OK, these are awesomely delicious. And time consuming. I’m not sure I would have made them had I really realized that they are more or less a 5 step process (make dough, make rounds/dip, bake, caramel, chocolate decoration). Actually, who am I kidding … lots of my cookies take this long. They are worth it though.
Before someone asks me, what Hazelnut Croquant is, I’ll just tell you: In a nutshell (no pun intended) it’s like a nut brittle that is than smashed to pieces. Candied nuts, chopped fine. You can do it with any nut sort, but in Germany, they sell pre-packaged hazelnut croquant, so instead of making my own, I went with that. I know, cheater. If you don’t want to go through the effort of making croquant, finely chopped nuts will do. If you use peanuts, these will be little “turtles” (chocolate, peanuts, caramel).
for the cookies
2 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs, yolk and white separated
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons buttermilk
1 1/2 cups hazelnut croquant
For the fillings and decoration
40 caramels (such as Kraft), unwrapped*
5 tablespoons heavy cream
Flaky or coarse sea salt
6 oz chopped milk chocolate or semi-sweet chocolate chips, or chopped chocolate
4 teaspoon shortening
In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder and salt, set aside. In the work bowl of your stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar on medium-high spread until slightly pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in egg yolks (set whites aside in a bowl in refrigerator), vanilla extract and buttermilk. With mixer set on low speed, slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Shape dough into a ball and drop onto a sheet of plastic wrap, flatten dough into a 6-inch disk then wrap with plastic wrap and chill 45 minutes, until slightly firm (or up to 1 day. If chilling longer than a few hours, I’d recommend letting the dough rest a room temperature a bit so the dough isn’t too firm and cracking when making indentations).
Preheat oven to 350F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
Remove egg white from refrigerator and whisk vigorously until frothy. Place hazelnut croquant in a bowl. Shape dough into 1-inch balls, then working with one at a time, drop into egg white and roll to evenly coat the lift and allow excess egg white to run off and immediately place in bowl with the hazelnut croquant and roll to evenly coat (if necessary, you can gently press into the nuts to help them stick). Transfer to prepared baking sheets and make a deep indentation with the end of a wooden spoon in the center of each dough ball. Bake until set, about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove from oven then using the bottom of a rounded teaspoon, gently press down on existing indentation (to create more space for caramel). Cool on baking sheet several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
For the topping: Place caramels and cream in a microwave safe bowl. Heat mixture in microwave on high power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Spoon caramel into indentation in cookies and sprinkle tops with a small pinch of sea salt.
Place chocolate and shortening into a separate microwave safe mixing bowl. Heat mixture on 50% power in 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted and smooth. Pour into a piping bag or ziplock bag and cut tip of corner. Drizzle over cookies.
* You can also use one bag of the Kraft caramel bits, which saves you the trouble of unwrapping.