Mica – {Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel]

A crushed beer can.

I’m standing on the corner of this vacant parcel, and that’s all I see.

The crushed beer can – Pabst – in all its glory; a lonesome ornament on this otherwise empty bit of green.

Tugging at his leash, Buddy had eagerly begged for a different path, but my feet were determined to reach this place on our walk. I didn’t realize where I was headed, but with no regard for Buddy’s wants, this was where I ended up.

Though it was a familiar place, it was hollowed. The house and apartment building that once stood here had long since been torn down, the basements filled in and the driveways removed. I hadn’t been here since sometime in 2007 or 2008, and even then I’m sure it was, in some small way, against my will. Frankly, at 16 or 17, I didn’t want to do much on my hard-earned weekends besides what I wanted to do, and I’m not afraid to admit that coming to this place never made the list.

Ashamed a little, maybe. Saddened, for sure. But back then, visiting my Great Grandma “Mica,” named so in honor of her cat, just wasn’t something I wanted to do.

The three birch trees populating her front yard – well, what used to be her front yard – survived the delinquent bark-peeling brought on by my own bored hands as a child. Sure, the adults told me it was bad for the tree, but what else was I to do? Inside the house, Grandma had two broken Transformers, Fly Away Home and Flubber . You tell me what you’d rather be doing.

That’s what I thought.

So we – my cousins, brother and I – would go outside, peel bark off the trees and chase each other around the house. It was the only way we knew to entertain ourselves while the grown-ups talked and helped Mica prepare lunch.

But now that I’m older, I have so many regrets. My Great Grandfather – whom I never had the chance to meet – had built the two houses that once stood on this land with his own hands. He and Mica left Latvia with their young family after the onset of World War II, and came to Lansing to start their life fresh with their young family in tow. It’s an interesting story, and it’s a terrible hurt to admit that the particular details are shaky in my mind. With age, it has been so painful to realize just how much I missed out on having the opportunity to know and learn from her. Sure, I can hear it all from my family, but her history, I’m sure, would have been told best with her broken English and thick accent.

I know, from my own memories, that Mica was a loving and kind woman – there’s no doubt about that. She liked to braid ribbon into my hair when I visited and clearly enjoyed just watching us kids play with those silly transformers in the living room. To this day, I can’t look at a can of Reddi-Whip without picturing her smiling face and sparkling eyes; the darling woman overcome with happiness at the chance to be able to spoil her great grandchildren with a mouthful of whipped cream. Strawberries spark a similar memory, as it was a regular occurrence for her to offer us a pint of the red berries accompanied by a tiny yellow crock of sugar for dipping. She was good to us, and understanding, I think, of the fact that we weren’t terribly excited to visit. She was happy enough to have us in her home and see us spending time together.

But her home isn’t here anymore.

I feel bad when I withdraw myself from memory to find Buddy’s leash taut and stretching toward the center of the parcel. The ground here is sacred and private, and though I had been conscious enough to plant my souls on the sidewalk, I’d been so lost in thought that that I’d allowed him the freedom to wander. Which was wrong, of course. After all, Great Grandma Mica had made the decision to sell her property to the city before moving into an assisted living center. The lot no longer belonged to my family and, within months of the sale, the buildings that her loving husband had built for them were crushed and leveled.

There really isn’t much left here for me anymore.

With a gentle tug and a coo, Buddy returns to my heels.

I like to think that Mica didn’t know what had become of her home. I like to think that she truly understood the distance that the third generation kept and I like to think she was happy to see us so acclimated to what she considered a new culture. I like to think she’d be proud of all of her Great-Grandchildren, and I like to think that she’d be happy still to provide for us and love us.

But, above all, I like to think I’m right.

I am.

I know it’s normal to wish fore more time with someone who has passed away, and I don’t beat myself up for the way I spent time at her house. Instead I just recognize that I’m fortunate to have had a chance to know her at all and to have spent the time that I did with her.

It will probably be some time before I come back to this corner, but it’s comforting, in a way, to know that I live so close to where she did. Even if her house is gone, she will never be forgotten.

Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel via Martha Stewart Living February 2012

I’m a big fan of salty sweet, so I LOVED these. The cookies are nicely sandy and crisp and caramel always goes well with coconut, doesn’t it? They’re akin to a Samoa, but more sophisticated and without the annoyance of chocolate.

I made my own caramel for these, but I messed up the ratios of fat:sugar and it ended up crunchy instead of smooth. For that reason, I’m writing out the recipe as it was printed in the magazine. The next time I make these, I’ll try a ratio of 1.25:1.

Makes 54 cookies

Printable Recipe

3 1/2 c (497 g) flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 c (355 g) butter, room temp
1 c (200 g) sugar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
12 oz (340 g) sweetened flaked coconut (I used unsweetened flaked)
44 small soft caramel candies (from a 12 oz/340 g pkg)
6 Tbsp heavy cream
Flaky sea salt for topping (I used Maldon)

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C and line a couple cookie sheets with aluminum foil or parchment. Set aside.

Cream together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about five minutes. Add the vanilla and mix to combine, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Add 1/2 of the flour and salt mixture and stir gently to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the second half, mixing just until the dough comes together.

Beat the eggs in a small bowl and set aside. Pour the coconut in a bowl and do the same.

Portion the dough into as many 1 1/4″ diameter balls as you can. Dip each into the egg and allow the excess to drip off, then dip the dough in the coconut and roll to coat. Place on lined baking sheets about 2 inches apart and press the center with your thumb. Refrigerate dough that will not fit on the sheets.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then remove the sheets and carefully press the centers again. Rotate the sheets and bake for 9-10 minutes, until golden. Let cool on wire racks and repeat with remaining dough.

For the caramel topping, combine the unwrapped caramels and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is completely smooth, 4-6 minutes. Spoon the hot caramel into the indentations of each cooled cookie and quickly sprinkle with sea salt. If your caramel becomes unmanageable and hard, gently rewarm, stirring constantly, over low heat.


  1. Anonymous says

    I didn't know where to post a comment in general so I decided to writte on one of ur recent posts hoping that u will read this… I have to say ur blog is by far one of the most inspirational ones I have come across… I'm from Srilanka….and I read and follow many many many Food blogs as I'm a newbie cake decorator..And I'm constantly looking for new how to's But ur style of

  2. says

    The only grandparent that I had the chance to know faded from reality due to dementia. This made it even more difficult for me, as a child, to be around her, to the point that I couldn&#39;t even face being near her. I will never overcome this regret, it may be my greatest.<br /><br />Your words, sparking my own thoughts, have brought me to tears. They are appreciative, though, since I possess

    • says

      Aww, I&#39;m sad to have made you cry. I teared up quite a few times while writing this myself. It&#39;s so hard to look back on the past with a more mature and understanding mind… I&#39;m glad you remember her for the good times.

  3. says

    That&#39;s a really nice post!<br /><br />Great idea for the thumbprint cookies by the way. I always think that thumbprints are boring, but coconut and salted caramel have done their bit to make me reassess my prejudice.

    • says

      Thank you very much! I agree – the only thumbprints I had as a kid were dried-out store-bought craptastic ones. I still remember biting into one and the &quot;jam&quot; filling being to dry to even bite. It made me never want to have thumbprints again! <br /><br />These changed that 😉

  4. says

    I love the simplicity of thumbprint cookies but I&#39;ve only ever made them with chocolate spread…why did I not ever think of salted caramel? Heaven in a thumbprint!

  5. Marc says

    It&#39;s scary. With my dad&#39;s passing in 2007, I became the oldest member of my family (save for some uncles and aunts on my mother&#39;s side. I think of all the family history my sister and I have now lost because we didn&#39;t think to write it down when we could. Now I&#39;m depressed. Only one of your cakes or some of your cookies will help.:&gt;

  6. says

    they look really good! I&#39;m not a fan of coconut but I recently tried a coconut smoothie, to my surprise it was delicious and now I can&#39;t wait to try more coconut recipes

  7. says

    So yummy! These cookies are gorgeous. Beautiful post and lovely story. It&#39;s refreshing to see such candid thoughts on subjects that pass through all of our minds- albeit on a subject that might not conjure up joy or those warm fuzzy feelings always.

  8. says

    Your story was beautiful. You made me think of and miss my grandmother. Kaitlin, you are very talented. I added your blog to my Pinterest collection. Happy Day, Krista

  9. Virginia says

    After baking these last week, I can attest that these are the BEST COOKIES I HAVE EVER EATEN. I thought they might just be pretty and taste pretty good, but their deliciousness is nearly incapacitating. I sent them to a party that i wasn&#39;t able to attend and was borderline stalked for the recipe (which i gave happily). Even friends who don&#39;t like sweets said that there were absolutely no

  10. Anonymous says

    To those trying out this recipe I would recommend UNSALTED BUTTER! Other than that they were great; I haven&#39;t had cookies that delicious in a long time. Thanks! xxo

  11. says

    Hello! If I were to freeze these, do you (or anyone) think I should do it before dipping into egg and coating with coconut? These would look great on my cookie platter! Thank you.

  12. says

    Your reflevtions on your (obviously) dearly loved and missed Latvian grandmother made me tear up practically the whole time I was reading it.

    Thank you for sharing that. I understand perfectly.

    Anyway, I love that you do yiur own thing with recipes, even though it doesnt always turn out the way you want at first. It shows great creativity of mind.

    Even though I am typically suspicious of any Martha recipes (lets just say mostly unhappy results w/ most of them), I am encouraged by the many positive posts on the ‘Net by those who have made them. I pribably wont be able to resist “editing” the recipe to my instincts, but I’m going to make them anyway: they look and sound irresistably yummy. Looking forward to reading and seeing more of your creations and photos, as you are so clearly gifted in those areas.

    • says

      Mary, you are SO KIND! Thank you so much – it’s nice to know someone can relate :)

      How did the cookies turn out? I love that about blogs – that personal affirmation that a recipe did, in fact work. Helps me feel better about trying something new for sure!

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