Powdery soft cookies with a buttery vanilla flavor. Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies are filled with the sweet caramel-like confection that makes these irresistible. They’re a perfect treat to gift or make during the holidays.
What are Thumbprint Cookies?
These deliciously decadent cookies are perfect during the holidays. Made using a sugar cookie base that’s similar to a soft shortbread cookie. Before baking the cookies you press the center with your thumb to create an indentation that is then filled with your favorite filling such as jam or in this case dulce de leche.
What is Dulce de Leche?
This decadent caramel-like sauce comes from South America and comes from cooking sweet milk, or sweetened condensed milk, down until it becomes a rich brown color and a thick sauce. For the best tasting dulce de leche sauce make sure to find one that is made with sugar and not corn syrup.
You could also make your own using the information below (or the recipe), which is what I did for preparing these thumbprint cookies.
Ingredients in Thumbprint Cookies
The cookie dough of these thumbprint cookies is simple and works for any version of thumbprint cookies you’d like to make. Topping them with dulce de leche or your favorite filling takes them to another level of bliss.
- Butter: this recipe calls for 2 sticks of butter with yields an extremely buttery flavored and soft cookie.
- Granulated Sugar: to sweeten the dough I prefer to use a standard granulated sugar, which you can also roll the balls of dough in before pressing the thumbprint into them.
- Egg Yolks: instead of using the full egg the egg yolk only will create a softer cookie instead of one that’s more crispy. You can use a full egg if you’d like, but the cookie will not turn out as soft.
- Pure Vanilla Extract: the vanilla extract in this cookie dough is used to add a hint of flavor, which keeps the dough from tasting bland.
- Salt: to balance the sweetness you’ll need a small amount of salt, which also adds a hint of flavor.
- All-Purpose Flour: initially the dough will be crumbly, but once you continue to beat the flour in it will turn into a soft cookie dough.
- Sweetened Condensed Milk or Dulce de Leche: you can make your own dulce de leche sauce using sweetened condensed milk or you can purchase a jar at the store. Both versions work perfectly for this recipe.
- Coarse Salt: by sprinkling a small amount of coarse salt on top of each cookie before they’re baked you’ll take the flavor to the next level.
How to Make Dulce de Leche Thumbprint Cookies
- Make the Dulce de Leche (if buying skip to the next step): Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pie dish or pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pie dish into a large roasting pan or baking pan and fill the pan with about 1-inch of hot water. Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes.
- Prepare the Cookie Dough: cream the butter and sugar for 1 to 2 minutes until lighter in color and fluffy in texture. Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until just combined. Mix in the flour, which will be crumbly initially, but turns into a soft dough after well mixed.
- Shape Cookies: scoop out the cookie dough with a cookie scoop and roll it into a ball. Place the ball onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Press a round-shaped depression into the cookie using your thumb. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of dulce de leche into the depression.
- Bake: Bake for 12 to 14 minutes at 350ºF. Let cool for 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack.
How to Make Dulce de Leche using Sweetened Condensed Milk
There are two ways you can make you’re own dulce de leche sauce, both of which are extremely simple, but take a couple of hours. All you will need is one 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk. I used the baking method for this recipe and achieved great results.
- Baking Method: Preheat the oven to 425ºF and pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pie pan or dish and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the dish into a deep roasting pan or large enough baking pan and fill with hot water until the water reached about halfway up the pan. Carefully place it in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 1/2 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes. To check the color lift the foil. If it’s not dark enough add some more hot water and cover. Continue to cook for an additional 15 minutes until the desired color is reached.
- Boiling Method: Remove the label from the can and place it in a large stockpot and fill with water. The water should cover the can by about 2 inches (it’s best not to use the cans with the pull-tab for this method). Set the heat the medium-high and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 2 hours for a lighter sauce and 3 hours for a richer colored sauce. Keep an eye on the water levels when using this method. The water must remain 1 to 2 inches above the can.
Tips for Making the Best Thumbprint Cookies
- Spoon and level the flour when you measure it. To do so scoop the flour out using a spoon and drop it into the measuring cup. Use a knife to level and scrape off the excess flour (don’t pat it down though).
- Use a 1-inch sized cookie scoop to measure out the cookie dough. This allows for equally sized cookies.
- To also get perfectly shaped indentions in the cookies I like to use a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon to press into the cookie instead of my thumb.
Do I have to use dulce de leche sauce?
Absolutely not! Thumbprint cookies can be filled with all kinds of tasty fillings. These super soft and sweet cookies are delicious on their own, but when filled with your favorite sauce or jam they’re downright decadent. Below are some other options to try.
- Lemon Curd
- Jelly or Jam
- Caramel Sauce
- Marshmallow Fluff
- Peanut Butter
- Hershey’s Kisses
- Cream Cheese
Try These Delicious Cookie Recipes Next:
- Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies
- Orange Pistachio Snowball Cookies
- Chocolate Dipped Ginger Cookies
- Easy Peanut Brittle
- Saltine Toffee Bark
- 1 cup Unsalted Butter softened
- 2/3 cup Granulated Sugar
- 2 large Egg Yolks room temperature
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
- 1/4 teaspoon Salt
- 2⅓ cups All-Purpose Flour spooned and leveled
- 1/2 cup Dulce de Leche
- 14 ounce can Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 2 tablespoons Coarse Salt
Dulce de Leche
- Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
- Pour the sweetened condensed milk into a pie dish or pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Place the pie dish into a large roasting pan or baking pan and fill the pan with about 1-inch of hot water.
- Bake for 1 hour and 45 minutes then whisk the sauce to smooth out any lumps before using.
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF and line to baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or using a handheld mixer cream the butter and sugar for 1 to 2 minutes until lighter in color and fluffy in texture.
- Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract, and salt and mix until just combined. Mix in the flour, which will be crumbly initially, but turns into a soft dough after well mixed.
- Using a 1-inch sized cookie scoop or a tablespoon-sized measuring spoon scoop out the cookie dough and roll it into a ball. Place the ball onto the prepared baking sheet.
- Use your thumb or the back of a 1/2 teaspoon-sized measuring spoon to gently press a round-shaped depression into the cookie. Spoon 1/2 teaspoon of dulce de leche into the depression of each cookie. Sprinkle with coarse salt flakes.
- Bake for 12 to 14 minutes or until the cookies are set and the edges are slightly golden in color. Let cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before removing to finish cooling on a wire rack.