Meeting darkness with sweetness

Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt

A few weeks ago, my friend Di invited me to join her annual, virtual holiday cookie exchange, and I enthusiastically agreed.

Cookie exchanges aren’t part of the Hanukkah tradition (at least not where I grew up), so it’s one of those things I’ve looked enviously on from afar. This virtual version sounded like a great idea, and I had fun choosing a favorite recipe and baking a batch to photograph and write about.

But when it came time to write this post, the whole enterprise felt frivolous.

In light of what happened at a Connecticut elementary school this week, how can I happily yammer on about cookies and holidays? How can we all go on living our lives as if the horrifying and heartbreaking things that happen every day aren’t happening?

We can’t, but then we can. What else is there to do?

We go on. We live our lives, acknowledging how lucky we are, at least in this moment. We stay grateful for what we have, in spite of anything we’ve lost. We hurt for others facing unbearable grief, and we keep turning our faces to the sun, seeking light. We reach out, we do one little thing to help someone else get a foothold, we shut our mouths and listen. And then we keep on living.

We each have our turn at sadness, but we can’t let that consume our every waking moment. Living is not forgetting. Living is just keeping on, doing what we can to make things better, sharing a little kindness, and holding those who are hurting in our hearts.

So… we listen with horror and sadness to the news, hug each other close, and do what we can to create more light.

H's menorah

Sometimes, the little bit of light we can shine is by doing a simple thing, like making a batch of cookies for your family, or to send to friends, wishing them health and peace in this fragile world. It may not be much, and it may not fix anything, but it probably won’t make things any worse.

Please visit Di’s blog to see her cookies and a round-up of the rest of the offerings for this virtual exchange. Di, thank you so much for inviting me to join this year. I wish you and your family a happy holiday and a beautiful new year. And I wish everyone participating in this cookie exchange could be together, sharing these cookies in person.

Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt

Chocolate Caramel Cookies with Sea Salt

You can find the recipe for these cookies here, on the Two Peas and Their Pod blog.

Recipe notes:

:: Soft caramels make these cookies even better because then the cookies’ caramel centers stay soft, even at room temperature. But even the standard Kraft caramels you find at the grocery store will do if that’s all you can find. For one batch, I used sea salted caramels from Red Kite Candy. For another, I used sea salted caramels from Sweet Lolo’s. Both turned out delicious.

:: The recipe says it makes two dozen cookies. I cut the caramels into three pieces each, rolled the pieces into half-inch diameter balls, then wrapped the dough around the caramel to form 1-inch balls. This yielded 30 one-and-a-half-inch diameter cookies. Experiment to find the size you like. The idea is to get a ratio of caramel to chocolate where there’s enough caramel in the center to taste, but not too much that it all leaks out during baking (some cookies will, inevitably, leak; you get to keep those).

:: Non-fat Greek yogurt works great. So does 2% yogurt, or full-fat. In a pinch, sour cream will work, too.

:: I use whatever cocoa I have on hand. For the most recent batch, I tried King Arthur Flour’s Double-Dutch Dark Cocoa and like the resulting dark color and intense chocolatey taste of the cookies.

:: When you bake, set your timer for 9 minutes and start watching the cookies carefully at that point. The recipe says to bake for 10 to 12 minutes, but I never made it past 10 without some of the cookies leaking a bit of caramel.

:: The cookies freeze well in a resealable plastic bag (defrost them by setting them out at room temperature in their bag). They also refrigerate well for several days.

:: If your house is like mine and “room temperature” in December is 60ºF, feel free to microwave the cookies for a few seconds before serving to warm them up and melt the caramel slightly.

:: These cookies taste darn good with a glass of red wine.

:: These cookies taste best when you share them with friends.


  1. Mmm, those cookies look delicious. And your post is beautiful. Thanks for sharing both.

  2. Andi says:

    Love, love, love this.

  3. Abby says:

    Well said, Rebecca. I wrote my post last weekend and had a moment of doubt before hitting publish this morning. But you are absolutely right that we keep seeking light, even in the midst of horror. (and btw, I love your train menorah!)

    1. Rebecca says:

      I’m so glad you went ahead and posted what you did. It was lovely.

  4. teaandscones says:

    Such terrible things happening in the world around us. We need all the light we can get. All we can do is – continue and not let it get us.

    Lovely post. Lovely cookies.

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