If you are looking to do some holiday baking, this is a fun cookie to add to your list. Caramel and shortbread are yummy on their own, but we kick these up a notch with a little spice from cayenne pepper.
Everyone knows about salted caramel and maybe you’ve even tried salted caramel shortbread. It is delicious, and obviously very high in sodium. I am not a big fan of caramel in general (too sweet and I hate candies that stick to my teeth). But if you add it to a cookie base and cut the sweet with some salt, I can’t keep my hands off of it. I wanted to come up with something similar for a low sodium diet. But how could I counter the super syrupy sweet caramel without tons of salt? I chose to spice it up by adding a bit of cayenne pepper. This cuts into the sweet while adding some interest to these little guys. Don’t worry, if you don’t like cayenne pepper, you can omit it (or reduce it or increase it based on your preference).
I start with a shortbread-like base. The recipe I use is actually from the back of an Argo cornstarch container for Melting Moments Cookies. I used unsalted butter instead of margarine or salted butter, but otherwise I didn’t change a thing. Like shortbread, the cookie dough will be very crumbly.
To form the cookies, you will press the dough into flattened balls using the palms of your hands. You will need to press the dough together pretty hard to get it to stick together. Do not make the well in the cookie yet. You will do this when they are finished baking.
They will puff up a bit, but otherwise they won’t spread much while baking. When they are finished, you will use the back of a spoon (I use a teaspoon) to make wells in the center of the cookie. Do this gently and slowly, as the cookies are prone to crack.
After you make the indents, take the cookies off the pan and let them cool on a cooling rack. While they are cooling, make your caramel. For the caramel, I would advise using a candy thermometer. If you don’t have one, you can use the old fashioned way to figure out whether the caramel has reached soft ball stage. (When you drop a stream of the syrup into a glass of cold water, it will form a soft ball that you can flatten and reshape easily.)
When the cookies are cool (and the caramel is hot), just pour caramel into each cookie’s indent.
Spicy Caramel Shortbread
SODIUM COUNT: 5.4 mg per cookie; 151.7 mg in the entire batch (makes 28 cookies)
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup corn starch
- 3/4 cup butter (softened)
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 cup unsalted butter
- 1/4 cup light brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp light corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 1 Tbsp heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper*
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Combine the dry ingredients in a medium bowl.
In a separate bowl, whip the butter until creamy. Mix in the vanilla.
Add the flour mixture to the butter a little at a time until incorporated. The mixture will be course. You may now refrigerate the dough (for 30 minutes or a few days).
When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Press about a tablespoon of dough into a slightly flattened ball. Place on ungreased baking sheet about 2” apart. Bake in the preheated oven for about 10-12 min or until the edges are lightly browned.
When you remove the pan from the oven, leave the cookies on the cookie sheet for about a minute. Then use a spoon (I use a measuring teaspoon) to carefully press indents into the tops of the cookies. After the indents are made, move to a cooling rack and cool completely.
Combine the butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, sugar, heavy cream and cayenne pepper in a small saucepan. Note that the mixture will expand somewhat as it boils, so make sure that you have a little bit of room, while still having enough depth to get an accurate reading with a candy thermometer.
Cook over medium heat until it reaches a temp of 230°F (soft ball stage – if you drop the caramel into a glass of cold water it will form a soft, flexible ball). For my caramel it takes about 4-5 minutes to begin simmering and then about 7 more minutes to reach soft ball stage.
Once it reaches 230°F, immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Using a spoon, drizzle caramel into the indents in the cooled cookies. Let set until cooled.
* Don't like cayenne? Omit it. Want it super spicy? Double it. 🙂
NUTRITIONAL INFORMATION PER COOKIE - Yield: 28 cookies
Sodium: 5.4 mg, Calories: 76.4, Total Fat: 4.3 g, Saturated Fat: 2.0 g, Cholesterol: 7.7 mg, Carbohydrates: 8.9 g, Fiber: 0.2 g, Sugar: 2.3 g, Protein: 0.5 g.
If you have a little bit of extra caramel, you can pour it into a small bowl or other container where it will harden into a soft candy. Then you can slice it into individual candies.