Coconut Thumbprints with Salted Caramel

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.