Vanilla Bean Thumbprint Cookies with Dulce de Leche

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vanilla bean thumbprint cookies dulce de leche recipe
The Cookie Book

Hey, cool party trick: Gently simmer a can of sweetened condensed milk and it’ll turn into dulce de leche. (We know, right?) Then scoop it into the center of vanilla bean thumbprint cookies from The Cookie Book by Rebecca Firth. In Firth’s own words: “This is a sweet, delicate cookie with the dulce giving it mega jazz hands.” Um, we’ll have three.


Dulce de Leche

One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Vanilla Sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

½ vanilla bean, split and scraped

Thumbprint Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg yolk, room temperature

1 tablespoon milk

½ vanilla bean, split and scraped

2⅓ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

¼ cup confectioners’ sugar


1. Make the Dulce de Leche: Take the label off the can of sweetened condensed milk. Place the unopened can in a deep, heavy-bottomed Dutch oven and add cold water until it covers the can by 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 3 hours. Check every 30 minutes or so, adding more water to keep it 2 inches above the can. Using tongs, remove the can from the pot and set it on the counter to cool completely; this will take at least several hours. Do not open while hot.

2. Make the Vanilla Sugar: Place the sugar and the vanilla bean seeds in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the blade attachment. Run the machine for 20 seconds to combine. Place half the sugar in an airtight container with the vanilla bean pod and reserve for a later use. Place the other half in a small, shallow bowl and set aside.

3. Make the Thumbprint Cookies: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line several baking sheets with parchment paper. Add the butter and granulated sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and mix on medium speed for 4 minutes until smooth and well blended. Add the egg yolk, milk and vanilla, and mix for several more minutes. The mixture may appear curdled.

4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add this to the butter mixture and mix on TK speed until the dough comes together, about 1 minute. Roll 1 tablespoon of dough into a ball and then roll it in the vanilla sugar. Set on the baking sheet and press your thumb into the center. There will be some small cracks; press them back together if you’d like or just let them be. Repeat with the remaining dough, leaving about 2 inches between each ball. Chill for 30 minutes in the freezer.

5. Bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven for 12 minutes. Take the sheet out of the oven and then use the round end of a wooden spoon (or a muddler) to press down on the center of each cookie one more time. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then transfer to a rack to finish cooling.

6. Once cool, sift the confectioners’ sugar onto the cookies and spoon about 1 teaspoon dulce de leche into the center of each one.

Nutrition Facts
  • 121 calories

  • 6g fat

  • 16g carbs

  • 1g protein

  • 16g sugars

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Note: The information shown is Edamam's estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.

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Food Editor

From 2017 to 2019 Heath Goldman held the role of Food Editor covering food, booze and some recipe development, too. Tough job, eh?