One thing I love about my office is everyone’s general love and celebration of baked goods, which I of course can get behind! Every year around the holidays someone organizes “The Cookie Smackdown” where everyone brings in cookies to be judged, eaten and awarded. For the past two years I have missed it for some reason, so this year I was determined to bring it!
I have always been obsessed with salty sweet combinations, and recently it has been salted caramel. Not sure why, but I have always wanted to try making my own caramel too. So after some online searching for recipe ideas and insight in how to exactly make my own caramel, I came up with this recipe for what I hoped would be a winning cookie, Salted Caramel Volcano Cookies (aka chocolate shortbread cookies with caramel spooned into the center and sea salt dribbled on top)! We were supposed to try to come up with semi-creative names for our cookies…not sure if that cuts it but it works!
To start, I melted way too much butter with baker’s chocolate. (Since we are dealing with a competition here and cookies, I figured I would just forgo the whole healthy cooking thing this time around!)
Once you are done melting the two ingredients together, pour into a large bowl with sugar and unsweetened cocoa. Using a hand mixer on low, otherwise you will splatter everywhere, mix until combined and then add in some vanilla and mix a bit more.
Then you add in some flour and salt (which you sift together before), mixing until the dough is combined.
Next, flour lightly a large cutting board. Dump the dough onto the cutting board and knead together into a solid lump of dough. I was going for a square and I kind of got there…but not really.
You wrap the dough in plastic wrap, then chill for about 30 mins.
Once the dough is done chilling divide the dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and place them on a baking sheet. Then using your knuckle or the backside of a teaspoon, dent a hole in the middle of the cookies to make an impression, this is where you will pour the caramel in later. You can use your fingers to mold larger craters if needed.
Bake the cookies for 10-15 minutes. Remove them from your baking pan to cool.
While your cookies are cooling, you can make the caramel. Make sure to have your ingredients measured and at the ready, as once the sugar starts to brown, the process goes super quick!
Combine the sugar and water in a small sauce pan and heat over medium-high heat.
It will take a bit, but the mixture will start to boil, then all of a sudden start to turn a brownish color, when it does, slightly shake the pan to distribute the sugar evenly, do not stir before that point.
Once the mixture is a nice caramel color throughout, whisk in pieces of butter until well combined. Next, whisk in the whipping cream quickly to finish the caramel.
Your cookies should be cool by now, so using a teaspoon, spoon caramel into the craters you created in the cookies. Then sprinkle a bit of sea salt on the caramel. You can eat the cookies right away when the caramel is super gooey, or you can let them sit for a few hours and the caramel will harden a bit.
I am happy to report that though the cookies did not win the best in show category, they did win an award for being the favorite cookies of one of the firm’s partners, and my office mate Ashley and I won mixing spoons for them…so can’t be disappointed with that!
Salted Caramel Volcano Cookies (adapted from A Cozy Kitchen)
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 oz unsweetened baker’s chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tbsps water
2 1/2 Tbsps butter, room temp, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream, slightly warmed (20 secs in microwave)
In a small saucepan melt butter and chocolate together
In a large bowl, combine the sugar and cocoa
Pour in the melted chocolate and mix on low-speed, add vanilla
Sift flout and salt together in a separate bowl
Slowly add flour to the large bowl and mix with the electric mixer on low to combine until well mixed
On a lightly floured surface, mold and knead dough into a square
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes
Preheat your oven to 350º
Remove dough from fridge and form into 1 1/4 inch balls, placing on sprayed cooking sheets
Press indentations into the cookie dough and mold with fingers if needed
Bake 10-15 minutes then remove cookies from pans to cool on wire racks
While the cookies cool, heat the sugar and water on medium-high in a small sauce pan
Bring the mixture to a boil and watch it begin to turn brown, when it does shake the pot to evenly distribute the sugar
Once the mixture is totally brown, whisk in the butter until well combined
Next vigorously whisk in the warmed whipping cream until combined
Spoon 1 tsp of the finished caramel into the center of each cookie, top with sea salt
Yields about 16 cookies per batch