This recipe is from America's Test Kitchen, and thusly comes out beautifully. The chocolate extract is totally optional, as is the salt garnish, but feel free to mix up the nuts and filling however you like (you'll just have to rename them)! If you do go with caramel, make sure you buy candies that you know are reasonably fresh; if they've been hanging out on the shelf for a while, there's a chance that the filling will end up grainy.
- Yield:Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies
- Active time: 35 minutes
- Total time:1 hour
- For the Cookies
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cocoa powder
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, softened
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1 large egg, separated, plus 1 egg white
- 2 tablespoons milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon chocolate extract (optional)
- 1 1/4 cups pecans, chopped fine
- For the Filling
- 14 soft caramel candies
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- Coarse salt, for garnish (optional)
Combine flour, cocoa, and salt in bowl. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk, and extract(s) and mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.
Adjust oven rack to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk egg whites in bowl until frothy. Place pecans in another bowl. Roll dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites, then roll in pecans. Place balls 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Using 1/2-teaspoon measure, make indentation in center of each ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes, switching and rotating sheets halfway through baking.
Microwave caramels and cream in bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes. Once cookies are removed from over, gently re-press existing indentations. Fill each with 1/2 teaspoon caramel mixture, and garnish with a few grains of coarse salt, if desired. Cool 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.