There are two ways you can eat these cookies. One is with a fork and a napkin. The other is to just fully embrace the caramel running down your chin. I'm more of a fork and napkin kind of cookie consumer but I have nothing against the traditional route if that's what you choose.
I really wanted these to be caramel stuffed cookies but these are better. Of course I would say that about my own recipe. But seriously, with a caramel stuffed cookie, you'd typically wrap a chewy caramel candy inside the cookie dough and bake it. Which is great when fresh but as soon as they cool off, the caramel goes back to it's original stick-to-your-teeth texture and it's just too chewy to have inside a soft cookie. It is a good shortcut if you are willing to eat all the cookies before they cool off though.
This is actually a caramel sauce, not just a melted caramel candy. That means it stays runny even after it cools off which makes it the perfect texture for a cookie. I tried being clever and freezing it into discs to stuff inside the cookie dough but the caramel just melted out onto the baking sheet and burned. I actually tried that several different ways and it just wouldn't work.
Have you ever made peanut butter blossoms? That was the next method I tried and was finally successful. I already had caramel in the freezer so I rolled it into balls and stuck them down into the hot out of the oven cookie to melt. The caramel melts just about instantly and you're left with a perfectly baked cookie filled with plenty of caramel sauce. That's the version of the cookies I that photographed however, I felt like I had made the recipe unnecessarily complicated so I made yet another batch for my seventh and final attempt at these cookies.
The final method I settled on was simple. As in *face palm* I can't believe I made these seven times simple. First of all, I doubled the chocolate and pecans. Not because it made things simpler - just because I thought they needed it. (The chocolate is super dark so it doesn't add excessive sweetness alongside the caramel.)
Anyways, to make this recipe simpler, when the cookies came out of the oven, I used the bottom of a shot glass to make an indention in the middle of the cookie. After that, I just poured the caramel sauce in each indention. No freezing the caramel, greasing silicon muffin cups, rolling it into balls, timing everything right before the cookies harden. Nope. Just something so simple, I probably could have googled it.
You may have noticed I've used this caramel sauce in a few other recipes - Taffy Apple Pizza and Caramel Stuffed Crispy Rice Treats. I may be going a little crazy with it but if you have food allergies or intolerances (or both like me!), you probably know what it's like to go years without a food and suddenly have it reintroduced in a safe form. Well, that's caramel sauce for me and apparently I'm celebrating by making way too many desserts for the blog. I probably need to come up with a dinner recipe or incorporate a vegetable here and there but sweets are so much more fun!
Quick heads up! These cookies need to chill overnight so plan ahead. Skipping that step could make the cookies too flat and they won't hold the caramel.
Soft baked gluten free turtle cookies with chocolate and pecans are dented in the center to make room for lots of dairy free salted caramel sauce!
- 1 ⅓ C Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Flour *see notes
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¼ tsp salt
- ½ C dairy free butter, softened ( I used Earth Balance soy free baking sticks)
- ¼ C + 2 Tbsp granulated white sugar
- ¼ C + 2 Tbsp brown sugar, packed
- 1 large egg
- ½ tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ C pecan pieces (roughly chopped is fine)
- 85 g very dark chocolate, chopped *see notes
- 2 oz (9-10 pieces) sea salt Cocomels*see notes
- ¼ C + 1 Tbsp sweetened condensed coconut milk, store bought or homemade
- coarse sea salt for topping
- Whisk together the gluten free flour, baking soda, and salt then set aside.
- In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together the butter and both sugars. Once that is combined, mix in the egg and vanilla.
- Slowly add the flour mixture while continuing to mix until well combined.
- Fold in the pecans and chocolate pieces by hand, using a rubber spatula.
- Refrigerate the dough overnight.
- Once the dough has chilled, preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Form the cookie dough into 12 equal sized balls (it's easiest to just use your hands) and place them on a large baking sheet. They will be slightly larger than a typical cookie.
- Bake 12-15 minutes (in the meantime, start on the caramel in the next step). The cookies will be light brown with a darker bottom once cooked. As soon as they come out of the oven, use the bottom of a shotglass or the back of a spoon to make an indention in each cookie. After about two minutes, the cookies should be sturdy enough to lift with a spatula and transfer to a cooling rack.
- While the cookies bake, combine the dairy free caramels with the sweetened condensed coconut milk in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often until completely melted.
- After the cookies are baked and you've made the indentions in the middles, carefully spoon the warm caramel into the center of each cookie.
- Once the caramel has mostly cooled, you can sprinkle on some coarse sea salt and enjoy!
Potential allergens contained in these cookies may vary due to brands of ingredients used, product reformulations, etc. Please verify that all your ingredients are safe for you to consume and always be mindful of allergen cross contamination while cooking.
I've tried several different 1-1 gluten free flours in cookie recipes and have had many cookies fall apart and crumble. Unless you have another reliable 1-1 gluten free flour that contains xanthan gum, I would stick with Bob's Red Mill since that's what these were tested with. Note that this is made in a facility with tree nuts and soy according to the package I had.
For chocolate, I recommend something very dark because the caramel sauce is really sweet so you don't want to add too much extra sugar. I used Endangered Species 88% dark chocolate but you can use whatever you prefer or substitute chocolate chips if that's easier. Note that this brand currently contains soy and is produced on equipment that also processes product containing milk, peanuts, and tree nuts.
Note that Cocomels are currently made on shared equipment with dairy, peanut, tree nut, and soy protein. You can read their allergy statement on their product page. If you react to traces of these allergens, you might try replacing the caramels with this recipe for top 8 free caramels. I haven’t tested this but I believe it will work just fine.