Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Full-Proof Caramel and Thumbprint Cookies in 4 Movements: Original, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Caramel

Cheap Eat Challenge: 10 days

Some people find a good recipe and like to leave it lie. Some people are incapable of such culinary simplicity.

Several weeks ago, I saw a link to these Caramel Thumbprint Cookies. I like caramel. I like sea salt. But I also like chocolate. And I had extra peanut butter filling from my homemade peanut butter cups.

So you've got movement 1: The original caramel sea salt thumbprint cookies

Movement 2: To make these chocolate, substitute 1/2 C of the flour for 1/2 C cocoa.

Movement 3: Peanut butter. This works for the blond or chocolate varieties. Add a blob of the peanut butter filling from my homemade peanut butter cups.  You'll want to put the peanut butter filling in while the cookies are hot, whereas if you're working with caramel, you'll want to put it in when they're cool.

Movement 4: And if you've got a little of everything, you can do the peanut butter and then drizzle caramel over the tops of the cookies.

Now, a few quick notes on caramel.

-I love it.

-I always mess it up.

-I blame my stove which is not quite level--thus, part of the sugar cooks faster than the other part.

-I blame my pots, some of which are not heavy-bottomed.

-I blame the cute little distractions that often fill my kitchen.

-It is surely not my fault that my first batch of sugar crystalized like so:

Or that my second batch of sugar burned like so:

The fact is that I have a full-proof method for making caramel, but I didn't do it. I followed the recipe. I'm sure the recipe's instructions usually work for normal people with level ovens and decent pans. But I need to follow this method from America's Test Kitchen Cookbook.

1. Fill bottom of saucepan with shallow layer of water--just a centimeter or so will do. It just has to be covered.

2. Pour the sugar in the center of the pan--just in a heap. Don't bother to stir or smooth it.

3. Cover pan.

4. Turn burner on medium high.

5. Sugar will start to melt and bubble. When bubbles just begin to color, take lid off and turn heat down.

6. Allow it to get to a nice amber color. I'm always worried about burning, so mine tend to be a little lighter. But the darker you get it without burning the more complex and perfect the flavor of your caramel will be.

7. When it's the right color, take it off the heat.

8. Add specified amount of butter and incorporate completely.

9. Add specified amound of cream and mix it in.

10. You're done. Don't lick the spoon too quickly. This stuff is hot.

11. To clean pan, let it soak. It'll come off.

(Printable instructions here.)

P.S. I'll be hanging out with my sister over the next few days so these posts will most likely be a bit short. But probably still plenty sweet:).

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