I kind of have mixed feelings toward the whole DYI craze. Cognitively I know it’s often a really good idea for the environment, for your bank account, for your health and for your sense of accomplishment to do things like make your own yogurt and can your own tomatoes and bake your own bread, but realistically it can be a little hard to put into motion. I mean, sometimes my greatest sense of accomplishment about the day comes from taking the time to rinse and recycle a peanut butter jar rather than simply throwing it away. I try. I promise I do!
Sadly, corporations are onto me and my fellow
lazy busy well-intentioned members of society. Containers of pre-peeled/pre-cut veggies, packets of pre-made spice mixtures, and bags of pre-shredded cheese stare at us from grocery store aisles saying, “Buy me, buy me! Your life will be so EASY if you just BUY me!” Basically, the fewer steps you have to do, the more expensive a product is. And the more waste and manpower go into creating it. And the more marketed it is. And the more tempting it is to toss it into your cart with a mixture of guilt and gleeful relief. Hashtag-first-world-problems.
Sometimes I manage to refrain from buying all the enticing lazy-person products out there, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. It should come as no surprise that baking aisles are already a little bit dangerous for me, especially the chocolate chip area. Who knew there were so many kinds of special delicious add-ins these days?! Things like mint-filled chocolate morsels and neapolitan marshmallows were definitely not around ten years ago. Right?
I’ve only recently become aware about the existence of wonderful little things called caramel bits, which are essentially round bits of caramel. Shocker! Whenever I do bake with caramel, I usually just use the little plastic-wrapped caramel squares, especially if I’ll be melting them down. The only problem is that it takes for-freaking-EVER to unwrap all those tiny cubes. That’s why it’s so amazing that someone came up with the fantastic idea of making caramel bits that require NO UNWRAPPING AT ALL! It’s a dream come true for nerds like me.
Naturally, I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d have to incorporate caramel bits into a baking project. Sadly, baking projects don’t happen all that often these days due to my busy college life, but once in a while I find time to clear a space in my cluttered little kitchen and create something wonderful. Last time’s something-wonderful was Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. Chocolate chip cookie bars are about as easy as it gets…just your standard chocolate chip cookie recipe pressed into a 9×13 pan and baked until golden-brown. Simple, standard, but always delicious!
I won’t even pretend that it’s possible for me to KEEP a recipe simple and standard, so I turned the melted butter from the recipe into browned butter (please don’t laugh, those of you aware of my obsession) and added in caramel bits along with miniature chocolate chips. It was an excellent idea, if I do say so myself. The nutty browned butter paired with chocolate and caramel was a fantastic flavor trio, especially in the form of extra-chewy cookie bars. And I didn’t even have to feel guilty for using my newfound caramel bits since I was saving a step AND saving on waste (because no plastic wrappers)! Totally economical. Totally budget-friendly. Totally healthy. Or at least we can pretend. One thing that these bars definitely WILL bring you is a sense of accomplishment. Because delicious things are always good accomplishments. Remember that!
Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars
Makes 24 bars
12 tablespoons (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup mini chocolate chips (increase to 1.5 cups if using standard-size)
1/2 cup caramel bits (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 9×13″ glass pan with tin foil and spray lightly with cooking spray. Set aside.
Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, whisking constantly. Keep whisking as the butter foams and bubbles. When the butter becomes golden-brown and fragrant, immediately turn off the heat and pour the browned butter into a mixing bowl. Let cool for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl.
Whisk the sugars into the melted butter until smooth. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk, followed by the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture just until incorporated. Stir in the chocolate chips and caramel bits.
Spread the mixture into the prepared pan and pat down evenly. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden-brown. Let the bars cool before cutting.
(Recipe adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)