Classic holiday cut-out cookies sandwiched together with a simple, 4-ingredient, chewy caramel. These cozy Caramel Linzer Cookies are perfect for Christmas and the upcoming winter!
Caramel Linzer Cookies
These classic holiday cookies are so fun to share with friends and family. The little “windows” reveal the delicious filling and are often donning caramel, jam, or Nutella. When putting together my linzer cookies this year, I knew they needed to be filled with my favorite homemade caramel. It’s chewy, dairy-free, and so so good. Once the caramel has set, you can even stack these cookies for storage or transport without worrying if the caramel will leak.
The cookies themselves are a simple linzer cut-out dough. It comes together quickly and bakes up with perfect edges. Add the powdered sugar topping and caramel filling and you’ve got one delicious holiday cookie!
How to Make Homemade Caramel
I know the holiday season can be chaotic, so if you’re not here for homemade caramel, then just skip right on to the recipe – no judgement for store-bought caramel here 😉
But if you’re new to making caramel and want to try your hand at it, I promise it’s easier than you think (isn’t this what all bakers say?). I like to make what is called a “wet” caramel. You only need FOUR ingredients, and you can make it vegan, or not. Of course this recipe will work with regular cream, but I’ve also successfully made it dairy-free with both canned coconut cream and oat milk (I don’t recommend almond milk as it’s too thin).
What You’ll Need
- White granulated sugar (nothing fancy or unrefined, just plain ole white sugar)
- Water, lukewarm/room temp
- Cream, coconut cream, or oat milk
- Vanilla extract
- A heavy-bottomed, medium saucepan
- A wooden spoon
- A candy thermometer (I recommend digital)
The Process of Making Chewy Caramel
I should note that I learned how to make caramel by watching Cupcake Jemma – check out her caramel tutorial to learn even more! Before I begin making caramel, I like to prepare all of the ingredients and tools. I set up a small station right by the stove with a hot pad holder or folded towel for the hot saucepan, a wooden spoon (or chopstick), and the cream + vanilla extract. Keep in mind that caramel is HOT. And it bubbles. And splatters if you move too quickly with the cream. It’s important that you can focus when you’re making it, keeping small kids and pets away from the scalding sugar.
First, you’ll mix the cream and vanilla extract and set aside. In the medium saucepan, you’ll add the sugar and lukewarm water, gently swirling the pan to make sure the sugar is covered. Next, you’ll place the pan of sugar over medium-high heat, bring the mixture to a boil. Now, what may be most important is that you DON’T, under any circumstance, stir, touch, or move the boiling sugar in any way. This can result in a grainy, crystal-filled caramel; we don’t want that.
The sugar and water will continue boiling and eventually begin to brown. Once this process starts, it moves fast, so keep an eye on the sugar! Burned sugar has to be thrown out – I know from experience. The sugar will begin to brown all over, and once it reaches a dark amber color, you want to immediately remove it from the heat and onto your hot pad holder or towel. Grab the wooden spoon and begin to SLOWLY add the cream/vanilla to the hot sugar while stirring gently. The sugar will bubble up more than double its size in the pan, so be careful and go slow.
Allow the bubbling caramel to calm down. Then place the pan back onto medium heat and bring the mixture to a boil. This is where you’ll need a candy thermometer to ensure you don’t over or undercook the caramel. Cook the caramel until it reaches 240°F, or the soft-ball stage of candy. Ideally, the caramel will cook until it is between 235°F and 245°F. Any less and it will be too runny for the cookies; any more and it will overcook and cool to be too hard (like a hard rock candy). Immediately remove the caramel from the heat once it reaches 240°F and transfer it to a heatproof bowl – I like to use a metal mixing bowl. Once it’s cooled, you can add the caramel to a jar to store in the refrigerator, or simply move on to use it in a recipe.
More Holiday Cookies
- 1/2 cup (57g) plant-based butter (or regular butter), softened
- 1/2 cup (100g) white granulated sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups (195g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup (75g) almond flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Powdered sugar for dusting
- 1 cup (200g) white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup water, lukewarm
- 1/2 cup cream, coconut cream, or oat milk (see Note 1)
- 1 tsp vanila extract
Make the Caramel
- In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the granulated sugar and water, swirling gently to make sure the sugar is coated. Add the pan to medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
- Meanwhile, set up a hot pad holder or folded towel next to your stove. Get a wooden/bamboo utensil (like a large spoon or long chopstick) ready. Combine the cream and vanilla extract and lay the mixture near the hot pad holder.
- Once the sugar water begins to boil, keep an eye on it until it reaches a dark amber color. It will take a while for the sugar to turn from clear to tan, but once it begins to color, it can burn quickly - so keep an eye on it!
- When the sugar turns a dark amber color, immediately remove it from the heat and place on your hot pad holder. While stirring gently, slowly pour the cream mixture into the hot sugar. BE CAREFUL with this step as the hot sugar will bubble up, doubling or tripling in size, and splatter.
- Once the cream is added and the caramel mixture has calmed down, place it back over medium heat and bring to a boil. Use a candy thermometer to cook the caramel until it reaches soft ball stage - 235°F to 245°F. I like to take mine off the heat at 240°F. This ensures your caramel will have the perfect stiff and chewy texture.
- Transfer the hot caramel to a heatproof bowl (like a metal mixing bowl) to cool. Once it has cooled a bit, you can go ahead and transfer it to a jar and refrigerate it, or you can allow it to cool completely before adding it to your linzer cookies.
Make the Cookies
- In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla; set aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cinnamon, nutmeg, flour, almond flour, and salt. Add dry ingredients to wet and use a large spoon to gently mix the ingredients together until a dough forms.
- Gently knead the dough into a disc shape, cover with plastic wrap, and chill until firm enough to roll out - at least 30 minutes.
- Prepare two pieces of parchment paper the size of a baking sheet. Add the dough disc to the paper and then top it with the second paper. Roll the dough out. Cut shapes using your favorite cookie cutters, cutting smaller shapes out of the middles of half the cookies. If you find your dough isn't firm enough to get clean cookie dough edges, place it in the refrigerator or freezer for 10 minutes and then cut the cookies.
- Re-roll the dough as needed until all cookies are cut out. Chill the cookies for 10 minutes in the refrigerator prior to baking. I like to chill mine right on the parchment-lined baking sheets. At this time, preheat your oven to 300°F.
- Bake the cookies at 300°F for 10-14 minutes (on parchment-lined baking sheets). Allow them to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. Allow the cookies to cool completely.
Assemble the Cookies
- Once the cookies are cool, use a small sifter to sprinkle powdered sugar over the cookies with the "windows".
- Add dollops of caramel to the whole cookies, making sure it's enough to fill the cut-out windows, but not so much that it's falling over the edge of the cookies. I like to use a food-safe plastic squeeze bottle - it's much easier, and more precise, than using a spoon. But, of course, a spoon will work just fine!
- Top the caramel cookies with the powdered cookies and you're ready to eat or store for later!
- I recommend storing these cookies in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Cream: if you plan to use coconut cream, you want to shake the can prior to measuring out; your caramel will have a slight coconut taste.
- Vegan: for vegan cookies, use dairy-free butter, flax egg (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 3 Tbsp warm water; mix and allow to thicken), and oat milk or coconut cream.