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!

Lemon Basil Chocolate Chip Cookies

This cookie’s flavor is much bigger than the sum of its parts.

You know how most cookies with additions taste just like you’d imagine? Add M&Ms to a chocolate chip cookie, and you know what you’re going to get. But this cookie is a stunner, and far exceeded any expectations I had. It doesn’t taste like lemon, it doesn’t taste like basil. It just has this most delicious, inexplicable essence that I can’t quite describe. It feels sophisticated, fresh, satisfying. I guess you’ll all have to try it yourself to find out!

I had been eyeing this recipe for a while, and finally got to try it when I had leftover basil sitting around. This cookie takes some extra prep and waiting than other chocolate chip recipes, but it is definitely worth it. The recipe’s creator, Izy, calls it the “best ever chocolate chip cookie”- and I totally agree that this takes chocolate chip cookies to a whole new level.

You brown your butter with pieces of basil and lemon in there so that all those flavors meld into the butter. Then that butter becomes the base of a nicely balanced cookie. I was a little worried that my dough was so crumbly, but all fared fine once baked. The texture IS different than many other cookies- it’s still a little more sandy when it’s baked up. But it just adds textural intrigue rather than causing any issues.

I love the story behind these cookies, too. Lacoste asked Izy to create a recipe that mirrored the flavor notes of one of their perfumes. That perfume included verbena, chocolate and basil- so she decided to try those same “ingredients” in cookie form and loved how it turned out. I couldn’t find verbena so I followed Izy’s suggestion and subbed in lemon zest.

I took the first batch to a dinner party, and the second batch to work. I found that people were a bit split on whether they wanted to give it a shot: mentioning basil definitely scared some people away. But once someone actually tried the cookies, they were usually on board. I’d suggest keeping the ingredients a secret upfront and seeing what people say before you reveal that basil is in there! Often, people’s conceptions of ingredients steer them away from trying it, or even liking it once they DO try- so why not just keep it a secret and see what happens? It’s a very unique flavor but I doubt anyone could guess what’s in there if you don’t tell them upfront!

PS My final photos turned out terribly so if you want a better idea of what it will look like, check out Izy’s original post. Please. Because I want you to want to make these!

Lemon Basil Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe: Top with Cinnamon;  I’ve changed the instructions a bit and added commentary 

Yield: ~20 cookies 

Suggested equipment: Mixer makes it easier but you don’t need one 

Total Time: ~45 minutes plus however long you let it chill (minimum of 1 extra hour for that) 

Cook Time: ~10 minutes 

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (4 tbsp) fresh basil leaves
  • Zest from 1/2 a lemon
  • 10 tbsp butter (aka 2/3 a cup. Or you could just weigh your butter and aim for 5 oz, which is what I did)
  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1¾ cup all purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup + 3 tbsp light brown sugar, packed
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1 egg
  • 7 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate. (I used Trader Joe’s semisweet chocolate chunks but you could use regular chocolate chips or chop up chocolate if you’d prefer something else)

Step by Step Directions

Get your add-ins ready

  1. Wash and pat dry the basil. It’s better to do this a bit early on so it’s not sopping wet when you add it into the butter
  2. Zest your lemon

Brown the butter

  1. Roughly chop your basil
  2. Add butter to a small saucepan and turn it to medium-low on the stove
  3. Add both the basil and lemon zest to that saucepan
  4. Brown the butter until it starts to smell nutty and gets sort of foamy. Butter burns fast so you really need to keep a close eye on it as it browns
  5. Once it’s browned, add the vanilla extract and stir it altogether
  6. Let the butter cool for 10 minutes before adding it to the dough

Make your dough

  1. Use a stand mixer or bowl to combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and salt
  2. Once the butter is cool, strain the butter through a sieve so that you’re left with just the liquidy part and any browned butter specks; you want to strain out pieces of basil or lemon
  3. Add the butter into your dry ingredients and mix it all until it looks like “moist clumpy sand with no floury patches.” (Don’t worry if it looks really crumbly and like it won’t hold together. I was worried at this point in the recipe but it all came together just fine. It just won’t “come together” like most cookie doughs do)
  4. Add the egg and mix for a few seconds
  5. Add the chocolate and mix by hand so it’s distributed. Don’t over mix!

Form your cookies

A note: resist the urge to chill the dough in the mixing bowl instead of in pre-formed cookie scoops. I tried it in the bowl the first time and it was such a mess when I went to scoop the cookies later. It’s better to just chill them in the shape you want to bake with 

  1. Line your cookie sheets
  2. Scoop dough into a 1/4 cup measuring cup until it is full. You really will need to scoop it in because this dough is so crumbly
  3. Turn the scoop onto a lined cookie sheet, spacing them a bit apart so they don’t meld together when they bake
  4. Cover your tray with plastic wrap and refrigerate it up to 3 days. I did it for 1 day and it worked great but the longer you let it chill, the better flavors will blend

Bake your cookies

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F
  2. Take your cookies out of the fridge and sprinkle each cookie with a moderate amount of sea salt. I did a very light sprinkle… but I don’t love tasting lots of salt
  3. Bake for 8-12 minutes until the cookies are a bit browned with set edges and a puffy center
  4. Let cool on the tray for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack