These Salted Caramel Shortbread Cookies Are the Perfect Winter Baking Project

Looking for something to do on a snowy day? These salted caramel shortbread sandwich cookies from the Institute of Culinary Education will make your home smell cozy and delicious.
These will go great with a cup of hot chocolate or tea.
These will go great with a cup of hot chocolate or tea. / The Institute of Culinary Education

The end of the holiday season doesn’t have to mean the end of your baking streak. The winter season can be the perfect opportunity to lock yourself indoors and throw yourself into a new cookie recipe. If you’re looking for a flavorful twist on an old classic, try these salted caramel-filled pecan shortbread sandwich cookies from the Institute of Culinary Education.

The shortbread portion of this recipe comes together in a few minutes with just a handful of ingredients. After adding flour, brown sugar, cornstarch, butter, vanilla paste, and ground pecans to a food processor, pulse until the dough comes together. Wrap up the dough and chill it in the fridge for 30 minutes. To shape the cookies, roll out the dough and cut it into circles with a cookie cutter.

The shortbread cookies are delicious on their own after baking in a 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, but the addition of salted caramel takes them to the next level. “It can be scary the first time someone works with caramel, so there are a couple tips to keep in mind. One is being sure you have the right size pot for the amount you’re working with,” ICE chef Carrie Smith tells Mental Floss. “It has to have a little bit of space to it, but it can’t be your smallest saute pan or saucepot.”

Make the caramel sauce by heating water and sugar in a medium saucepan. You should keep a close eye on the caramel at this stage to prevent it from burning, but there’s no need to stir it. “Agitation causes crystalization,” Smith says. “That’s why we don’t stir sugar while it’s cooking because it tends to crystalize and gets dry and grainy.”

Once the water and sugar mixture turns a dark amber color, turn off the heat and whisk in warm heavy cream. Finish by stirring in warm butter and salt. The caramel should be completely cool before you spread it between your sandwich cookies.

The Institute of Culinary Education is one of the largest culinary schools on Earth, with campuses in Los Angeles and New York City. Career training programs are available in the culinary arts, pastry and baking arts, and hospitality and hotel management. You can view the full course curricula today onICE’s website.

Pecan Shortbread with Salted Caramel Filling

Makes 30 sandwich cookies

1 1⁄2 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 cup brown sugar

1⁄4 cup cornstarch

3⁄4 cup salted butter
1⁄2 cup ground pecans
1⁄2 tsp vanilla paste

1 cup granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup water

1⁄2 cup heavy cream

1⁄2 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp French sea salt

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until a dough is formed. Chill the dough for 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out the dough using bread flour to keep it from sticking. Roll it to 1⁄4 inch thick and cut circles using a cookie cutter.
  3. Place the circles onto a silicone mat–lined tray and bake at 350°F for 8–10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cookies cool at room temperature
  4. Make the caramel sauce by adding the water and sugar to a pan. Cook on medium heat to a dark amber color. Simultaneously, heat the cream slightly and keep warm.
  5. Turn off the caramel and add the warm cream. The mixture will bubble up a lot. Whisk until smooth then stir in soft butter and salt. Cool to room temperature.
  6. To assemble, dust half the cookies with powdered sugar. Spread or pipe the caramel over the rest of the cookies and sandwich them together.