Pumpkin Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

October 27, 2015 § Leave a comment


To me, it isn’t fall without some pumpkin-filled treats. Once October hits, you know you can expect to see pumpkin in anything and everything, ranging from lattes, waffles, ravioli, and chili. So when I studied abroad in Sydney last fall, it was quite a shock to discover that pumpkin was not a strictly fall food and Aussies are not as obsessed with the bright orange gourd compared to their American counterparts. For Aussies, pumpkins were simply another delicious year-round squash that could usually be found roasted in leafy green or couscous salads and other savory dishes.

Much to my dismay, neither canned pumpkin puree nor whole pumpkins existed in their grocery stores so I was deprived of quintessential fall baking, which was torturous when I saw so many amazing new pumpkin recipes I wanted to try, including these brilliant thumbprint cookies from Joy the Baker. Less you get the wrong idea, let me say that I wouldn’t trade my experience in Aus for a pumpkin spice latte! Besides, the coffee and brunch scene in Sydney was so on point.


With all that said, I am back in the States where I can, and am highly encouraged to, celebrate fall with pumpkin goodies. I’ve been waiting a year to make these cookies and I am so glad I finally got the chance because they’re so delicious! They literally taste like mini pumpkin pies with the buttery, tender cookie paired with a creamy pumpkin caramel filling.

They are perfectly bite-size, which makes it very easy to pop three of them in your mouth before realizing it (not that I know from personal experience). I challenge you to only eat one. If you succeed, kudos to you for having more self-control than me. DSC_0028DSC_0015

Pumpkin-Salted Caramel Thumbprint Cookies

Yield: ~ 2 dozen cookies (original recipe says 3 dozen)

Adapted from Joy the Baker


Pumpkin Caramel:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup (I used honey)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • Powdered sugar and coarse sea salt, optional


  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour


Pumpkin Caramel:

Combine sugar, water, and corn syrup/honey in medium saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Only swirl pan to stir. Keep a close eye on it because it can easily burn! Continue boiling, uncovered, until browned to a medium-amber color; remove from heat.

Immediately, carefully add heavy cream and butter. Stir as the mixture violently bubbles. Stir in pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin puree. Caramel will be on the thinner side but will thicken as it cools.

Transfer to small bowl. Cover and chill for 4 hours before assembling cookies.


In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter, brown sugar, and salt together on medium speed, until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Stop mixer and use rubber spatula to scrape sides of bowl and paddle attachment.

Add egg and vanilla and mix to fully incorporate. Add flour and mix until just combined (don’t over mix!).

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before baking.

Position rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Line baking sheet(s) with parchment paper.

Scoop 1-inch balls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing them about 2-inches apart. Press your thumb into center of each dough ball to create a well for the caramel.

Bake for about 8 minutes, or until bottoms are lightly browned. The tops of the cookies will remain fairly light in color. If needed, re-press the centers of the cookies with the back of a spoon. Leave cookies on pan for 5 minutes and then remove them to a cooling rack to fully cool.

To assemble cookies, spoon caramel in the well of each cookie. If desired, dust with powdered sugar and sprinkle with sea salt.


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