Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprint Cookies

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These cookies did not survive for long after I took this photograph,

In case you missed it, yesterday the Washingtonian Web site featured ModernDomestic in their weekly “blogger beat” feature. The interview with reporter Emily Leaman was really fun to do – mostly because I got to do what I already do here: write about baking. Thanks for everyone’s feedback on the piece – your comments and kudos are very flattering. I’m touched.

However, I know what you’ve come here for, which isn’t to hear about my press coverage (well, except my parents, aka my biggest fans). And, really, I’d much rather be writing about the cookies I made for my friend Victoria’s going away party last Friday.

It was a bittersweet affair, since Victoria, a fellow choir member, was abandoning us for Boston. But it was also a party, and parties are generally fun, even if they celebrate departures. I decided that I wanted to make cookies, since I often overlook them in my current quest to make ever more complex and “impressive” desserts. Which is silly, because cookies are actually really hard to get right. The Washington Post just did an annual cookie feature and interviewed pastry chef Tiffany MacIssac on the complexities of cookies (check out my own interview with MacIssac here).

Maybe I don’t make cookies often because I, too, find them challenging. Take chocolate chip cookies. I can use the exact same recipe, and it will yield entirely different cookies – sometimes they’ll be thin and spread, and other times they’ll be chewy and thick.  Cookies are also prone to burning because they’re small and delicate – I’ve probably burnt more batches of cookies than all other baked goods combined. Plus it’s hard to make cookies pretty – my cookie dough is always rolled unevenly, or my drop cookies end up being all different sizes.

So yes, cookies are a veritable mine field of baking challenges. But, that being said, these salty chocolate thumbprints with chocolate ganache came out really well. Victoria’s party was well supplied with treats and food and I wasn’t sure they’d get eaten. But they were all gone by the time I left.

These cookies owe their magic to the salt, which brings out the chocolate and gives them an addictive salty-sweet quality. I adapted them from a Martha Stewart recipe, but decided to use my own ganache recipe for the filling. The ganache is fudgy and deeply chocolatey, and adds a rich, creamy note to the cookies.

My one note of caution is to not over bake the cookies – you want them to be soft and crumbly, and the centers should be fudgy. The soft cookies and rich ganache melts in your mouth, followed by hit of salt and sweet. Believe me, they’re a little unusual, but I find them completely addictive.

As I mentioned in the Washingtonian article, cookies make great holiday gifts, and any friend with a sweet tooth would be happy to receive a tin of these. Just take care – you may find yourself eating them all before you can package them away!

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints 2

Wouldn't you want to get these for Christmas? I know I would.

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints
Adapted from Martha Stewart and The Cake Bible, By Rose Levy Beranbaum.
Makes approximately two dozen 2-inch cookies

Note: you will probably have some ganache left over – you should be happy about this. I suggest you drizzle it over a warm toasted baguette, use it as a cupcake decoration, or use it as a dipping sauce (slices of fruit would be nice – so would pretzels). Also, dark chocolate fans can use all bittersweet chocolate in the ganache, but I am particularly fond of the milk/bittersweet chocolate combo.

For the cookies:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
2 teaspoons kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar, plus more for rolling
2 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift flour, cocoa powder, and salt into a small bowl. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to medium, and add yolks, cream, and vanilla. Scrape sides of bowl. Beat in flour mixture until just combined.

Roll balls using 2 teaspoons dough for each, and roll each in sugar. Place 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. With the handle of a wooden spoon or your thumb, press gently in the center of each to create an indentation. Bake until cookies are just set, about 10 minutes. (If indentations lose definition, press centers again.) Let cool slightly on baking sheets. Transfer cookies to wire racks, and let cool.

For the ganache filling:
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate
1.5 oz milk chocolate
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tbs butter

Finely chop chocolate in a food processor. On a stove over medium heat, heat cream to the boiling point. Pour through the feed tube of the processor, with the motor running, and process until smooth. Transfer ganache to a small bowl and let cool. Stir in butter until combined.

Assemble cookies:
Gently pour a small amount of ganache into the center of each cookie, until each indentation is filled with ganache. Let cookies stand for several hours until ganache is set.



  1. Bonnie said

    This recipe reminds me of one The Splendid Table ran a couple years ago and has become a favorite at Christmas at our house. The cookies are called “World Peace Cookies” and it calls for bittersweet chocolate and a small amount of Fleur de Sel in the batter. They would be perfect to serve today, the same day President Obama received his Nobel Peace Prize. I’m sure the recipe is still on The Splendid Table web site.

    • moderndomestic said

      They are like those cookies – which are actually a Dorie Greenspan recipe. I remember those being excellent as well.

  2. […] they put out plates of them at the office. Hell, even I posted a cookie recipe this week for salty and sweet chocolate thumbprints (which you should make because they’re a-mazing), and usually I’m more of a cake […]

  3. Shaw Girl said

    Congrats again on the Washingtonian interview!

    And I’m adding these cookies to my to-bake list for next weekend!

  4. Matthew said

    I bought these at the Haiti bakesale on Sunday (3/28). They are great! My girlfriend loved them and I have been instructed to make more. I’m glad I found the recipe.
    We also had a lemon meringue cupcake. I’ll be off searching for that recipe next.
    The bake sale was great to stumble on. Thanks for doing it.

    • moderndomestic said

      Awesome! So glad you liked them – they’re one of my fave’s. So glad you also liked the lemon cupcake!

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