting one. I mean, what if they were awful. I'd be horrified. I don't bake awful things. Time to be the taste-tester. The smaller balls from the first batch made nice bite-sized cookies, so I opted for one of those instead of the prettier bigger ones. A little too much pumpkin for my liking I thought (probably due to the fact I cut down on the sugar). After a few photos, I tried another one. These really aren't bad. After gobbling up, let's say, five more, I quickly placed them in two containers and hid them in the fridge.

Later that night, I told Mr. B in between mouthfuls of cookie he had to tell his mother about the cookies and she must pick them up immediately if she would like any of them. She came the next day and had one and a half containers to take home.

Honestly, there's never a dull moment with me. And, you'll be happy to know, these cookies are Thanksgiving perfection.

Salted Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprints
*slightly adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1/3 unsalted butter, softened
1/3 c coconut oil, softened
1/2 c packed light brown sugar
1/4 t salt
1 flax egg (1 T flax seed + 3 T water)
1 t vanilla
3/4 c whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 c all-purpose flour

Pumpkin Caramel:
1/3 c sugar
2 T water
2 T light corn syrup
2 T coconut oil
1/ 3 c whipping cream
3/4 t pumpkin pie spice
1/2 c canned pumpkin
Sea salt, for sprinkling

FIRST. Make your caramel. In a medium saucepan bring sugar, water, and corn syrup to boiling over medium heat, swirling the pan to stir. Once a light amber brown color (about 5 minutes), remove from heat and add coconut oil and cream, stirring the ENTIRE time. (As soon as my cream hit the liquid it immediately solidified. I had to spoon out the solid piece of caramel, transfer it to a separate bowl, melt it in the microwave, and add it back to the pan. I had to do this twice, so be patient; hardening of caramel can be salvaged.) Once combined add in spice and canned pumpkin. Mix until smooth, transferring to a bowl. Cover and chill caramel at least 4 hours, so it can thicken.

When caramel is almost ready, make the COOKIES. In a large mixing bowl beat butter and oil on high 30 seconds. Add brown sugar and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl as you go. Beat in flax egg and vanilla. Beat in flour slowly. Cover and chill 1 hour or until easy to handle (without being too sticky).

Preheat oven 375 degrees. Roll dough into 1" balls, placing 2" apart on ungreased baking sheet. (My 1" balls turned into bite-sized cookies, while the bigger ones were a more decent size. Roll the balls however big you like.) Press thumb into center of each ball. Bake 8-10 minutes (mine were done in 9 minutes) or until bottoms are lightly browned. (If centers puff use back of spoon to gently press back down...however, this didn't really work for me.) Cool on pan 1-2 minutes and remove to wire rack to cool completely. Once cooled, spoon pumpkin caramel into centers and sprinkle with sea salt.

With Love and God Bless,

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