Sugar cookies. Check. Chocolate. Check. Pecans and caramel. Check and check.
Since these delicious turtle thumbprint cookies have all the things, they are the only cookie you need this season! Luckily they’re delicious and fun to make. One bite into the rich chocolate cookie, soft caramel and crunch of pecans and you’ll be hooked.
Why are they called turtles? The cookies incorporate the elements of the classic “turtle” candy—pecans or peanuts and caramel with chocolate. One day in 1918, a salesman showed the candy to a dipper at the Johnson’s Candy Company and he said it looked like a turtle. And there you go!
The “thumbprint” part of the name comes from making the indentation in the center (with your thumb, of course—though I use a little spoon instead of my thumb since it’s easier).
Enough history, let’s get baking!
To make things easy, we’ll first make the cookie dough base with Betty Crocker™ sugar cookie mix. I mostly follow the instructions for “cutout cookies” on the package, but I change things just a bit.
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer, stir together the cookie mix, three tablespoons of flour and ¼ cup of cocoa powder. On low speed, mix in the stick of butter (softened, not melted) and an egg. Keep mixing, moving to medium speed after the ingredients have been incorporated, until the dough forms a ball. Wrap the dough and refrigerate for an hour.
Meanwhile, line two baking trays with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 350ºF. Place two cups of finely chopped pecans in a bowl or on a plate.
When the dough is ready, roll the chilled dough into balls that are one-inch across. It takes just under a tablespoon of dough to roll a ball this size. Place on the baking trays an inch apart. You should have about 40 to 42 dough balls spread across the two trays. Keep one tray in the fridge while you work with the other.
Separate two eggs, reserving only the egg whites. Add a teaspoon of water to the egg whites. Whip the egg whites with a whisk really well until they’re frothy. Dip a dough ball in the egg whites. Immediately roll the ball in the pecans. (Your hands will get messy by the way!) Place the ball on the tray and repeat with the rest of the balls.
Use a quarter teaspoon (or your thumb) to indent the centers of the balls.
Bake for 15 minutes or until the dough is set when pressed. If the dough has poofed up at all, gently re-indent the cookies with the teaspoon as soon as the tray is removed from the oven.
Roll, dip and indent the other half of the dough on the other tray and bake those.
In a microwave-safe bowl, place the caramel candies and the half and half. Microwave at 70% power for 90 seconds. Stir and continue to microwave at 15-second intervals until fully melted.
Use a little spoon (the quarter teaspoon you used to indent the cookies works well) to spoon caramel in the divot of each cookie.
If desired, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave according to package directions. Spoon the chocolate into a disposable decorating bag or a zip-top bag. Snip ¼ inch from the tip and drizzle chocolate on the cookies. I made criss-cross marks. Like a turtle. Because turtles!
Let the caramel and chocolate set and enjoy. Or give and then enjoy!