Caramel-Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have an informal recipe rating scale that goes from “Woah, I can’t stop thinking about that” to “Well, that was inedible.” Most recipes fall somewhere in the middle: they taste good and I’d make them again, but I don’t think about them much in between bakes.

This recipe? 100%, undeniably a “Woah!!!”

What does it take to get a “Woah!” rating? It’s sort of hard to explain, but you know it when you taste it. Certain recipes are just perfectly balanced. The concept is strong to begin with: a good mix of flavors, ingredients that complement each other, etc. The texture is spot on: a perfectly chewy cookie or just the right kind of fudgy brownie. And there’s just some sort of other pizazz that you get when you take a bite. I think that pizazz comes from an optimized recipe: the recipe author clearly spent time getting the details right. Just the right amount of salt. Just the right technique. A clear recommendation for whether to chill the dough or not, whether to use a mixer or a spoon…etc. Details can make all the difference in baking, and you can tell when someone got it right.

IMG_2742These Caramel Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies are an all-around winner. As you know, I adore stuffed cookies, and a caramel center is one of my favorite tricks. But what really makes these cookies stand out is the incredibly flavorful, chewy base dough. You don’t even need the caramels or chocolate to eat this cookie. I’d be happy eating the dough on its own. And that, my friends, is the sign of a WOAH!

I’ve tried this dough a couple of ways so far. First, I stuffed the cookies with Kraft caramels so there’d be a ooey gooey caramel center. The second time, I didn’t have any of those caramel candies sitting around… but I did have three bags of caramel bits (Sigh… such a pantry loader). So I decided to just make Chocolate Chip Caramel Bit Cookies instead of stuffing them. The Caramel Bit Cookies are actually a bit more balanced, since caramel is scattered throughout rather than concentrated in the middle. But whichever caramel iteration you choose…you’re definitely in for a treat!

Caramel-Stuffed Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: Grandbaby Cakes. I’ve rewritten things a bit and added commentary. 

Yield: ~20 large cookies

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~3 hours, including 2 hours of chill time for the dough

Cook Time: ~13 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar (I used light brown sugar here)
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 additional egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • For caramel-stuffed cookies: 20 caramel candies. Make sure they’re the soft kind! I cut mine in half before stuffing the cookies
  • For caramel bit cookies: 1.5 cups of caramel bits
  • Sea salt for sprinkling

Directions

Make your dough 

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your flour, cornstarch, salt, baking powder and baking soda
  2. Using your mixer, cream your butter with the granulated sugar and brown sugar. You should cream it for about 3-4 minutes on high, until the mixture is light and fluffy
  3. Add in your egg, and beat the mixture. Then add your egg yolks, one at a time, and beating in between each addition
  4. Add your vanilla, and beat the mixture until it’s smooth
  5. Turn the mixer to low. Add your bowl of dry ingredients in three intervals, beating after each addition until it’s all well-combined
  6. Stir in your chocolate chips with a wooden spoon. This is also when you should stir in caramel bits if you’re using them!
  7. Chill your dough for at least two hours. I chilled mine overnight to break up prep

Bake your cookies

  1. Preheat your oven to 350F
  2. If you’re making caramel bit cookies: Scoop your dough and place it on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Proceed to step #4!
  3. If you’re making stuffed cookies: I  like to cut my caramel candies in half so the centers are a little smaller. Scoop a tablespoon-sized ball of dough, and place a caramel candy on top of it. Then, cover up the caramel with another scoop of dough. You’ll want to pinch your dough around the edges so the dough covers the caramel entirely. I usually end up rerolling the cookie a little too, to get it more round. Place all of your dough balls onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, at least 1 1/2 inches apart so they have room to expand
  4. Bake the cookies 11-14 minutes. Mine took 13! They might look a little underbaked when you take them out of the oven, but they’ll firm up as they cool
  5. Place your cookie sheet on a cooling rack, and sprinkle your cookies with sea salt

Enjoy!

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Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I’ve already given you several “stuffed” recipes. The Cookie Butter-Stuffed Chocolate Chip Cookies. The Thin Mint Stuffed Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies ( a personal favorite). Oh and those crazy good Peanut Butter Cup Brownies.

I’m not over it yet.

Thing is: merging two delicious things together is just such a good plan. Whether it’s spreads and doughs, doughs and cookies, cookies and brownies – adding two flavors and textures together elevates baked goods so much more than simple mix-in additions could.

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Adding in the caramels

These cookies jumped off my baking list and into my kitchen for a birthday party. Two friends shared a party, and I did some digging to find overlap in their baked good preferences. Caramel won the round! I’d already made caramel-stuffed Snickerdoodles a bit before and loved how the melty caramel centers came out. I decided to work with caramels again, and thought this chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe might be a nice change of pace.

The cookies turned out great… though I will admit they made me really late to the party! Let’s just say that a side experiment to stuff the same dough with frosting did not turn out so well. No big loss, because the caramel-stuffed cookies were winners (and the birthday was a come-and-go thing, anyway!). My friends gobbled these up real fast. The chocolate base has a satisfying depth to it, with cocoa in the dough plus chocolate chips added in. I swapped in sea salt for regular salt and think it made the base dough even more tasty. Once your dough is ready, caramel candies get stuffed into the cookie dough balls. You stuff them in the middle, but they’ll sink to the cookie bottoms somewhat while baking. When you bite into a cookie you’ll get a nice caramel-y surprise. The caramel does harden over time, so you’ll need to serve these warm if you want a gooey effect.

This dough was a little challenging to work with, so I’d chill it next time. Otherwise, you might find it’s a little hard to form your caramel-stuffed balls.

Caramel-Stuffed Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe:  Crazy Little Projects. I’ve edited the recipe a bit and added my own commentary. 

Yield: ~30 cookies 

Suggested equipment: Mixer

Total Time: ~2 hours 40 minutes, including 2 hours for chilling the dough 

Cook Time: ~9 minutes 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 package of caramel square candies – I used Kraft. You’ll probably have leftovers, which you should definitely use to make Caramel Doodles.
  • Extra sea salt for sprinkling

Step by Step Directions

Make your dough 

  1. Cream butter and sugar together
  2. Add the cocoa and eggs, and mix together until it’s combined
  3. Add in the dry ingredients and mix again
  4. Stir in your chocolate chips (I decreased the number of chocolate chips vs. the original recipe because it started to look like a lot of chocolate chips in the bowl. Feel free to dial it back up to 1.5 cups of chips if you so desire!)
  5. Chill the dough for at least a couple hours so it’s easier to work with and doesn’t spread as much while baking

Assemble and bake 

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F
  2. Unwrap 12 caramels to start, and cut each caramel in half. You will probably need more than this but I’d lowball upfront so you don’t waste unwrapped caramels!
  3. Line your cookie sheets
  4. Roll out balls of dough so they’re each roughly 1 to 1.5 inches large and place them on your cookie sheets at least an inch apart
  5. Take a caramel half and press it on top of each ball of dough. Push the caramel into the center of the ball and cover it up completely with dough (see pictures for reference). Unwrap more caramels as you need them to fill all the balls of dough!
  6. Sprinkle the tops of the cookie balls with a bit of sea salt
  7. Bake the cookies for ~9 minutes. They’re done when the edges firm up a bit, but the centers still look a little soft
  8. Let them cook for a few minutes before biting in

As I mentioned, the caramel will harden up the longer you let the cookies cool. Still, you gotta let them sit for a few minutes before chomping down – that caramel can get mighty hot!

Caramel Doodles

 

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Fresh from the oven

It’s incredible what sugar and butter can do together. This recipe takes advantage of the dynamic duo in so many delicious ways. The cookie dough itself has butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Then you fold a caramel square into the middle of the dough, creating a gooey, decadent center. And then you sprinkle a cinnamon sugar mixture on the top. If this sounds intense to you, you’re in good company. I wasn’t sure if these would turn out too sweet for my tastes, or not. Ultimately, I did find them pretty sugary and rich- but in a good way.

I’ve dubbed these Caramel Doodles because they’re basically snickerdoodles- but the caramel center and brown sugar in the dough takes them to a different level entirely. I usually like my cookies cooled a bit but I loved these warm when the caramel centers were warm and gooey. Once they cool the caramel center becomes more like a core, regaining the standard caramel candy consistency.

This recipe is very easy to make but does require some extra steps so make sure you read all the way through before you start.

Caramel Doodles

Source: Two Peas and Their PodI’ve added more instructions to their base recipe. 

Yield: 2 dozen cookies 

Suggested equipment: Mixer makes it easier 

Total Time: ~1 hour, 15 minutes (3o minutes comes from chilling the dough) 

Cook Time: ~10 minutes  

Ingredients

Batter

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, sliced
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose Gold Medal flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cream of tartar (this activates the baking soda, so don’t leave it out!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (you could use regular salt instead for the dough, but don’t use regular salt for the topping!)
  • 1 1/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon plain Greek yogurt

Fillings and Toppings

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup caramel squares, cut into quarters (the original recipe calls for 1 cup but I didn’t use all of mine) 
  • Fine sea salt, for sprinkling on top of cookies

Step by Step Directions

Brown the butter

  1. Heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add the sliced butter, whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter until melted
  3. The butter will start to foam and browned specks will begin to form at the bottom of the pan. The butter should have a nutty aroma.
  4. Watch the butter carefully because it can go from brown to burnt quickly (take this instruction seriously, readers- I’ve burnt mine before simply because I looked away for a few seconds at that critical point where it shifts from “browning nicely” to “whoops it’s blackened).
  5. Remove butter from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Make your cookie dough 

  1. While the butter cools, get the dry ingredients ready. In a medium bowl, Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, cinnamon, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Once the butter is cool, use your mixer to combine the melted butter, granulated sugar and brown sugar
  3. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt and mix until combined
  4. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Form the dough in a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. You can chill the dough overnight. Mine actually got too cold to scoop, so you probably want to take it out when it’s firm, but not too hard to scoop into

Add fillings/toppings and bake your dough 

  1. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper
  2. Mix your cinnamon-sugar mixture in a small bowl
  3. Measure about 2 tablespoons of dough and roll into balls
  4. Once you see how many cookies you need to fill, cut your caramel candies into quarters. I suggest doing it this way so you don’t prep too many upfront and waste them. I had prepped many more than I needed and immediately wished I’d done it in a different order since it’s a bit annoying to open/cut the candies
  5. Flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hand and place a piece of caramel in the center of the dough. Wrap the cookie dough around the caramel, making sure the caramel is completely covered with dough. Then, roll the ball of dough in the cinnamon-sugar mixture and place it on your baking sheet. Make sure your cookies are about 2 inches apart
  6. Sprinkle the cookie tops with sea salt
  7. Bake the cookies 8-10 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. The centers will still be soft
  8. Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2-3 minutes, or until set. Transfer cookies to a wire cooling rack and cool completely.

 

 

Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies with Browned Butter Dough

Over the past couple years, my salty sweet dessert repertoire has expanded far beyond the peanut butter cups of my youth. Salt is popping up in lots of my favorite desserts, from salted chocolate ice cream to salted caramel brownies. I’ve written about the salty-sweet trend from a more analytical angle over at my other blog. But for right here, right now: I just want to talk about cookies.

Great texture and great flavors made these a star recipe Please refer to the photo on the left. What you see is a delicious cookie, studded with pretzels, chocolate chips and caramel bits. It’s a harmony of flavors, and a wonderful mix of textures, all mixed in to a great base dough.

These cookies were born from a promise. I had promised my boyfriend I’d bake for him last weekend and since I take such promises very seriously, I gave him 5 options to choose from when Baking Day rolled around. My suggestions ranged from S’More Cupcakes to Lemon Bars to a few types of cookies. He took a look and made a suggestion of his own: Why not create a hybrid cookie? Why settle for one type of cookie when you could combine two great concepts into one?

And so these cookies were born. We used the base from these Salty Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies from “Cookies and Cups,” but added in a heaping of caramel bits for another layer of flavor. These turned out to be delicious decisions. The base dough has a delectable brown butter base, and the pretzels sort of float to the bottom to provide a satisfying crunch. The chocolate chips and caramel bits work well together, too, and it’s nice to get some variation as you bite through your cookie.

20150718_195613The other good news? This recipe is super easy. The hardest part is browning the butter, and once you try that a couple times you’ll get the hang of it. You definitely should try it- browned butter is a great addition to a lot of recipes (and also pretty “in” these days). This recipe is quick because the dough doesn’t have to chill before baking. Cookies are always one of the fastest things to bake overall, so you can get these from ingredient to finished product in under an hour. The cookies held up well over a couple days, too. So all in all: a total winner.

I gave my boyfriend a good chunk of the batch, left a few for my roommate, and brought the rest to a birthday party that night. The party was at a bar, so I probably looked a bit odd carrying cookies around – but my friends are very used to this behavior by now, and applaud it wholeheartedly.

Caramel Pretzel Chocolate Chip Cookies with Browned Butter Dough 

Source:  Based on this recipe from Cookies and Cups, with a caramel twist

Yield:  ~28 cookies

Suggested equipment: stand mixer

Total Time: ~40 minutes 

Cook Time: ~8-12 minutes, depending on your oven 

Italics below are my own comments on the original recipes. I broke the directions into a few more steps, too

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, melted and browned (instructions for browning below)
  • 1¼ cup light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs + 1 yolk (meaning, 1 more yolk on top of the other 2 eggs) 
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 cups plus 2 Tbsp flour
  • 1½ cups crushed pretzels (roughly – you can adjust for your preferences, and I advise low-balling it a bit)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet, which is my standard. you could sub in dark or milk if you’d like)
  • 1 cup caramel bits (I used Kraft Caramel Bits, per a different blogger’s suggestion. I recommend these vs. regular wrapped caramels because they baked in so nicely)

Step by Step Directions

Melt the butter 

  1. In a medium saucepan melt 1 cup butter over medium-low heat
  2. When butter is melted continue to cook, swirling butter constantly until it becomes a golden brown color (the butter will smell sort of nutty when it’s ready. Keep a close eye on your browning butter – it’s easy to burn it if you’re not paying attention to its progress from yellow and melted, to brown and nutty)
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes

While the butter is cooling

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside

Make your dough 

  1. In bowl of stand mixer mix butter and sugar together until combined (so you shouldn’t see separate chunks of butter and sugar anymore) 
  2. Add in eggs, the additional yolk and vanilla. Mix until smooth.
  3. Add in baking soda, salt and flour. Mix on low until incorporated, then mix in crushed pretzels. (I mixed in the pretzels with my machine so they’d break into smaller pieces. I didn’t end up using the full 1.5 cups of pretzels because sometimes I get overwhelmed by too many pretzel pieces in cookies – it can overpower the actual dough)
  4. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel bits (I did this step by with a mixing spoon instead of the mixer – you don’t want to overmix the dough)
  5. Using a large cookie scoop (or a tablespoon!) drop dough on baking sheet about 2 inches apart
  6. Bake until just golden at the edges, about 8-10 minutes. Centers might not seem done yet but remove the cookies (heed this warning – cookies always set more once you’ve removed them from the oven) 
  7. Allow them to cool for 3-4 minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

And then there’s the unofficial final step, of course: take the cookies to a bar and please your friends – and make new ones.